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Lightning beat Coyotes 4-1, clinch Presidents’ Trophy, and Steven Stamkos is the new franchise goals leader

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An historic night in so many ways.

NHL: Arizona Coyotes at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the plucky Arizona Coyotes 4-1, clinching the 2018-2019 NHL President’s Trophy for the best record in the league. As if that wasn’t enough, team captain Steven Stamkos secured the all-time franchise goal scoring record with number 384. In terms of regular season games, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Before the game, the Lightning recalled Cameron Gaunce from Syracuse on an emergency basis. But he didn’t play, so whoever was questionable must have been good enough to play. Anton Stralman and Dan Girardi remained out of the lineup.

First Period

The first period was a slow one with the two teams combining to put the puck on net just 15 times. Arizona got off to the better start keeping possession and preventing the Lightning from doing much in the offensive zone.

Alex Goligoski got the first good chance for either team three minutes into the game. He received a pass on the rush down the left side and had a good look, but Andrei Vasilevskiy made the save. The Coyotes got another rush chance later in the period. This time, Josh Archibald got free after receiving a pass off the boards and skated in freely. But Vasy came up big again.

Arizona got on the board first five minutes into the period after a bad turnover in the defensive zone by Jan Rutta. The play resulted in a 3-on-2 ending with Christian Dvorak feeding a pass to Clayton Keller in the slot. Keller buried the shot and gave the Coyotes the lead.

The next goal was the most important of the game. No, it wasn’t the game winner. But it was career goal 384 for Steven Stamkos giving the Lightning captain the most goals in franchise history. He passed Vinny Lecavalier, whose jersey hangs in the rafters where Stammer’s 91 will someday join it.

The goal wasn’t a typical one for Stamkos. Instead, he deflected a Ryan McDonagh shot past Darcy Kuemper. It took a moment for everyone to realize who scored but once they did, the building went wild. Fortunately, a stoppage occurred a moment later allowing for the video tribute and for Stammer to recognize the crowd.

After the Stamkos goal, the game calmed. Neither team was able to generate much and the pace slowed with lots of choppy play through the neutral zone. The Coyotes got a power play as Mario Kempe got loose in front of the net and Alex Killorn took a slashing penalty trying to slow him down. The Lightning did well shorthanded and prevented any dangerous chances.

The best chance of the period came to Michael Grabner with less than a minute left. He managed to slip free and skate in one on one with Vasilevskiy. But once again, the Lightning goalie made the save.

At the end of the first period, Arizona led in both shots and expected goals. And by the numbers, it was one of the Lightning’s worst offensive periods this season.

Second Period

The Lightning played better in the second period than they did in the first, but the pace stayed slow. Neither team generated many good chances in the first period with both struggling to get through the neutral zone cleanly and finding it difficult to get the puck into dangerous areas.

To the Lightning’s credit, they adapted to the style of the game and exerted more control over the territorial contest keeping the puck away from their own net and putting in more work in the Arizona zone.

The first good chance of the period came to Braydon Coburn just over five minutes in. He was on the receiving end of a pretty passing play that started with Brayden Point and Tyler Johnson. Coby found himself alone at the left side of the net but couldn’t beat Kuemper.

In the second half of the period, the Coyotes strung together a strong few minutes regaining some of the control they had in the first period. They had an extended shift in the offensive zone with seven minutes left but couldn’t generate anything dangerous.

They threatened again with just under five minutes left, but this time, got some good looks at the net and generated a couple of dangerous rebound chances. Keller had the best opportunity after collecting a rebound with room to Vasilevskiy’s left. But he couldn’t get the shot away fast enough and the Lightning goaltender recovered.

The Lightning responded with a strong shift of their own. The fourth line gained the zone and put some pressure on Arizona. Adam Erne fed a pretty pass to Yanni Gourde in the slot but Gourde couldn’t handle it and didn’t get a shot away.

At the end of the period, the Lightning had regained the lead in shots but still trailed by quite a bit in expected goals as Arizona’s rebound chances were the best of the period.

Third Period

The game opened up a bit in the third and it started early with the Lightning taking the lead less than a minute into the period. Anthony Cirelli collected a Killorn rebound and slid the puck through the slot to Victor Hedman who buried it in an open net. The play started with good forechecking work from J.T. Miller and Cirelli.

Thing got a little dicey for the Lightning at the five-minute mark as the Coyotes created chaos around the net, but Vasilevskiy did his thing again making a clutch save as the defense scrambled in front of him.

The middle of the period featured several penalties. First, Cedric Paquette and former Bolt Richard Panik took matching minors after getting into a scrum. Neither team was able to do much at 4-on-4. The Lightning then got a power play with 11 minutes left, but weren’t able to take advantage. They nearly gave up a couple of shorthanded chances against the dangerous Coyotes penalty kill but managed to avoid disaster.

Things really picked up in the final few minutes as Tampa tried to protect its lead. Mathieu Joseph had a nifty spin-o-rama shot from the slot but Kuemper made the save. A couple minutes later, Nikita Kucherov was hauled down from behind on a rush chance. The refs failed to call a penalty, which led to a chance the other way for Vinnie Hinostroza.

With just under two minutes left, Stamkos took a delay of game penalty for inadvertently firing the puck over the glass. The Coyotes immediately created a good chance as Jakob Chychrun collected the puck after McDonagh blocked a Keller shot. Chychrun had space to aim at but he fired the puck over the net and out of play.

With a little over a minute left, the Coyotes pulled Kuemper to get a 6-on-4 advantage. Instead, the Bolts took advantage adding two empty-net goals. Cirelli scored the first firing the puck from the defensive slot all the way down the ice into the net. Gourde got the second one after Vasilevskiy tried to fire the puck down the ice but didn’t get enough of it to get it all the way to the net.

At the end of the game, the Coyotes led in shots and expected goals.

Wrap Up

This was an historic night in multiple ways. First, Steven Stamkos became the most prolific goal scorer in franchise history. And then, the team secured its first President’s Trophy with nine games still to play. The Fox Broadcast reported that not only is this the first Presidents’ Trophy in team history but also the first time any of the three major Tampa-area sports teams have ever finished with the best record in their sport.

With everything locked up, the Lightning are now only chasing more history. They need four wins in their remaining nine games to get to 60 wins. And six in nine (nice) to match the all-time NHL wins record.

Their pursuit continues on Wednesday on the road with a rematch of Saturday’s scrappy game against the Washington Capitals.