One of the hallmarks of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s success over the last two seasons has been their ability to lock things down when playing with the lead late in the game. That reputation took a bit of a hit over the last two games as as they’ve coughed up leads heading into the third period on both days. On Saturday it cost them as they lost to the New Jersey Devils, 5-3 after giving up four goals in the final frame. On Sunday, they managed to escape with two points against the Minnesota Wild as Steven Stamkos scored the lone shootout goal to give the Bolts the 5-4 victory.
Yes, it was a win, but it’s not necessarily one the Lightning or their fans should be particularly happy about. Nursing a two-goal lead with under three minutes to play, the Bolts gave up goals to Kevin Fiala and Joel Eriksson Ek that allowed the Wild to tie things up and send it to bonus hockey. Tampa Bay did have a chance to salt things away with Kaappo Kahkonen out of the net, but Ondrej Palat bounced one off of the post from the blueline and the Wild were able to take the puck down the length of the ice and eventually tie it as Eriksson Ek jammed it home.
ondrej palat hits the post on the empty net and joel eriksson ek ties it at the other end pic.twitter.com/jYWC8swVLk— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) November 22, 2021
Brian Elliott made his third start of the season and picked up his second win by stopping 28 of the 32 shots he faced. He added saves on Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Fiala in the skills competition to make Stamkos’ successful attempt stand up as the difference maker.
It wasn’t all bad for the Bolts as Anthony Cirelli continued his resurgent offensive year scoring twice and Alex Barre-Boulet, called up to replace the injured Brayden Point on the roster, added a goal. Pat Maroon scored his fourth goal of the year (matching his total from last season) to give the Bolts an early 2-0 lead. Victor Hedman assisted on Cirelli’s second goal (a power play goal) to pick up his team-leading 14th assist and extend his points streaks to five games (2 goals, 5 assists).
In his first game since November 9th, Barre-Boulet skated for 12:16 (two minutes more than his season average heading into the afternoon) and scored for the first time since he put one away against Arizona on October 28th. He was lined up with Steven Stamkos and Ondrej Palat for 7:57 of 5v5 ice time according to Natural Stat Trick and while that line was upside down on shot attempts (12-7 in favor of the Wild while they were on the ice) they held even on both scoring chances (5-5) and high-danger chances (2-2).
With Point and Nikita Kucherov both out for the near future (indefinitely was the pre-game diagnosis for Point) the Bolts are going to need someone to step up on the top-six and it’s a role that BB is best suited for. The only thing preventing him from accumulating more ice time with Stamkos and Palat will be if he isn’t responsible defensively. He has his chance, now he needs to make the most of it.
A lot of forwards will need to step up with two of the biggest offensive weapons on the team out of the line-up. It was nice to see the third line of Maroon, Corey Perry, and Pierre Edouard Bellemare finally convert one of their chances into a goal. As a line, they had a pretty good night, posting a 66.7 CF% (8-4) and 71.4 SCF% (5-2) at even strength. The team is going to need them to keep turning those chances into goals in order to keep the wins coming.
In the end, the Lightning picked up two points. Did they play well enough to earn those points? Probably not, but it does offset those nights when the bounces don’t go their way and they lose games they should have won. However, they can’t keep playing this way and expect sustained success. As a veteran team they know that, but the trick is being able to take that knowledge and do something productive with it on the ice. We’ll see how they do in their next outing, Tuesday, at home, against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Anthony Cirelli (Victor Hedman, Ondrej Palat) Power Play
Patrick Maroon (Corey Perry, Mikhail Sergachev)
Anthony Cirelli (Cal Foote, Alex Killorn)
Alex Barre-Boulet (Steven Stamkos, Ryan McDonagh)
Steven Stamkos - Shootout