The Lightning entered tonight needing a win after losing four of their last five games and facing the prospect of a weekend back-to-back against the Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils. They got what they needed, securing both points at home against the Montreal Canadiens, 4-0. The stars showed up with big names scoring three of the team’s four goals and Andrei Vasilevskiy posting a shutout after a few rough games during the recent run of losses.
The Lightning opened the scoring less than a minute into the first period on a pretty shot by Victor Hedman after a long passing sequence in the offensive zone. They added a second later in the first as Alex Killorn did his best to score on an even nicer shot. He entered the zone with Anthony Cirelli on a two-on-one and received the pass early. He opened his hips to threaten a pass but the Habs defender took that away so he settled for ripping a wrister past Carey Price.
In the second period, the game changed a bit as Montreal pushed back on the shot clock. The Lightning had some extended stretches of possession but didn’t do much in the offensive zone.
Late in the period, after killing a penalty on Kevin Shattenkirk, the Lightning scored a quick strike goal to extend the lead to 3-0. Kucherov skated into the zone on the rush, driving the net. Pat Maroon found him with a slick pass from the left boards and Kucherov redirected it behind Price. So despite not looking threatening for much of the period, the Lightning headed into the third with a big lead.
The third period was more of the same from the second. The Lightning continued to focus on their defense, content to take the offense as it came. They gave the Habs almost nothing and the lead never seemEd threatened. And just like the second, they scored a late goal, this time on a power play slapper from the point by Hedman.
For all the talk about defensive issues over the last couple of weeks, this was a return to form in that area. They played one of their best defensive games of the season and completely shut the door after going up 2-0.
Despite having the lead for most of the game, the Lightning still came out on the positive side of the expected goal battle. They didn’t succumb to score effects and allow Montreal to carry play. Instead, they played a solid defensive game, pushing back into the offensive zone and maintaining possession enough to keep the Habs from climbing back into the game.
This was a reassuring performance from the Bolts. Even the win against Calgary on Saturday was a chaotic game where Vasilevskiy looked shaky and allowed a couple bad goals. Tonight’s showing was more in line with how the Lightning look when they’re at their best. They scored two goals in the first period on pretty offensive sequences and then gave the Habs no life over the final two periods, adding goals when they got opportunities.
This is the style of hockey that gives the Lightning a chance to go deep in the playoffs. The combination of offensive firepower and defensive responsibility makes them difficult to beat. The key will be how often they can find this level in all three zones.
This is the blueprint for winning Lightning hockey. They’ll need to replicate it if they want to find success on Saturday in Boston.
Victor Hedman goal to make it 1-0
Alex Killorn goal to make it 2-0
Nikita Kucherov goal to make it 3-0
Hedman goal to make it 4-0