The most dominant possession team in the NHL came into Amalie Arena this evening looking to extend their winning streak to five games. The NHL’s best team looked to continue their torrid points pace—only one continued. The Tampa Bay Lightning came back in the third period to defeat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 in a game that was rather lopsided for 30 minutes. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 26 saves and Brayden Point led the way offensively with three points this evening.
The opening period for the Lightning was rather forgetful. They managed only three shots to Carolina’s 12, were out-possessed 62.5% to 37.5%, and struggled to handle Carolina’s relentless forecheck. Tampa Bay had the early advantage with Teuvo Teravainen taking a tripping penalty at 4:03, but the Lightning generated little pressure. Carolina’s aggressive penalty kill created issues with Tampa’s passing game and ultimately negated any dangerous chances. The remainder of the opening 10 minutes saw both teams trade possession with little being thrown on either net.
Carolina proceeded to push play into the Lightning zone for much of the period afterward. Carolina had their first power-play opportunity when Yanni Gourde was called for interference at 13:06, but the Lightning penalty kill held up with Vasilevskiy making a few impressive stops. The Hurricanes repeatedly harassed any exiting opportunity Tampa Bay attempted and proceeded to pin them in the defensive zone at various junctures of the period. A tripping penalty on Dougie Hamilton at 17:29 gave the Lightning another opportunity, but this was negated 13 seconds later when Victor Hedman took a hooking penalty after losing the puck to Sebastian Aho in the offensive zone.
Carolina utilized the 4-on-4 time to pressure the Lightning and end the period with all of the momentum.
Carolina continued their pressure at the start of the second. Tampa Bay still appeared to have weights on their legs in comparison since the Hurricanes were flying around the offensive and neutral zones. Carolina’s pressure finally paid off on a bad line change for the Lightning when Justin Williams scored his 11th of the year.
Initially, the coverage looks solid, but then you see Ondrej Palat coasting to the inside of the slot instead of shading over to Williams. Add in the juicy rebound that Vasilevskiy produced and there was nothing that could be done here.
The Lightning still struggled to get much going, but a high-sticking penalty to Warren Foegele at 6:12 gave Tampa Bay their third power-play of the game. This man advantage produced a better effort, in the sense that they got a shot on goal—yes, that was the only positive from this man advantage. Carolina continued to pester the Lightning after the penalty expired, but Tampa Bay was slowly crawling their way back into the game.
A great individual play by Adam Erne produced an in-close chance, but he was unable to close the deal. This chance appeared to give Tampa Bay a slight boost of energy as they started to tilt the ice in their favor. They still struggled with connecting on their passes in the offensive zone, but their puck retrieval and forecheck was finally starting to cause issues for Carolina’s defense.
A power-play from a slashing penalty on Andrei Svechnikov at 8:59 was negated by a Steven Stamkos interference penalty at 9:11—the second time the Lightning neutralized their own power-play.
Four-on-four play provided more ice for the Lightning to utilize their speed and they did just that when it was thought that Brayden Point scored the tying goal.
Don't let the NHL's dumb offsides rules distract from the fact that Brayden Point is something special pic.twitter.com/BefuwoopFR— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) January 11, 2019
What isn’t shown is Mathieu Joseph’s bullet of a pass that goes between two Carolina defenders. Unfortunately, Carolina challenged the goal for being offside.
They didn't explain the call in-arena, and it was easy to miss, but check the top of this frame. That's Tyler Johnson's skate still on the ice before Point enters the zone. Offside. Great catch by the #Canes video crew. pic.twitter.com/oAe9kbqMD7— Michael Smith (@MSmithCanes) January 11, 2019
And they were 100% correct on the call. Yes, it sucks. Yes, the rule is aggravating in these circumstances. Yes, they robbed us of a great effort by Point and a fantastic pass by Joseph. However, it was 100% the right call.
Here's my take on offside. By letter of the law it was the 100% right call. However, asking for stipulations for offside is a very dangerous avenue to take. Removing the ability to challenge offside I can get behind. Regardless, we can all blame Matt Duchene for this mess.— Matthew Esteves (@mattestevesSBN) January 11, 2019
Seriously, blame the officials for that terrible Matt Duchene goal a few years ago for this process to occur.
The crowd at Amalie Arena was fuming. The jumbotron only showed one angle of the goal once and even though you could see Johnson on the replay, no one was looking at him—they were all looking at Point (who was clearly onside). Jon Cooper mentioned during his post-game presser that the crowd’s reaction to the goal being overturned kind of gave them a bit more pep in their step—it showed. Tampa Bay carried play for the remainder of the period and ended up out-shooting Carolina 12-8, out-possessing them 57.8% to 42.1%, and giving the Hurricanes defense fits in the offensive zone.
The third period can be summarized like this; don’t take a lot of penalties against the Lightning—this is what sank the Hurricanes.
The first half of the third was mostly controlled by Carolina. They continued to pressure the Lightning defense and make life difficult while exiting the defensive zone. However, everything started to change as the midway point neared. The Lightning started connecting on their passes in the offensive zone and began to make Petr Mrazek move. Point had an in-close chance, Nikita Kucherov had a chance, Erne had another impressive chance, etc. With the pressure being cranked up on Carolina, they began to wilt with a hooking penalty on Svechnikov at 11:15 and this time the Lightning made sure to connect on it.
Palat starts the play by kicking the puck into the offensive zone and controlling it, and he ends it—just like they drew it up. Jokes aside, this was a broken play and one that Carolina is probably annoyed at. Justin Faulk makes a great play to deflect Stamkos’ shot, but the puck caroms toward Palat’s stick where Calvin de Haan is unable to find the puck in time to stop it from rolling past Mrazek. Sometimes you need a break to go your way and that’s what the Lightning got here.
From here it was all Tampa Bay. The Lightning proceeded to pin the Hurricanes through repeated shifts with the Point line dominating them for 40 seconds straight. The pressure ended up providing another power-play for Tampa when Greg McKegg was called for slashing at 16:05.
This time, Point would not be denied.
Find the soft spot in the zone, have your stick ready, and don’t hesitate to blast it.
Carolina made a push for the remaining 3:15, but were unable to generate anything dangerous on Vasilevskiy. They pulled Mrazek for a short time only to have this happen.
This was Tampa Bay’s only even strength goal of the evening.
After a putrid first period, the Lightning fought back and ultimately came out on top in possession 54.29% of the shot attempts at 5v5. Carolina still had the edge in quality at 54.66%, but that’s what happens when the power-play generates the best scoring chances of the night.
If anything, the Lightning should be slightly worried about falling asleep for a period moving forward. They did it against Columbus and came away with a shutout and they did it this evening yet only allowed a goal—offensively gifted teams will make them pay for periods like that.
Nonetheless, they clawed their way back and secured another two points. The Lightning now have 70 points and have a 12-point lead over the Toronto Maple Leafs for the best record in the East, and a 10-point lead over the Calgary Flames for the top record in the league. We thought last season was record-breaking, this season is already making that one a distant memory.
Points, Points, Points
Brayden Point, three points. Steven Stamkos, two points. Lightning, 70 points. This team does nothing but accumulate points like few teams have in NHL history. Also, Kucherov had a point this evening—he’s now at 72 in 43 which is on pace for 137 points. Let that sink in for a moment—137. If he hits that it would be the most in a single season since Sidney Crosby scored 120 in the 2006-2007 season.
I’m just going to echo myself from earlier in the recap. Tampa Bay has to be careful with their bad periods—they’re going to happen, but to be dominated like that is a bit embarrassing. If Carolina had the shooting talent to go along with their outstanding possession game this could’ve gotten real ugly real quick. We saw what can happen when the Lightning aren’t at their sharpest against a good team in San Jose. Limiting the kind of periods like the first to occur will only help their chances in the post-season.
The offside review is aggravating as hell, but let’s not go overboard in our vitriol against it; the call was right. We made a huge issue about the goaltender interference mess last season and once the All-Star game passed there was nary an issue about it (though, that is probably due to the league more than anything). Complaining about it solves nothing. If anything, the league might want to look into removing the ability to challenge it, but given the rule was implemented due to a horrendous missed offside in the playoffs several years ago, I think that’s a pipe-dream.