One of the main differences between a young and talented team and a more experienced team with talent is patience. On Saturday afternoon that proved to be the deciding factor as the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Ottawa Senators, 5-3. The Bolts scored three times in the final period to break open a 2-2 games. Brian Elliott made 24 saves on 27 shots to pick up the win while Victor Hedman, Jan Rutta, Steven Stamkos, Ondrej Palat, and Anthony Cirelli scored the goals.
Along with Elliott getting the rare start, Fredrik Claesson suited up in place of the suspended Mikhail Sergachev. Claesson was fine in his 8:30 of ice time, making no egregious mistakes or spectacular plays. That’s pretty much what Coach Cooper could hope for. The Big Three (Hedman, Erik Cernak, and Ryan McDonagh) all logged over 25 minutes with Hedman recording a game-high 28:53. Cal Foote posted a season-high of 12:26 with Jan Rutta also playing 17:31. A little top heavy, but not bad for what was a close game for most of the day.
Despite a first period that was, at best, ho-hum for the Lightning they managed to walk away with the lead thanks to a Victor Hedman goal on the power play. After that goal, which came about four-and-a-half minutes into the game, the feisty Ottawa Senators controlled large portions of the period. They dominated on the shot clock (13-4) while also controlling shot attempts (21-15) and High Danger Chances (5-0).
Elliott was sharp in only his second start of the year and kept the Bolts in the game despite their lackluster play. They weren’t necessarily bad, just a little out of sorts. Ottawa was strong in their own zone and limited the second chances for the Bolts. As you can see from the below heat map, Tampa Bay had absolutely no pressure from the dangerous areas.
They came out of the locker room with a determination to change that. In the first two minutes they managed more shots on Matt Murray than they had in the entire first period. Unfortunately, they also found themselves tied on the scoreboard.
Cal Foote had a good first shift in the offensive zone as he rotated down low a couple of times to create some havoc in front of the net. Unfortunately, he was caught out on the ice a little too long and turned over the puck in his own zone. He attempted to clear the puck along the boards but Connor Brown knocked it down and then skated around a fallen Foote before roofing a shot over Elliott.
The Bolts stuck to their game plan and kept the pressure up on Ottawa. The Sens are young and rely a lot on their speed. One way to combat that is to keep the puck in their zone and force them into turnovers. If you can keep retrieving the puck and cycling it down low, it will eventually force them into turnovers or out of position.
Midway through the period, that’s exactly what happened. An extended stint in the zone led to Ondrej Palat finding an unmarked Jan Rutta between the face-off dots. Rutta rifled a shot on net that handcuffed Murray and found the back of the net.
The Lightning generated 14 scoring chances in the period and fired off 27 shot attempts. Yet, they ended the period tied at two thanks to yet another turnover. This time it was the veteran duo of Rutta and Ryan McDonagh. With less than a minute to go in the period, Rutta sent a pass out of his own zone that kind of flummoxed McDonagh. Ottawa’s Drake Batherson hit him and forced the puck free. Batherson wheeled quickly into the Lightning zone and threaded a pass over to Brady Tkachuk who buried it past an outstretched Elliott.
This is where experience paid off for the Lightning. Instead of getting out of sorts due to the late goal, or letting frustration win after having nothing to show for a dominating period, they just went out and kept playing their game. There was no panic, just a methodical devotion to controlling the puck and firing shots from the points.
They kept pressuring the Senators and building chances. Murray fended off close in chances from Palat and Cernak. The Ottawa crowd had a moment of hope when the goal horn sounded after an Artem Zub shot rang off the crossbar. The ref emphatically waived off the goal and play continued. That allowed Mathieu Joseph to create a turnover in the neutral zone and transition into offense.
He used his speed to drive the defenders back before dropping a pass back to Alex Killorn. The Harvard Man’s shot tied up Murray and led to a juicy rebound that a swooping Steven Stamkos gladly deposited into the back of the net for the 3-2 lead. The swing in momentum took the air out of the Senators. Ondrej Palat and Anthony Cirelli traded two-on-one goals (Cirelli’s was an empty netter) to drive the score up to 5-2 before a deflected shot by Logan Shaw beat Elliott with seconds left to generate a 5-3 final score.
This was a solid win by a veteran team. They didn’t play their best game, made some costly mistakes, but still found a way to win by sticking to what they do best. The players also went out there and did their job. That might sound simple, but executing the roles that they’re assigned is one of the biggest factors to the Lightning’s success over the past two seasons.
Cases in point:
- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and his line with Pat Maroon and Corey Perry tilting the ice whenever they were out there. They were out after Ottawa tied the game early in the second and spent a good portion of their shift generating chances and pinning the Senators back.
- Alex Barre-Boulet backchecking late in the third to disrupt a second chance for Ottawa.
- Bellemare and Joseph on the penalty kill. Joseph had a breakaway shorthanded (after having a goal taken off the board due to goaltender interference). He didn’t score, but the pressure kept the Ottawa special teams off-kilter all day long.
Victor Hedman: Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point (Power Play), 1-0 Lightning
Connor Brown (unassisted), 1-1
Jan Rutta: Ondrej Palat, 2-1 Lightning
Brady Tkachuk: Drake Batherson, 2-2
Erstes Spiel als Kapitän der Ottawa @Senators, erstes Tor: @BradyTkachuk71 macht das 2:2 für sein Team nach starkem Assist von @drrakebatherson! #GoSensGo #NHLSaturday @SkySportDE pic.twitter.com/hm5A3KwsbI— NHL Deutsch (@NHLde) November 6, 2021
Steven Stamkos: Alex Killorn, Mathieu Joseph, 3-2 Lightning
Ondrej Palat (Anthony Cirelli) 4-2 Lightning
Anthony Cirelli: Ondrej Palat (Empty Net), 5-2 Lightning
Empty net goals get no highlights
Logan Shaw: Victor Mete, Parker Kelly), 5-3 Lightning