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Lightning find their offense in 5-1 victory over Penguins

So, that’s what it’s like to have a lead.

NHL: OCT 26 Lightning at Penguins Photo by Justin Berl/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Playing in the second half of a back-to-back and their third game in four nights it would be understandable if the Tampa Bay Lightning looked a little listless against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Instead they came out pretty intense carried much of the action in a 5-1 victory. Backed by a 28-save performance by Andrei Vasilevskiy and a three-goal outburst in the second period, the Lightning picked up their first regulation win of the season. Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat, Ryan McDonagh, Mikhail Sergachev (empty net), and Alex Killorn (empty net) provided the offense.

While I speculated that Coach Cooper might give the current line combinations another night together, he broke out the Blend-o-Matic 2021 and mixed things up. Mathieu Joseph jumped up to play with Steven Stamkos and Ondrej Palat. Brayden Point teamed up with Anthony Cirelli and Alex Killorn. Pat Maroon was back from his brief paternity visit and lined up with Ross Colton and Corey Perry. Alex Barre-Boulet made his second straight start (with Boris Katchouk scratched) and was beside Pierre-Edourard Bellemare and Taylor Raddysh.

First Period:

So, neither team scored in that period. Yes, that means the Lightning still only have one first period goal all season long, but it also means they weren’t trailing after playing a pretty good opening ten minutes or so.

Despite the lack of finishing, there was plenty of action as the two teams combined for 42 shot attempts and 18 scoring chances. Mathieu Joseph seemed to have an extra jump in his step on the Stamkos/Palat line while the new Cirelli line was buzzing all period long.

Things did get a little testy on the ice after Ryan McDonagh took umbrage to a hit from behind by Sam Lafferty.

McDonagh ended up with a double minor for roughing while Lafferty got the traditional two minutes. There was no call on the hit itself. The Lightning killed off the penalty fairly well but it did seem to sap a little of the offensive pressure they had early in the game.

Soon after Lafferty returned to action, Corey Perry invited him to dance with their gloves off and the Penguins forward obliged. Both were sent off for fighting. A little later Mikhail Sergachev was sent to the box after he was a bit too judicious in handing out crosschecks. The ensuing Penguins power play was quite fun as both teams had chances.

Joseph managed to create two pretty good chances including one where he had a step on the defense but elected to try and hook a pass back to Anthony Cirelli. Those are the type of situations the coaches would like to see more shots.

An odd play led to a Lighting power play. The Pens snapped a shot on net that caught Vasilevskiy up high. He froze as if squeezing the puck against his body, but it had trickled behind him in the crease. Brock McGinn poked it into the net, but it was waived off as the ref had blown the whistle. Cirelli took exception to McGinn’s post-whistle shot and rode him into the boards. That led to a scrum, but the only penalty went to McGinn for high-sticking.

The Lightning did not score on the power play and have yet to convert since Nikita Kucherov was injured.

Stats (5v5):

Shot Attempts: 16-14 Lightning

Shots: 11-9 Lightning

Scoring Chances: 9-4 Lightning

High Danger Chances: 2-2

Goals: 0-0

Second Period:

What is this magic? Apparently the Lightning finally got the message that they are indeed allowed to score the first goal of the game. None other than Braydon Point finally broke the lead-less drought as he found a seam and Alex Killorn hit him in stride with a nice little backhand pass. Point saw a tiny bit of space under the bar and he roofed it on the backhand.

So this is what a lead feels like. It’s been so very long.

Midway through the period, the Lightning were stuck in their own zone. Not for just 20 seconds, but a solid 90 seconds or so. They were finally able to chip it out and change a few folks. One of those players was Ondrej Palat. He jumped on the ice and found himself with the puck in the Pittsburgh zone. Palat did what the coaches have been imploring the forwards to do - shoot the puck. The puck was shot with excellence and it went into the back of the net.

The Lighting enjoyed this whole goal scoring thing so much they added one more. Steven Stamkos cruised into the Penguins zone and circled behind the net. He fed it out in front of the net and Ryan McDonagh hammered it home just 10 seconds after the Palat goal.

The goals were sandwiched between some extended zone times for the Penguins, with the second one leading to a crosscheck penalty by Victor Hedman. The Penguins were buzzing with the extra skater but couldn’t sneak one by Vasileskiy who was at top form.

That came after the power play, but you get the idea. The return of the offense was welcome, but it couldn’t happen without Vasilevskiy’s play. For most of the second period Pittsburgh had the better run of play, but the Lightning netminder stood tall to keep the puck out of the net.

Mathieu Joseph ended the period with a nice burst of of speed that forced Marcus Pettersson into a holding call. They didn’t score in the 27 seconds left in the middle frame so the power play carried over into the third period.

Stats (all situations to show how Pittsburgh pretty much dominated):

Shot Attempts - 23-12 Pittsburgh

Shots - 12-9 Pittsburgh

Scoring Chances - 15-9 Pittsburgh

High Danger Chances - 4-3 Pittsburgh

Goals - 3-0 Tampa Bay

Third Period:

For the first time all year the Lightning entered the third period with a lead and a chance to play some shut down hockey. They obviously hadn’t forgotten how to do it. Each Pittsburgh attempt to enter the offensive zone was repelled or quickly snuffed out. It took the Pens roughly nine-and-a-half minutes to record a shot on net.

The Lightning weren’t spending the period in the Penguins zone, they were content to get it out of their own zone, through the neutral zone, and then deep into Pittsburgh area. Still there were a few chances, notably by Pat Maroon. Despite focusing on defense they outchanced the Penguins 10-1 at 5v5 according to Natural Stat Trick.

It was just a solid period of defensive hockey by the Bolts, and it led to an empty net goal with three minutes to go by Mikhail Sergachev. For the young defenseman, it was his second goal of the year. That puts him halfway to his season total from last year.

A late penalty by Barre-Boulet led to the Penguins pulling the goalie again for the six-on-four advantage. Alex Killorn had a chance to get the puck out of the zone but he was stripped by Jason Zucker. The Pens forward fed it to Jake Guentzel whose shot deflected over to Zucker who batted it into the net to end the shutout.

Inspired by their goal, the Penguins pulled the goaltender again. This time Killorn was able to keep the puck on his stick and he skated the Lighting’s fifth goal into the net. The final horn sounded with both goaltenders in their respective nets and the Lightning with a 5-1 lead.

Stats (5v5)

Shot Attempts: 13-7 Lightning

Shots: 7-3 Lightning

Scoring Chances: 10-1 Lightning

High Danger Chances: 3-1 Lightning