The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Seattle Kraken 3-0 Friday evening in their first-ever meeting. The night's festivities were a mix of firsts and tributes. The game marked the first time the Kraken stepped onto the ice at Amalie Arena. Before the game, Tampa Bay honored the Hall of Fame career of longtime broadcaster Rick Peckham. During the first commercial break of the game, Yanni Gourde received a touching video tribute for his contributions to the Lightning during his tenure.
Andrei Vasilevskiy made 15 saves on 15 shots for his second straight shutout, while Philip Grubaer stopped 20 of 23. Pierre-Eduoard Bellemare, Ross Colton, and Steven Stamkos scored for the Lightning.
More and more, the Lightning is solidifying how they need to play to be a team to watch in the postseason. Throughout the entire game, the Lightning dictated the pace for large stretches of time. It was apparent for the entirety of the first period. While they didn't generate many shot attempts in the second, they effectively limited Seattle's offensive pressure.
Capitalizing on quick shots helped Tampa Bay get on the board this evening as both Bellemare and Colton's goals came on quick snapshots that caught Grubaer off guard.
Of note, Tampa Bay's transition game wreaked havoc on Seattle's forecheck. This first goal helped express this; Victor Hedman slows the play down before feeding a pass to Jan Rutta. Since Hedman sucked in two forecheckers, the neutral zone had plenty of space for Corey Perry to receive a stretch pass and enter the offensive zone with possession. He might have slightly fumbled the pass, but the puck still made it to Bellemare, who roofed one past Grubaer to give the Lightning an early 1-0 lead.
Embodying Gourde's role during his tenure with Tampa Bay was the Kid Line of Colton, Taylor Raddysh, and Boris Katchouk. This goal is everything one would want to see from this trio. Strong forecheck, outworking along the boards, and finishing chances. Their improved play over the past ten games provides a lot of hope that they will start cashing in on their opportunities more often as the season progresses. The Lightning especially needs it with Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov out of the line-up.
There was a scare later in the period where Katchouk was leveled into the Seattle net by Jamie Oleksiak with a hit that saw the young Lightning forward carom into the net and his head bounced off the post. He was able to skate off under his own power and return before the end of the second period, but the hit and collision afterward left many worried.
I'm unsure how this wasn't a penalty, but the Lightning received a power-play later in the period that saw Grubaer thwart a few good chances before Mikhael Sergachev was called for cross-checking Gourde. Seattle's ensuing power-play did little to tilt the ice before the Lightning killed it off.
In the third, the Lightning went back to dictating the pace and forcing Seattle into challenging situations. In a way, this game depicted both teams—Tampa Bay with a clear game plan and approach combined with the skillset to execute it. Seattle is still trying to figure out how they can win hockey games consistently. The Kraken's transition game did little to threaten the Lightning and while they are solid defensively, being pinned in their end so wears them down over time.
Nowhere was this more evident than on Stamkos' goal, where Seattle coughs the puck up after a relatively normal forecheck from Alex Barre-Boulet. Ondrej Palat manages to freeze Grubaer just enough before threading a pass to a wide-open Stamkos to make it 3-0.
Seattle started to up their pressure more down by three, but it was too little too late as Tampa Bay went into their patented lockdown mode where they rarely turn the puck over, connect their passes, and transition up the ice effectively. It, again, gave off the impression that one team knew exactly what they needed to do, whereas the other team was still formulating how to respond in certain situations.
On paper, the Kraken should be much better than what their record says, but on the ice, the team looks unsure how to execute. Whether that is a coaching issue or players failing to execute is unknown, but they're clearly not going to replicate Vegas' explosive inaugural season.
Another impressive facet to see was Tampa Bay not coughing up leads in the third period as they had against New Jersey and Minnesota last week. Jon Cooper called it their arrogance, and it appears that message was received given how the team has responded (back-to-back shutouts). Time and time again, this team shows how to bounce back after some tumultuous sequences. It remains to be seen if it is good enough for the postseason, but we're not even at game 20 yet. Given the injuries at forward, it's damn impressive to see the Lightning still looking poised and composed in certain game situations.