Whenever a team plays the Carolina Hurricanes, they can expect a fast-paced, aggressive style of hockey that pummels an opponent into submission. As the Tampa Bay Lightning fell to the Hurricanes 2-1 in overtime on Tuesday night, that remained the case. Andrei Vasilevskiy made a valiant effort with 29 saves but couldn’t keep the tide at bay as Tampa Bay struggled to generate much offense throughout the game. Frederik Andersen made 17 saves in the victory for Carolina.
The game can be summed during one sequence. Second period, an extended 5-on-3 for Carolina; a point shot sends Vasilevskiy’s left skate blade caroming towards the boards. Play continues, but the Lightning doesn’t quit as their goaltender spreads his pads across the length of the goal mouth to take away the lower portion of the net. Tampa Bay manages to kill the double man advantage and gain some momentum, but it’s short-lived as Carolina reasserts themselves and keeps the Lightning chasing the game.
Andrei Vasilevskiy lasted over a minute without a skate blade during Carolina's two man advantage pic.twitter.com/lTYjDRvvHS— Hockey Night in Canada (@hockeynight) November 10, 2021
Chasing is what the Lightning did for the majority of this game. They scored first, with Steven Stamkos’ seventh goal of the season, but make no mistake; this was Carolina’s game from start to finish. If it wasn’t for the stellar play of Vasilevskiy and some strong penalty killing (Carolina received five power-plays this evening), the scoreboard might be even more tilted. As much as Carolina’s tying goal infuriated those in attendance at Amalie Arena (over a comically bad goaltender interference call on Stamkos), there was little doubt who deserved to win this evening. Martin Necas’ overtime winner merely cemented it.
It wasn’t so much Carolina dominated the game; it was more that they dictated the pace, and the Lightning struggled to wring any back. The shot clock shows a significant disparity (31-18), and shot attempts aren’t pretty (38-26 Carolina), but at 5v5, the shots were 17-15 in favor of the Hurricanes. High danger chances were five apiece. Expected goals weren’t as lopsided as one would think (54% Carolina). This wasn’t like the home opener against Pittsburgh, where the Lightning was ran out of the arena; they were beaten, but there were positive signs.
There were spurts of control for the Lightning, flashes of the Point line maintaining control in the offensive zone, the fourth line grinding play out below the goal line, and Mathieu Joseph showcasing his playmaking ability on Stamkos’ goal, but overall, Tampa Bay’s inability to effectively transition through the neutral zone and maintain consistent offensive pressure did them in this evening. Going 0-for-4 on the power-play and registering a single shot didn’t help matters either. Losing Nikita Kucherov at the beginning of the season was always going to be an issue, especially on the power-play, but Tampa Bay’s inability to consistently gain the offensive zone and establish control is nearing comical levels at times. It’s killing their momentum in games, and for a team that relies on finding a rhythm offensively, it neutered them this evening.
The good thing is Tampa Bay still garnered a crucial point in the standings, extending their point streak to six games and seven of their last eight. Additionally, it appears the sluggish starts that permeated the first few games of the season have subsided as Tampa Bay scored first for the fifth time in their last six games. The Lightning is finding their way, but they’re still not where they should be.
Sunday’s tilt against the dominant Florida Panthers will be another test to see how Tampa Bay is adjusting to life without some key pieces from their championship runs.
- It’s still early in the season, but I have just not been impressed by Ross Colton as this team’s third-line center. The same goes with Alex Barre-Boulet or Taylor Raddysh. Sure, they can all skate, but their impact feels so weak compared to what was hoped for them. Boris Katchouk has impressive underlying numbers, but he’s only played four games and is out due to injury. Tampa Bay needs more out of the kids moving forward.
- I’ve always been critical of Anthony Cirelli’s offensive game and his overall play driving drop the past two seasons, but man, has Cirelli been a monster so far in this young season. You can see it on nearly every shift, and his underlying numbers show a clear bounce back. It’ll be interesting to see if he can keep this up when he is eventually split from the top line, but it’ll be great for Tampa Bay if he can keep this up.
- Keeping pace is what Tampa Bay aims to do as they try to establish themselves on the ice. They’re doing just that with their point streak. It isn’t going to be the prettiest season compared to years past, but this is an organization that knows how to address its issues (see: two consecutive Stanley Cups). Until they’re completely knocked out, they’re going to be a problem. Let’s not let some early-season ups and downs obscure the bigger picture.