After losing a tough game against the New York Islanders by a score of 5-1, despite controlling the game for the whole 60 minutes, the Tampa Bay Lightning drove down to Sunrise, Florida and played the exact same game against the Florida Panthers, winning 2-1 in regulation.
The Lightning got a pair of well-deserved goals from Alex Killorn and Steven Stamkos, while Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 27 of 28 for the win. He nearly had the shutout if it wasn’t for the late goal on the 5v6 from Evgenii Dadonov.
The Lightning were strong all night, jumping out to an early lead, and carrying their momentum to dominant second and third periods that allowed them to finish the game so strong. The Lighting carried 60% of the shot attempts, and finished the game leading the shot battle 48-27.
It was a good night, and proved that the NYI game can happen, but it’s not who this team is.
Final numbers for TB v FLA. Easily one of the best games of the year for the Bolts. pic.twitter.com/3fWXE2kK4f— Replacement Level Analyst (@loserpoints) December 11, 2019
Two things became apparent quite quickly in the game. One, there is no one in the stands on a weeknight in Sunrise. Second, that Mike Hoffman is going to blow the zone and cheat for offense whenever he he wants. Luckily, the stretch pass for Hoffman missed and nothing came of it.
After a night off, Mathieu Joseph got back into the lineup with the Crunch Line. Unfortunately, on his first shift, he took a high-sticking penalty. The penalty kill was quite strong off the top, with Erik Cernak doing a good job of challenging a shot from Jonathan Huberdeau and keeping it from heading towards the net. From there, the Lightning simply kept the Panthers out of their zone and killed the final 90 seconds without much of a sweat.
The Steven Stamkos line followed up a strong post-penalty kill shift from the Brayden Point line and opened the scoring with a slick goal from Stammer himself. The Bolts were heavy in the offensive zone when they needed to be, and the forwards used their bodies to fight the Panthers off the puck (maybe a little too much). Stamkos was able to walk right up to Sergei Bobrovsky and dangle him to the ice before tapping in his 11th goal of the season.
I was really encouraged with what I saw from Andrei Vasilevskiy in the first period. The Panthers really crowded the front of the net in the second half of the period, but he was able to stay in the play long enough to fight off rebounds and give his defensemen a chance to clear the puck. Vasy’s lower half movement is insane.
The Lightning kept up their run of positive shot share periods through from the NYI game. This time they did it while leading for much of the period. At 5v5, the Lightning led in shot attempts (20-19) and shots (13-9). Unfortunately, there was an issue with shot location data from the NHL website and scoring chance or expected goal data wasn’t available after the first period. The broadcast brought this up through a different issue; that the shot counter had changed between periods.
The data was fixed midway through the second, so for scoring chances, the Lightning were ahead 13-12. It was a close period, but the Lightning managed to kill two penalties, lead in shots, and come out with a lead, so pretty positive all things considered.
The shot counter may have been broken but the Lightning offense definitely wasn’t! Alex Killorn gave the Lightning a two-goal lead when he buried a tricky back-hand shot from the side of the net off a rebound from a Stamkos shot from the slot. Bobrovsky had kicked the shot from Stamkos off into the corner and rightfully did not anticipate Killorn to get to it. Really smart play by Killorn to read Bobrovsky’s tendencies and take advantage.
The Panthers got their third power play of the game when Ondrej Palat was thrown into Bobrovsky as he and a Panthers defenseman were battling in front of the net, earning himself a goalie interference penalty as a result. I don’t think it was a malicious play by any account, but if that had happened to Vasy, I guess I wouldn’t have liked it gone without punishment either.
Yanni Gourde was unreal on the penalty kill, blocking a shot with his stick, breaking it, before blocking another blast from the point with his body. Gourde stayed on the ice for the rest of his shift before limping to the bench. What a warrior. Later in the kill, Anthony Cirelli pounced on a misplayed puck at the Lightning blueline, opening a lane for Cirelli to go off on a breakaway. Huberdeau caught up to the speedy Cirelli, hauling him down so he couldn’t get a shot off. Cirelli didn’t score, but he earned his team their first power play of the game.
If the first period was good, the second period was better. The Lightning were all over the Panthers from the get-go and carried their momentum to another goal on the scoresheet and a huge lead in shot share. At 5v5, the Lightning were ahead in shot attempts (24-14), shots (14-4), and scoring chance (12-8).
Numbers after 2 for TB v FLA. Bolts have been the better team at 5v5 but would be well served to stay out of the box in the third. pic.twitter.com/kIIlhXGsJL— Replacement Level Analyst (@loserpoints) December 11, 2019
Early into the period, Nikita Kucherov drew a tripping penalty off yet another potential scoring chance off a breakaway. The Lightning basically set up a firing squad in front of Bobrovsky, hammering him with chances from all directions. The lanky goaltender had to make six saves at the beginning and at the end of the power play to keep the score where it is. Through two power plays (four minutes), the Lightning had accumulated 11 shot attempts, seven of which were on net and in a scoring chance area.
Lightning are really pushing the attack here. Bobrovsky has had to come up with a lot of big saves.— Raw Charge (@RawCharge) December 11, 2019
Brett Connolly redirected a shot from the point that bounced around and past Vasilevskiy. The goal was immediately put under review and it was determined that Connolly’s stick was at level height with the Tesla Coils and therefore too high for a legal goal. Woo! 2-0 game again.
The original call on the ice is that this goal by Connolly is good. Definitely looks like his stick was a bit high.— Jeremy Houghtaling (@JGHoughtaling) December 11, 2019
...and after review, it's waved off. pic.twitter.com/79XQgzSRn3
This one was for real and Vasilevskiy’s only mistake in the game. With the Panthers net empty, Hoffman took a shot from the low slot that squeaked through Vasy’s legs. Evgenii Dadonov poked the puck home on the back door.
With two minutes left in the game, the Lightning locked the defensive zone down and kept the puck out of the zone until the very last gasp. Cirelli was huge, negating an icing with a minute left in the game to keep the clock burning. Lightning win!
- The only blemish you could take from this dominant win would be that the Lightning took three penalties. I would argue two of them were accidental but penalties are penalties. Other than that, the Lightning were on top of the Panthers from puck drop to final horn, not letting up one bit throughout the contest.
- It’s a shame Vasilevskiy couldn’t get the shutout. He got some luck when Connolly went into outer space to tip that puck in, but not enough as that Hoffman shot found just the tiniest of holes under his elbow. 27 saves on 28 shots is still a strong evening and one he can be proud of.
- At 5v5, the Lightning led in every shot category. You can add a scaling factor (that’s unique for every game) called “score adjust” that takes into account home/road factors and score effects (the team trailing will tend to take more shots). The Lightning were great at 5v5 in this game, carrying 60% of the shot attempts and 68% of the expected goals, but when you adjust for the facts that they were on the road, in the second game of a back-to-back, and having carried a lead for almost the entirety of the game, they looked even better. We’re talking 66% of the shot attempts and 73% of the expected goals. Huge night against a team that is currently second in the division.