In a fast-paced and entertaining affair, the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 Tuesday night. Victor Hedman, Taylor Raddysh, and Mathieu Joseph scored for the Lightning. Drew Doughty and Viktor Arvidsson scored for the Kings. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 28 of 30 shots. Jonathan Quick stopped 27 of 30 shots. This match-up was the first meeting of these two franchises since January 29, 2020—just a handful of weeks before the pandemic hit in full force.
The biggest standout of this game it was the clear difference of this Kings team compared to the Kings teams that won two Stanley Cups in four years. What was once a hard-nosed north-south team is now a more agile, faster, and younger group that caught the Lightning by surprise with how well they dictated play. Another facet that caught Tampa Bay off guard was how relentless Los Angeles was in puck battles. The first period saw the Lightning lose far more puck battles than they were used to, and Los Angeles took advantage of it.
It didn’t take long for the Lightning’s recent penalty kill woes to rear their ugly head as Doughty scored his third of the season. Thanks to Los Angeles' dogged determination in puck battles, the Kings' power-play came from a hooking call by Steven Stamkos after he lost a puck battle in the offensive zone. An unfortunate bounce for the Lightning, for sure, but the unintentional screen that occurred due to that bounce could’ve been covered better.
That didn’t stop the Lightning as Jon Cooper immediately made some slight line adjustments. They appeared to work as Tampa Bay started to find their footing as the period progressed. Their puck management cleaned up, and their cycling ability forced the Kings into precarious situations. It paid off in the waning minutes as Hedman tied it at one.
This goal shows some great adjusting by the Lightning offense with an extra attacker. Hedman shading down above the right face-off circle and blasting this above Quick’s ear is something to behold. Additionally, Stamkos registered his 899th point on this goal, and he was a force every time he stepped onto the ice. Given the injuries Tampa Bay has dealt with upfront, the constant has been Stamkos, who doesn’t look like a player in decline.
The beginning of the second period saw Tampa Bay lose their net-front presence once again as Arvidsson managed to tip a point shot (that was also deflected by Ross Colton’s stick) past Vasilevskiy to give Los Angeles their second lead of the game.
It did little to stop the Lightning from pushing back, though. Highlighted by a Stamkos breakaway, Tampa Bay dictated the pace and repeatedly pinned Los Angeles in their defensive zone. Sandwiched between two power-play chances that saw little happen for the Lightning was a deft deflection by Raddysh to tie the game at two.
Seeing Raddysh’s confidence exponentially grow throughout the season has been a joy to watch. Ever since he scored his first goal, a switch flipped for him, and he’s looking more and more like a legit NHLer. In conjunction with Ross Colton and Boris Katchouk, his growth is one of the most significant factors in helping Tampa Bay chase a third consecutive Stanley Cup.
The third period saw another Stamkos breakaway be thwarted, back and forth play as neither team could fully take control, and rush chances start piling up. This carried over to overtime as both teams traded dangerous scoring chances only for their netminders to bail them out. Vasilevskiy thwarted Arvidsson and Anze Kopitar on in-close chances (Kopitar on a breakaway), while Quick denied Joseph on a partial breakaway.
The frenetic pace continued as both teams seemed determined to avoid a shootout with their aggressiveness. It ended up biting Los Angeles in the end.
Sometimes you need a lucky bounce to go your way to secure a win, and that’s exactly what happened on Joseph’s game-winning goal. Joseph’s speed is always a problem for opposing defenses and goaltenders—it forces teams to either become overaggressive or overly passive, which can be used to significant effect in generating chances. Here, Joseph shows how his game has grown over the years. He sees Sean Durzi giving him space due to Ross Colton driving the net, and instead of barreling toward the net, he slows down slightly and gauges his options. He doesn’t force anything here (like he had earlier in the game) and instead takes what's given to him. Sure, he’s rewarded with a lucky bounce, but his wherewithal to read the play is what stood out most on this game-winner.
After getting drubbed by the lowly Ottawa Senators over the weekend, this was a good bounceback from the Lightning. Even with all the injuries up front, they’re still finding ways to win. That’s commendable and a testament to the coaching staff and management for building this team.
On to a rematch with Ottawa on Thursday.