This was a weird game.
The Sabres were the better team for most of the night but the Lightning put together short stretches of dominance where they ran Buffalo out of the rink for minutes at a time. They had one of those stretches to start the game including a goal 13 seconds into the game by NIkita Kucherov. They had another in the second period when Yanni Gourde scored the go ahead goal and then Tyler Johnson nearly followed it up with another. And the last of those stretches came in the third period where they scored two shorthanded goals (Cedric Paquette and Ondrej Palat) during the same penalty kill and then Anthony Cirelli had a goal at 5v5 waived off for goalie interference.
We also have to mention that Erik Cernak threw a bad hit on Rasmus Dahlin that knocked him out of the game. Somehow, the officials didn’t call on a penalty on a play where Cernak made obvious contact to Dahlin’s head. I expect that Cernak will be hearing from the Department of Player Safety tomorrow and will likely face a one or two game suspension.
Ultimately, this wasn’t exactly a pretty win but it was a win. The goal scorers were Nikita Kucherov, Mikhail Sergachev, Yanni Gourde, Cedric Paquette, and Ondrej Palat.
All in all, this was an even game in terms of shot metrics. That’s mostly thanks to a big third period from the Lightning. They were trailing by a large margin in shots and expected goals heading into the third.
The Lightning again relied heavily on their special teams tonight. Recently, the power play has been the big reason for their victories. But tonight, the penalty kill iced the game in the third when it looked like the Sabres were pressing for a tying goal.
In some ways, this was a fun game. The Lightning scored five goals. They made some highlight reel plays. At one point, it looked like they’d scored three goals in two minutes before the officials reversed the Cirelli goal.
But in another way, this felt like yet another game where the Lightning spent most of the night in cruise control. I guess it’s hard to be too picky about a 5-2 win but the Sabres aren’t a very good team and until the third period, they outplayed the Bolts pretty thoroughly. Tampa has made a habit lately of playing break even hockey against bad teams and this was another example of that.
Wins are wins and especially in November so we’ll take it. The penalty kill was dynamic and that’s always fun to watch. Also worth noting is that Andrei Vasilevskiy was solid tonight. He had a rough stretch prior to last game so it was good to see him have a second consecutive good performance.
Kucherov opening goal
Yanni Gourde game winner
Cedric Paquette and Ondrej Palat score back to back on the penalty kill
Editor’s Note: We’re in the process of making some changes to our coverage. This will include shorter, quicker recaps like this. Look for a more in depth article from Matt tomorrow morning. Part of the reason we’re doing this is to encourage more discussion after games so get in the comments and let us know what you thought of the Bolts tonight.