Saturday’s win against the Nashville Predators was a good summary of the Tampa Bay Lightning season so far. In the moment things seem somewhat out of sorts, but when it’s done the Bolts are on top by a comfortable margin. There were some issues throughout the night, but in the end six different Lightning players found the back of the net and they beat an inexperienced Nashville team, 6-3.
The win propels them back into first place with 40 points and a 19-5-2 record through 26 games. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 28 of 31 shots to pick up his 17th win of the season and 8th in a row. Tyler Johnson, Mathieu Joseph, Alex Killorn (power play), Brayden Point (on his birthday!), Blake Coleman, and Ryan McDonagh (empty net) all scored for the Lightning. On the Nashville side it was Yakov Trenin, Alexandre Carrier, and Erik Haula (power play) scoring. For Carrier, it was his first career NHL goal. Pekka Rinne only made 22 saves on 27 shots, but without his play, the score would have really been out of hand.
Coach Cooper went back to the 11/7 line-up as Luke Schenn returned from a three-game absence.
The opening play was a bit choppy on both sides of the ice. The Lightning struggled to string multiple passes together or enter the zone with possession while Nashville looked like a team playing elevnty-billion rookies. The Preds did have the first really good opportunity of the game when Filip Forsberg picked Ryan McDonagh’s pocket in the neutral zone but the feed on the two-on-one was a little high. Viktor Arvidsson knocked it down, but hooked the shot wide.
The Lightning drew first blood off of a turnover by Arvidsson. He tried a little back pass into a swarm of black-clad Lightning players. They broke out four strong and Blake Coleman made a nice cross-ice pass to an open Erik Cernak. Cernak slid a backhand pass to Tyler Johnson who managed to get his stick on it and poke it by the goaltender as he was being hauled down to the ice.
Tyler Johnson (Erik Cernak, Blake Coleman)
A few minutes later, Johnson had another chance on a rebound that he bounced off the post. Granted he had a Predator draped all over him when he released his shot, so there was a degree of difficulty to the move.
The Predators best chances at scoring came when they flipped the puck down the ice and tried to catch the Lightning defenseman in the offensive zone. Yakov Trenin jumped on a loose puck that had been pitchforked out and was able to get inside Cal Foote. However, by the time he made his move he was in a little too tight to beat Vasilevskiy.
The save proved key to the Lightning as they doubled their lead shortly after. Steven Stamkos won a face-off in the Predators’ zone. The puck was worked around to Mathieu Joseph who threw the puck on net. It hit someone or something in front of the net and deflected past Rinne whose best defense was to wave at the puck like a man swatting away a fly. Not the prettiest goal, but Joseph will take it. He had gone 12 games without one.
Mathieu Joseph (Erik Cernak, Steven Stamkos)
Nashville matched the Lightning in high-danger chances (3-3) and unblocked shot attempts (14-14). A lot of that came early in the period. From the Johnson goal forward, Tampa Bay was much better with the puck and attacked in waves. Tyler’s line was especially dangerous, as they generated 80% of the shot attempts while they were on the ice together (8-2).
The Lightning picked up the pressure to start the period. Mikhail Sergachev drew a penalty on a drive through the center of the ice and while he didn’t score while charging on net, he did draw a slash from Eeli Tovinen.
From the time they won the face-off, a goal seemed inevitable on this power play. Rinne tried his best, he really did, as he stopped shots from Point and Palat. In the end, it was Alex Killorn who tapped home a centering pass from Ondrej Palat for the goal.
Alex Killorn (Ondrej Palat, Victor Hedman)
After the goal, the Lightning settled into a bit of a lull. Always remember, no matter the difference in the talent level, the Lightning will give up breakaways, it’s simply what they do. Ryan McDonagh came up into the neutral zone to check Arvidsson who then dropped off the pass to a streaking Ryan Johanson. Since there was no one supporting McDonagh’s play the veteran broke in alone and beat Vasilevskiy with a quick wrist shot. Unfortunately, the right post got in the way and rejected the shot with authority.
A few minutes later the Lightning were caught puck-watching a bit as Vasilevskiy tried to bank one off the glass and out. Nashville kept the puck in the zone and while everyone was looking at Arvidsson on the right side of the ice, Trenin came flying off the bench and into the zone all by himself. He received the puck and ripped it past Vasilevskiy.
Yakov Trenin (Viktor Arvidsson)
With a little confidence, Nashville started to mount a response to the Lightning. Vasilevskiy had to make a save on a big slapshot from Forsberg and then Cernak was whistled for tripping. It wasn’t a great four minutes of hockey for the Lightning.
The two minutes spent shorthanded for the Lightning was much better. Blake Coleman had two really good opportunities that Rinne stopped. Nashville was able to get into the zone at the end of the advantage and after Cernak returned to the ice forced Vasilevskiy to make some stops.
That’s it. That’s the highlight.
Brayden Point (Mikhail Sergachev)
That’s how you take momentum back in a game. Nashville had the advantage according to the stats as they led 15-9 in shot attempts and 11-6 in scoring chances at even strength in the period. The score dictated a little of that, but there is no reason this version of the Predators should out chance the Lightning.
Nashville cut the lead back to two with a page from the Lightning’s playbook. Trenin charged into the zone, driving the Lightning defense back before dropping it to Alexandre Carrier who roofed it over Vasilevskiy.
Alexandre Carrier (Yakov Trenin, Mathieu Oliver)
A boarding penalty by Tyler Johnson set up the Predators for another power play. They were able to set things up a little easier than on their first opportunity. The lively boards in Amalie Arena picked up an assist. A blast from the point was wide of the net but ricocheted right to Erik Huala who was able to tuck it home before Vasy could cover the post.
Erik Haula (Calle Jarnkrok, Nick Cousins)
Thank goodness the Lightning can roll out three lines that can score. As tenacious as the Predators had been all night long, they just can’t match Tampa Bay’s depth. Johnson carried the puck into the zone, dished it to Barclay Goodrow who circled long enough for Coleman to get into a scoring area. The pass was on the tape and Coleman chipped it into the back of the net.
Blake Coleman (Barclay Goodrow, Tyler Johnson)
The Predators kept coming at the Lightning, but the home team did a really good job of limiting the play to the perimeter and getting the puck out of the zone. With just over three minutes to go in the game, Nashville called a time out and when they returned to the ice, Pekka Rinne stayed on the bench.
The extra attacker led to a solid chance for Carrier, but in the end it proved disadvantageous as Ryan McDonagh banked one off the boards from his own zone into the net. Pretty impressive shot honestly.
With the victory, the Lightning return to their winning ways and are now 10-1 in Amalie Arena (1-0 with a “packed” house). The two teams meet again on Monday.