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Morning After Thoughts: Lighting scrounge a point in overtime loss to Stars

A long break got the Lightning healthy, but it didn’t make them sharp.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Dallas Stars Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Last night’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars showcased a Lightning team that wasn’t all there. The opening 15 minutes of the first period displayed a team that was clearly still in relaxation mode as the Stars dictated everything. It wasn’t until Tampa Bay killed off two penalties and got themselves pinned in their own zone for extended shifts that the Lightning pushed back.

Their push back late in the first generated quality looks on Ben Bishop, but the former Lightning goaltender wasn’t having any of it. Tampa Bay’s best chance came when Brayden Point made a power move toward the front of the net and managed to cut across Bishop’s body. With the entirety of the net wide open this was as sure of a goal as any, especially for Point, but Bishop made a phenomenal glove save to thwart this chance.

After the opening 20 minutes, the Lightning managed to tilt the ice in their favor, but only slightly. They led in shot attempts 21-17, generated an xGF% of 51%, led in scoring chances 10-7, and high danger chances 4-1. Tampa Bay closed out the period exceptionally well, however, their slow start crept back into their play during a second period that saw the Stars take complete control of the game.

The second period displayed a Lightning team that just wasn’t in sync. Tampa Bay has always struggled in games after long periods of rest, but that excuse only goes so far. Passes were all over the place, reads were inconsistent, positioning was off, and decision making produced many “why?” moments during the second frame. The only area where the Lightning were strong was in net.

Andrei Vasilevskiy had his work cut out for him during the second period. Dallas put 13 shots on net, but attempted 29 overall. The Stars controlled 69% (nice) [nice - editor] of the shot attempts, generated an absurd xGF% of 80%, led in scoring chances 19-5, and high danger chances 6-3.

Yet, before Dallas took complete control of the period Tampa Bay managed to draw first blood as Steven Stamkos deflected a Nikita Kucherov shot to make it 1-0 at 13:41.

This goal showcased Tampa Bay’s strong cycle game, which did work against the Stars—it just didn’t work enough. After this goal, Tampa Bay never controlled the game again.

Tampa Bay did a poor job managing the puck in the neutral and offensive zones in the second period. Defensively, they were solid in their own end. Dallas didn’t generate much off their cycle game, but the Stars did get some great chances off of the rush. Specifically odd man rushes.

Denis Gurianov’s goal was essentially a microcosm of Tampa Bay’s evening. Their battle is there, but their brains weren’t. The first issue is Yanni Gourde overcommitting on his forecheck when he is supposed to be the high forward in this situation. Dallas takes advantage of his aggression perfectly as Esa Lindell feeds a backhand pass to Tyler Seguin in the right faceoff circle—where Gourde should’ve been in the general vicinity. Next problem is Erik Cernak completely misreading the situation.

Cernak is slow to react. Then, Cernak doesn’t really respect Gurianov here. Last, he completely misreads the play. Watch Cernak’s feet and how he moves toward the center of the ice instead of with Gurianov—Ryan McDonagh has his man taken care of and Tyler Seguin isn’t going to cut in between them with Mitchell Stephens making up for Gourde’s over aggression.

Cernak is a fine skater, but I’ve always thought his foot speed wasn’t especially strong compared to other defensemen Tampa Bay has. Here it burns him as all three of these issues combine to allow Gurianov to blow past him and beat Vasilevskiy to tie the game at 17:49.

Tampa Bay was lucky to be tied after 40 minutes, but the third period was a mix of good and bad. Overall, it was a solid period for Tampa Bay as they controlled 56% of the shot attempts, generated an xGF% of 59%, and led in scoring chances 11-9 (they trailed in high danger chances 4-2).

However, these numbers have all been at all situations. At 5v5 the game was dead even in the third period and was tilted far more in Dallas’s favor for the first half. It wasn’t until Jamie Benn’s goal that Tampa Bay started to push back.

Giving up a breakaway to Jamie Benn seems like a bad idea; maybe that’s just me.

This play is on Jan Rutta, honestly. Rutta gets the puck and for some reason hesitates to push the puck deeper into the offensive zone. Watch how Kucherov reacts near Rutta, he’s expecting Rutta to either pass him the puck or dump it deeper into the zone. Kucherov stays near Rutta to give him the option, but Rutta waits and then his dump attempt is gloved by Benn and the Stars captain is off to the races as no one was catching him from a standstill.

As for Vasilevskiy, there’s only so much you can do in this situation and Benn outwaits him perfectly.

Tampa Bay pushed back as the period continued, but Dallas’s defense (the best in the league mind you) repeatedly kept them to the outside, and whenever Tampa Bay did get great chances Bishop was there to thwart them. They still struggled managing the puck, but Vasilevskiy made some timely saves down the stretch in order for Tampa Bay to have a chance to tie it late in regulation.

Good puck movement and the best shooter of his generation is a surefire way to score goals in the NHL. Not much else to dissect here—aside from the fact that Stamkos purposefully one-timed this one low to make it harder for Bishop to see (watch Stamkos’s follow through on the shot). This managed to get the game to overtime, an area you’d expect Tampa Bay to hold the advantage.

Nope.

~throws table across the room

There’s a quote from Jon Cooper after the game that perfectly sums up this play and game, “Our compete was there in the game. Our brains just weren’t. We gave up more chances tonight on turnovers and odd-man rushes than we’ve given up in two months combined.”

Point makes a great play in front of his net to recover the puck and then tries to feed a pass through Seguin and Benn. Mind you, all he has to do here is bounce the puck off the boards and up to Anthony Cirelli—who was all by himself—which would’ve gave the Lightning a two-on-one with Cirelli and Victor Hedman.

This play was infuriating to watch, especially from a player like Point.

Regardless, Tampa Bay didn’t deserve to win this one. Sure it would’ve been justice for dominating Dallas yet losing the last time they played, but that’s not how hockey works. Dallas controlled the game, and Vasilevskiy was the only reason it was even possible for overtime to happen.

Still, this Lightning team showed they could scrape together a point when they’re not at their best, which is good because every point matters moving forward.

We’ll see what they bring to the ice on Wednesday against the Los Angeles Kings.

Extras

  • Rest in peace Kobe Bryant, Gianni Bryant, John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester, Christina Mauser, and Ara Zobayan. Horrible news over the weekend in Los Angeles.
  • Wednesday night’s game at Staples Center between the Los Angeles Kings and the Tampa Bay Lightning will be the first sporting event at Staples Center since Bryant’s death. I’m expecting a fitting tribute for the Lakers legend.
  • Interesting to see Carter Verhaeghe only get 5:56 of ice time. The rookie had been playing pretty well since his hat-trick game.
  • Yanni Gourde only say 10:40 of ice time, and just three shifts in the third period. For a player signed to a sizable extension this kind of ice time isn’t going to help his lack of production.