Four games against the Nashville Predators, four wins for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Andrei Vasilevskiy returned in net after Curtis McElhinney played a fantastic game on Monday night. The Big Cat shutdown the Predators after an early goal to the tune of 32 saves on 33 shots for his fifth straight win. Juuse Saros didn’t get much help this evening as his penalty kill and defense were picked apart time and time again as he made 24 saves on 30 shots.
Steven Stamkos (x2), Ondrej Palat, Mathieu Joseph (x2), and Yanni Gourde scored for the Lightning this evening as Tampa Bay routed Nashville 6-1 en route to a 9-1-1 record.
In previous years, an opening 10 minutes like this evening would’ve sent many Lightning fans into a flurry of angry and despondent tweets. However, there didn’t seem to be much worry in myself or other fans that I know of. Nashville’s early physicality set the tone and for much of the opening half of the period.
They even managed to utilize that momentum to gain an early lead.
Tampa Bay weathered the early storm and started to push back both in control and the physicality department. Eventually, offsetting minors placed play at 4-on-4, and that was where the Lightning started to assert themselves. A shortened power-play immediately after allowed Tampa Bay to apply even more pressure. All that pressure was bound to pay off at some point and Stamkos made sure of it shortly after the man advantage expired.
O, Captain! My Captain!
Stamkos from the left faceoff circle will never get old. Never.
Tampa Bay didn’t stop there though. They continued to attack Nashville and drew another penalty, this one on Sean Malone for hooking. The Lightning proceeded to put on a clinic on how puck movement and recovery should be done.
We like this Palat, folks.
This goal did have some chaotic energy to it, but it never felt like Tampa Bay was panicking when recovering loose pucks. I’ve been a big fan of the power-play adjustment by the team this season. A lot of different looks and movements have caught teams off guard.
To add insult to injury, Tampa Bay still didn’t relent as Mathieu Joseph added another goal just 1:27 later off a beautiful feed from Mikhail Sergachev.
Folks, watching Sergachev do what he does is just an absolute joy. Also, 100% here for the resurgence of Joseph. I’m unbelievably happy how great his start to the season has been.
At this point, Tampa Bay’s momentum started to slow as the Predators slowly wrung some semblance of control back for themselves. A late penalty to Joseph with 2:36 left gave Nashville a quick glimpse of hope, but the Lightning penalty kill shut down any real chance of scoring throughout the penalty.
Tampa Bay’s response after a rocky start was just another reminder of the championship fortitude this roster has established amongst themselves.
The second period felt a bit more even overall compared to the first, but Nashville had another chance on the power-play after Alex Killorn was called for tripping at 6:06. This go-round saw the Lightning aggressively attack Nashville’s power-play and negate any chance for the opposition to properly maintain any pressure in the offensive zone. The Lightning didn’t relent as they pinned the Predators in the offensive zone a few times. The best chance during this stretch of time came off a one-timer from Anthony Cirelli after Nashville repeatedly turned the puck over.
For most of the period the pace was far slower than the first. Tampa Bay had settled into their lead and wasn’t allowing Nashville to generate many good opportunities.
That is until Colton Sissons thought he scored at 16:23 off of a bad line change by the Lightning. The goal in and of itself looked innocuous at first; a rolling puck that managed to squeak past Andrei Vasilevskiy. However, Tampa Bay challenged the goal for offside and got the goal overturned after replay showed Sissons was offside.
As much as Nashville tried to push this period, Tampa Bay thwarted their efforts time and time again. Their defensive structure held when things got chaotic, which wasn’t often in this period, and they applied plenty of pressure when they controlled play (which was 51% of the time).
Nashville’s desperation was evident in the third as they started to activate their defense even more than usual. The Lightning defended this well and forced a lot of Nashville’s pressure to the outside. Tampa Bay didn’t rest on their laurels though as they pushed back and generated their own chances. The best came from Cirelli as he rang a shot off the crossbar (the offensive improvement for Cirelli has been a joy to watch).
The following 10 minutes didn’t see a lot of action. It was mostly just back and forth play that didn’t generate high danger chances for either team.
That is...until Tampa Bay made Nashville pay for icing the puck.
Late in the period, Brayden Point was almost sprung for a breakaway but was taken down by a high stick by Dante Fabbro. The play drew blood and the Lightning proceeded to score twice on the ensuing four-minute power-play.
The puck movement by Tampa Bay this season has been phenomenal. There isn’t much else to say on this goal. Just textbook movement and passing here.
The floodgates were already open and this goal was just another black mark on Nashville’s dreadful evening as Joseph tipped Victor Hedman’s point shot.
Suffice to say, there has not been a Stanley Cup hangover for the Lightning this season. They’re easily the best team in the NHL at this juncture and they seem to be clicking on all cylinders. It will be interesting to see what lulls hit Tampa Bay this season because right now there isn’t a ton to be displeased with. However, their next two games could prove to be interesting as they face off against the surprisingly strong Florida Panthers. Maybe we’ll actually get a real rivalry this season between these two clubs so the “Battle of Florida” can carry some weight for the first time....ever.