The Lightning extended their win streak to five games with another victory over a good team. But unlike Tuesday’s win over the Vegas Golden Knights, tonight’s win over the Pittsburgh Penguins was a dominant and impressive performance.
The Lightning opened the scoring with goals by Mikhail Sergachev and Steven Stamkos in the first period. Sergachev’s goal was a deflection through traffic while Stamkos finished a wonderful passing play that started with a Nikita Kucherov backcheck to recover the puck and ended with Brayden Point sliding the puck across the crease to the Captain for an easy finish.
The Pens cut the lead to one in the second period when a Patrick Hornqvist pass deflected off Evgeni Malkin’s knee and into the net. The Lightning answered almost immediately with a pretty shot by Anthony Cirelli on the rush. He had multiple passing options but the Pens defense dared him to shoot and he made them pay.
In the third, the Pens again cut the lead to one on a goal by John Marino at 4v4 after matching roughing minors to Alex Killorn and Hornqvist. The Bolts continued to have penalty problems eventually having to kill 1:34 of 5 on 3 time following a puck over the glass call on Killorn when Sergachev was already in the box for high sticking.
They somehow managed to survive that time with some help from a classic freak combination of instict and flexibility save from Andrei Vasilevskiy. From there, the Lightning secured the game eventually adding an empty netter from Nikita Kucherov following a cheeky bank pass off the boards by Victor Hedman.
The only negative outcome in this game for the Lightning was Ryan McDonagh suffering a lower body injury in the first period while blocking a shot. He made it to the bench on his own and remained there for a while but did not return for the second period and the team eventually announced that he wouldn’t return.
The team is already short on the blue line with Jan Rutta out for at least a couple weeks and several players injured in Syracuse. With Luke Schenn the only remaining option at the NHL level, expect a recall from the Crunch if McDonagh can’t return for Saturday’s game against the Islanders.
The Lightning ended the game with a comfortable lead in both shot share and expected goal share at 56% and 58% respectively. The Pens closed the gap in all situations due to all the penalty time in the third period but even so, the Lightning still finished with a lead.
This was a fun one. The Lightning played high level hockey against a good opponent. They faced plenty of adversity losing McDonagh early in the game and having to go to a five defender rotation. They also didn’t help themselves with all the penalties in the third period.
But despite all of that, they managed to outplay one of the better teams in the NHL and secure both points. The tic tac toe passing on the second goal and the stunning Vasilevskiy save in the third period were two moments for this season’s highlight reel.
This was quintessential Lightning hockey under head coach Jon Cooper. They flashed their skill multiple times but they also played solid defensively and persevered when they got into bad situations. As much as any game can in the regular season, this is one that should generate some pride among the players.
Sergachev goal to make it 1-0
Stamkos goal to make it 2-0
Cirelli goal to make it 3-1
Kucherov empty netter off sneaky pass by Hedman
Vasilevskiy wild reverse kick save