After a successful trip in Sweden that saw the Tampa Bay Lightning sweep the Buffalo Sabres in their Global Series matchup, it was thought the Lightning would get back into their groove moving forward.
Boy, did they ever in this 9-3 stomping of the Rangers.
From start to finish the Lightning dominated the Rangers in a game that was over before the midway point of the opening period. We saw Tampa Bay control the puck in a manner that was expected of a team with the forward talent they possess, and a defensive discipline that they’ve struggled to maintain over the past few seasons.
There was some cautious optimism entering this game from Lightning fans, wondering if the Lightning were back to their old selves. The Lightning responded.
It didn’t take the Lightning long to take the lead in this one. Just 2:39 into the game saw Luke Schenn fire one of the more innocuous shots you’ll see that managed to sneak past Alexandar Georgiev.
The Lightning continued to dictate the pace of play and eventually drew a cross checking penalty from Brendan Lemieux at 5:36. Tampa Bay also managed to draw out the delayed called on Lemieux and forced Tony DeAngelo to take a slashing penalty. It took the Lightning five seconds to make New York regret these decisions.
Tampa Bay wasn’t done though, as evidenced by another goal 39 seconds later.
Oh wait, they scored another 22 seconds after this one too.
Palat literally skated through three Rangers players here. Three. His return to health has been fantastic for his game this season.
The only real blemish on the first period was a poor pinch by Kevin Shattenkirk that led to Chris Kreider’s fifth goal of the season.
Tampa Bay could not have asked for a better start to their first home game in 19 days.
Usually, in situations like this, Tampa Bay slumps after a strong period, but not in this case. They put their foot on New York’s throat and pushed down, hard. There were minor issues in the first where Tampa Bay struggled at times with New York’s forecheck, but in this period the Lightning made a concerted effort to transition up the ice with possession instead of trying to make difficult passes. This, in turn, allowed them to alleviate New York’s forecheck and enter the offensive zone with control.
It also led New York into a flurry of penalties. The first being a too-many-men call at 6:32. Stamkos scored goal 399 of his career just 25 seconds into the man advantage.
He’s in his office, folks. Rinse and repeat, please.
The onslaught continued 3:12 later.
The best thing about this goal is Pat Maroon waving to Michael Haley after Haley tried to start an altercation in the neutral zone.
Shattenkirk then decided it was his turn to score a goal after Yanni Gourde undressed Brendan Smith to set him up just 3:58 later.
After this, New York’s depth players had enough of the shellacking they were receiving. First, Lemieux ran Andrei Vasilevskiy at 18:55. Ryan McDonagh didn’t take too kindly to that and dropped the gloves. McDonagh absorbed a few shots from Lemieux before connecting a punch of his own that sent the young forward to the ice.
Tampa Bay wasted little time as Stamkos fired a one-timer from his office that was tipped by Killorn just six seconds into the man advantage.
Shortly after this goal, Haley managed to receive three penalties at one time as he got into a wrestling match with Luke Schenn. Haley was penalized for slashing, roughing, and given a misconduct while Schenn only received a roughing call. As the period ended, the crowd at Amalie Arena roared in support of their team. Tampa Bay hadn’t looked this strong all season.
The Lightning noticeably eased their foot off the gas in the final period, and with an 8-1 lead you can’t blame them. They did, however, get a bit loose in their structure and the Rangers made them pay just 2:22 into the period with Filip Chytil’s fifth goal of the season.
It’s an unfortunate occurrence, but understandable given the score. That said, the Lightning continued to control the period, but stopped forcing shots toward the net. They were content to play keep away against New York and it worked to an extent. The Rangers still managed to create a few turnovers off of this and put pressure on Vasilevskiy, but for the most part it wasn’t anything highly dangerous.
A penalty on Ryan Lindgren at 9:40 provided another opportunity for the Lightning to extend their lead, but for just the second time up to this point, Tampa Bay filed to score on the power-play.
It mattered little as they went right back on the man advantage when Jesper Fast was called fora high-sticking double minor Fast at 11:49 (nine seconds after Lindgren’s penalty expired).
Then, Yanni Gourde decided to score a gorgeous goal of his own.
There was little occurring before Chytil managed to score his second of the game after four Lightning players were caught in the offensive zone and Vasilevskiy was unable to smother a cross crease pass.
There was a chant from the fans at Amalie of “We want 10!”, which, though humorous, was a bit much. The team seemed to lean into the chant as their play loosened up, which led to the aforementioned Chytil goal. They did buckle it down afterward and managed to finish the game by killing off another penalty (this one on Maroon for high sticking).
This one is a bit hard to fully analyze. It felt like everything Tampa Bay did worked. Shots went in, passes connected (for the most part), they stay composed for most of the game, and they stuck to their plan. However, this game went awry real quick. They Lightning were up 4-0 in 6:42 of the opening period, and New York hadn’t registered a shot on goal yet. This was one of those games that you take note of what your team did well, but don’t overthink it. Basically everything went perfectly for Tampa Bay.
That said, there were some lingering issues. For one, New York’s forecheck did pin Tampa Bay in their defensive zone on a few occasions. The Lightning have always been susceptible to this kind of pressure and they did make some poor decisions in regards to passing out of the defensive zone. On the flip side, the forwards were far more active in assisting the defensemen in all three zones and this helped alleviate the previous concern. It’s good to see, but this is a Rangers team that isn’t overly good, so it’s something we have to take with a grain of salt.
Special teams were the highlight this evening, even with the shorthanded goal against. Tampa Bay’s puck movement, recovery skills, and shoot first mentality dictated everything as they converted on four of their seven power-play opportunities. The penalty kill was arguably even better this evening. They limited the amount of shots taken by New York (five on four opportunities) and were perfect in those situations. For a penalty killing unit that has sunk below 80% and been an erratic mess, this was a good sign. If they’re able to replicate this kind of success moving forward then it’ll help stem their bleeding goals against metric.
Tampa Bay also managed to tie a franchise record of goals in a game with nine this evening. The last time the Lightning scored nine goals in one game was against the Pittsburgh Penguins on November 8, 2003. Sidney Crosby was still two years away from being drafted at this point, and I was in eighth grade.
Oh, they also managed to do these.
Next, let’s see if the Lightning can make it four in a row against Winnipeg this Saturday.