Andrei Vasilevskiy made 36 saves and Ross Colton scored his 7th goal of the season as the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Nashville Predators 3-0 on Saturday Night. Erik Cernak and Yanni Gourde also scored for the Lightning while Pekka Rinne made 31 saves on 33 shots.
Lightning were playing down a player after putting Jan Rutta on LTIR and it kind of showed in the first period. “We’re not making it hard for them to enter” quipped Jeff Halpern after the first twenty minutes. He could have added that the Lighting didn’t do much to get them out of the zone once the Predators were there.
Yet, it was 1-0 in favor of the Lightning thanks to the reincarnation of Gordie Howe in the form of Ross Colton. The Lightning rookie scored yet again, this time on a nifty little backhander on a nice set up by Yanni Gourde. To that point, the Lightning had been fairing fairly well, but after the goal it was the Nashville Predators Show.
They repeatedly entered the Lightning zone unencumbered and once there, beat the Bolts to loose pucks and fired shots on net. A lesser human than Andrei Vasilevskiy may have been troubled by all of the attention the puck was showing him, but the Lightning netminder kept the slate clean with 19 saves in the first period.
Lightning current defensive strategy. pic.twitter.com/7yrbw4cBsb— Raw Charge, a Champa Bay Lightning web site (@RawCharge) April 11, 2021
In all situations, Nashville doubled Tampa Bay up in shot attempts (26-13), trounced them in high-danger chances (7-1), and finished the period with tidy 80.99% expected goal share. Not sure Coach Cooper was happy with that. The good news was that they did kill the one penalty they faced.
While the second period wasn’t an exact carbon copy of the first, there was a tremendous similarity to the paces the two teams went through. Nashville controlled play, the Lightning took the only penalty, but they also scored the only goal.
It did look like Nashville had tied the game early in the period as Ryan Ellis fired a seeing-eye shot from the point that eluded Vasilevskiy. Unfortunately the puck had slipped out of the zone just before Ellis shot it and, after a review, the goal was disallowed. Nashville kept pressing, but the Lightning were a little more composed in their end. While Nashville managed 18 shot attempts at 5v5, only 6 of them made it on net. The Bolts blocked 6 and forced 6 more wide.
Once the Lightning got out of the zone, they did manage to put a little pressure on Nashville with 18 shot attempts of their own. The goal they scored was a bit flukey. Erik Cernak had the puck from just outside the circles and it looked like his shot was going wide, but it hit Ellis in front of the net and deflected past Pekka Rinne to give the Lightning the 2-0 lead. Luck was a lady this night for the Lightning.
The Bolts killed off their second penalty of the net late in the period when Victor Hedman was whistled for holding. Vasilevskiy tracked the puck well through traffic and made a couple of key saves to keep Nashville off of the scoreboard.
The third period was the best period of the night for the Lightning. They came out and played aggressively from the start and disrupted the Predators transition game in the neutral zone for most of the twenty minutes.
Tampa Bay only allowed 16 shot attempts throughout the period as Nashville wasn’t able to set up in the offensive zone as easily as they had in the first two periods. The Lightning also spent more time in the Predator’s end as they were able to cycle the puck down low for the first time all night.
With the Lightning skating better, they forced Nashville into taking more penalties. A 30-second five-on-three for Tampa Bay didn’t pay off with a goal, but it took time off of the clock and forced Nashville to work harder on defense.
Yanni Gourde picked up his second point of the night with under two minutes to go as he picked off a pass just outside of the Predators zone and rifled it into the empty net. His reward for diligent defensive work was an elbow to the face from Michael McCarron on his next shift. The hit led to a match penalty for the Nashville bottom-liner and a bit of a dust-up.
The two teams will meet again on Tuesday with David Savard expected to be in the line-up for the Lightning. It’s doubtful McCarron will be there, pending a call from the league.
Ross Colton (Yanni Gourde, Mikhail Sergachev) 1-0 Tampa Bay
Erik Cernak (Ondrej Palat, Brayden Point) 2-0 Lightning
Yanni Gourde (unassisted)