Another Saturday, another matinee matchup for the Lightning. Last week showcased the Philadelphia Flyers and the Tampa Bay Lightning seeing who could score more. Today, it was the Montreal Canadiens in town for an early showdown with the hometown Lightning. The Bolts would emerge victorious with a 3-2 victory, in the shootout, of course.
Similar to last Saturday’s matchup the Lightning trailed early in this game. Montreal converted on an early power-play after Adam Erne was called for hooking. Atrurri Lehkonen scored off a one-timer after the puck bounced off Dan Girardi. The play was a broken one, and Domingue didn't have enough time to react to the awkward bounce. Charles Hudon fired it towards the net but Girardi was there to block it. The puck careened to the left and right onto the stick of Lehkonen who wasted no time in firing it on net to give the Canadiens the early 1-0 lead.
The following six minutes was mostly controlled by the Canadiens as Tampa Bay struggled to maintain any kind of offensive pressure for the first half of the period. Once the first TV timeout came, Tampa Bay began to find their legs. Their forecheck started to force the Canadiens to turn the puck over in their zone and in turn, the Lightning managed to apply more pressure on Antti Niemi.
Tampa Bay’s increased pressure culminated in a power-play opportunity after Jacob de la Rose took a tripping penalty 12:32 into the opening period. Interestingly, Jon Cooper chose to send out the second power-play unit of Brayden Point, Yanni Gourde, Tyler Johnson, J.T. Miller, and Mikhail Sergachev instead of the first unit. The decision paid off as the second unit worked the Canadiens with the man advantage for over a minute before Johnson blasted a one-timer past Niemi to tie the game at one. The goal was Johnson’s 20th of the season and just the second power-play goal in the last seven games for the Lightning.
The remaining seven-plus minutes of the period was controlled by Tampa Bay as they forced the Canadiens back into their zone with their forecheck. Montreal took another penalty late in the period to give the Lightning a chance to gain the lead with a little under a minute left, but Tampa Bay was unable to convert and was left with 1:37 of power-play time to start the second .period
Tampa Bay failed to convert on their second power-play but continued to apply pressure on Montreal. Unfortunately, Tampa Bay’s aggressiveness cost them. Ryan McDonagh (making his season debut for Tampa Bay) made a great play to intercept a neutral zone pass, but then made a poor one by trying a cross-zone pass in the offensive zone where he didn’t really have much of a lane to make a pass. The attempt was intercepted and Montreal counter-attacked with a 3-on-1. Hudon raced down the left wing before lofting a pass to Alex Galchenyuk. Galchenyuk held onto the puck for a moment before writing it past Domingue on the far side of the net to give Montreal the lead once again.
An unfortunate sequence of events, but Tampa Bay didn’t allow that goal to change the way they played. The Lightning continued to harass the Canadiens in the neutral and offensive zones with their forecheck and created a few turnovers because of it. Their pressure caused Montreal to throw the puck over the glass for a delay-of-game penalty seven minutes in and the Lightning power-play would get their third chance to convert with the man advantage.
Tampa Bay’s third attempt was largely ineffective and uneventful. Blind passes and an inability to force Niemi to move much were the biggest issues with this attempt. Both power-play units attempted fancy passes by not looking or simply hoping they’d be on target, but Montreal was waiting for them. The Canadiens neutralized Tampa Bay’s power-play on three separate occasions effectively killing any momentum the Lightning hoped to have created.
Montreal struck back with a strong shift once the penalty was over with an odd-man rush and some sustained pressure, but Domingue was able to stop the shots Montreal threw at him. Tampa Bay managed to weather this kickback from Montreal but was unable to generate much on their own.
A brief span of 4-on-4 play occurred after Adam Erne and Charles Hudon were sent to the box for holding and tripping respectively. Montreal controlled the 4-on-4 time and had an in-close chance that went wide of Domingue. Once the penalties expired, Montreal continued to harass Tampa Bay along the boards in all three zones creating a series of chances for the Canadiens and forcing the Lightning to scramble in the defensive zone.
A surge in the final two minutes of the period saw Tampa Bay try to gain some momentum, and in the final 30 seconds of the period, Tampa Bay created some chaos in the Canadiens zone. A shot off the post, a shot in close, a shot deflected, and a few shots blocked all occurred before the buzzer rang to close the second period. Unfortunately, the Lightning didn’t cash in on that chaos and finished the period still trailing 2-1.
To start the third period Cooper mixed up his forward lines by moving Johnson to the second line and Miller to the first. Should be noted that the line of Johnson, Stamkos, and Kucherov was not doing well. Their shot share was putrid with Johnson at 18%, Kucherov at 26%, and Stamkos at 28%—they were getting caved. It seemed to spark a bit more pressure for the Lightning early in the period as they managed to put a few shots on Niemi. A big hit early by Cedric Paquette created a raucous cheer from the crowd, and when Jordie Benn initiated a fight the whole arena got behind the action. Up to that point, Tampa Bay had been stale, the positivity the tail end of the first period was completely gone by the time the third period started.
Tampa Bay’s pressure was a positive sign to see, but a boarding penalty to J.T. Miller gave the Canadiens a chance to increase their lead and tilt the ice in their favor. Early on during Montreal’s power-play, Brenden Gallagher thought he scored after a scrum in front of the Lightning net, however, after review it was determined the puck did not go into the net and the score remained 2-1 Montreal.
Tampa Bay’s penalty kill came out strong and limited Montreal’s ability to get clean shots on net. They utilized the boards to clear the puck and even managed a scoring chance as Alex Killorn fired one that rung off the post. Once the penalty expired the Miller, Stamkos, Kucherov line dominated the Canadiens for one of the best shifts for Tampa Bay today. Miller’s ability to win puck battles and make life miserable for opposing defenders was on full display as he cycled the puck along the boards and to Kucherov or Stamkos. They managed to get a few dangerous chances on net but were unable to get one past Niemi.
The early pressure that the Lightning had managed was slowly starting to dissipate as the third progressed. Montreal forced the majority of Tampa Bay’s zone entries towards the outside and harassed them into turnovers. The Lightning struggled to keep the puck in at the blue line and iced the puck several times as a result. Tampa Bay kept pushing, however, as they stuck to the plan of controlled entries and using their forecheck to force turnovers deep in Montreal’s zone.
It finally paid off when Miller created a turnover behind the Montreal net and the puck bounced towards Stamkos. Stamkos carried the puck to the side of the net and passed it to Kucherov, who was wide open, in the slot. Kucherov shot it past Niemi to tie the game with 6:17 left in the period. It took Tampa Bay a while to get the goal, but they refused to alter their game plan and were rewarded for their perseverance. Cooper’s lineup change entering the period finally paid off on the scoreboard.
Montreal started to push back after the Lightning goal and managed to get a late power-play after Chris Kunitz was called for high sticking with 4:02 left in regulation. Montreal’s man advantage was largely ineffective. They turned the puck over along the boards and didn’t make life difficult for Domingue. Tampa’s penalty kill came out aggressive along the boards and neutralized most of Montreal’s controlled entries.
After killing the penalty, Tampa Bay resumed their forecheck and controlled the last two minutes of regulation. Montreal’s pressure from the second period waned as the third entered its final stages. Montreal created one last rush lead by Jonathan Drouin (who was largely invisible today), but it was negated by Dan Girardi.
So, as has been the case over the last eight games, Tampa Bay would go to overtime for the seventh time.
As always folks...
Stamkos, Kucherov, and Hedman start overtime.
Tampa enters the offensive zone and begins to cycle.
Kucherov turns it over and Galchenyuk has a breakaway.
Domingue disrupts him and the puck sails wide.
Delayed penalty on Montreal.
Tampa is playing keep away in the offensive zone.
It’s a shooting gallery for the Lightning, a few close chances to win it.
Montreal finally touches the puck with 2:52 left in overtime.
Drouin goes to the box for tripping.
4-on-3 power-play to possibly end the game.
Stamkos, Kucherov, Point, and Hedman on the ice.
Stamkos one-times it from the left point, but Niemi stops it. Montreal clears.
Tampa regains possession and starts to cycle.
Kucherov shoots and it’s wide.
Kucherov tries to be a little too cute with a pass and Montreal clears.
Tampa back in the offensive zone with 30 seconds on the power-play.
Sergachev misplays the puck and it’s cleared by Montreal.
Tampa still has four skaters since play wasn’t stopped.
Montreal turns it over in the Lightning zone and Gourde skates it into Montreal’s zone.
Gourde throws it on net, but nothing was there.
Sergachev is the first shooter—misses the net
Byron—saved by Domingue
Point—goal (outwaited Niemi)
Gallagher—saved by Domingue
Stamkos—saved by Niemi
Drouin—goal (the only time Drouin did anything in this game)
Kucherov—goal (beat Niemi blocker side)
Lehkonen—saved by Domingue
Lightning win! 9-0-1 in their last 10 games (and national media will probably barely even notice) and the first team in the league to hit 100 points!
I don’t recall if Domingue got one of the three stars after the game, but in my eyes, he deserved one. I wouldn’t pin either goal on Domingue today. The first was an awkward bounce that went right into the wheelhouse of Lehkonen (who crushed that puck) and the second was a turnover which enabled an odd-man rush. Not much Domingue can do in both of those situations.
He stared down numerous odd-man rushes and a breakaway in overtime—he stopped all of them. He was only beaten once in the shootout and kept Tampa Bay in the game when Montreal was pushing to extend their lead.
Domingue deserves praise for coming in and playing this well after sitting for so long.
Maybe it’s the early start, but this is the second time in a week that Tampa Bay has looked flat during a matinee game. Last week against Philadelphia it took the Lightning 35 minutes to get things going. Today, it took them roughly the same amount of time. It wasn’t until the third were Tampa Bay actually asserted control (though they did relinquish it sporadically in the final period). The result is what matters, but the process of getting there—especially against a team that is 38 points behind them—was troublesome.
Luckily, this is the last matinee game for Tampa Bay this season so I guess we will take this with a grain of salt.
Take it away ladies and gentlemen. You all have crushed the responses over the last two games. Let me hear you!