The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Vancouver Canucks 4-2 for their fourth win in five games. The victory means the Canucks have lost two games in a row for the first time since Bruce Boudreau took over as head coach. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 24 of 26 shots in the win, while Thatcher Demko gave up three goals on 20 shots in a low-offense performance from the Lightning.
Steven Stamkos, Anthony Cirelli, Boris Katchouk, and Brayden Point (ENG) scored the goals for the Bolts. Meanwhile the Canucks top six were relegated to only seven shots and no goals, while the Canucks fourth line of Tyler Motte, Juho Lammikko, and Matthew Highmore scored the only two goals for the Canucks.
The Canucks, whom the Lightning haven’t faced in two years, are no longer a terrible defensive team where the game is all chaos all the time. I think they’re getting coached right for the first time in a while. They carry possession more, but their defense still takes a lot of the team’s shots. They’re not getting rebounds or shots from the wing as much as a team like the Maple Leafs — whom I thought the Canucks played a lot like in some ways. I think a better team would’ve made the Lightning pay for an underwhelming offensive game, especially the second period, but they were able to hold things together and stay ahead throughout the whole game.
As for the Lightning, they didn’t have the offensive game early — they certainly didn’t dominante — so they pivoted to solid defense and counterattacks. That tactic worked brilliantly for the high speed and high skill lines, leading to the goals they scored.
Stamkos had a rush chance early in the game, but he didn’t get his 18th goal until the Bolts got on the power play — Vasili Podkolzin hooked Cal Foote to give the Lightning the advantage. From there, it was a simple zone entry, walk to the corner by Nikita Kucherov, pass to Victor Hedman, pass to Stamkos, and a slapshot to the back of the net. Textbook, like they’ve done dozens of times before. Shoutout to Tyler Myers for screening his own goalie. Demko had no idea where the puck was.
During the first commercial break, Luke Schenn got a standing ovation from the Tampa Bay crowd. Schenn, who plays for the Canucks now, was part of both Cup teams as a depth defenseman, skating in 19 games across those two runs. Schenn even scored a goal in the Islanders series.
Matthew Highmore circled up from the cycle after Taylor Raddysh gave the puck away and took a seeing-eye shot through two bodies that beat Vasilevskiy.
Cirelli! At the very tail end of the period, Alex Killorn captured a point shot that bounced into the corner, pushed it forward to Anthony Cirelli in front of the net, and it was the young center who did all the muscle work to get the puck onto his strong side and shoot it past Demko. I can’t imagine how much strength it took for him to stay up against two defensemen and coordination to get the puck and put it in the pocket Demko wasn’t covering.
Point and Garland wanted to go away from the play off the faceoff, but the linesmen cut them off first. Garland blindsided Point as he was crossing the offensive blueline so Point went after Garland and told him he didn’t like that. I thought it was fine, but both went off for roughing, so whatever.
It was a good start to the game from the Lightning off the back of Stamkos, but it was the Canucks who ended up in front on shots (15-22). The Lightning were ahead for most of the period, meaning it was the Canucks who were pushing slightly harder than the Lightning, but I still think the Lightning needed to be better.
I’ll be quite honest, the second period was relatively boring outside the penalties that were going both ways. The period was slow in terms of shots and chances with the two teams coming out of the first intermission really coached into shutting down things in the neutral zone after such an eventful first period.
Vasilevskiy had to make one big save with his pads and then was saved by the post a little later on. Other than that, he stopped all three shots on goal he faced.
The Bolts were seemingly pretty slow in the second period, but despite that, it’s not like the Canucks buried them at all. Shots were 6-11 in favor of Vancouver, sure, but a lot of those shots missed the net, got blocked, or deflected. Vasilevskiy wasn’t challenged much and the I do think the Lightning were part of keeping his workload down. They didn’t have their offensive mojo going, but at least they didn’t sacrifice defense for offense.
Koo Koo Katchouk! After a first period of all offense, and a second period of all defense, the Lightning were able to turn defense into offense, giving them a crucial buffer on the Canucks thanks to Boris Katchouk. Katchouk and Colton were able to get a 2-on-0 and a quick give-and-go was all they needed to bury the chance.
This goal happened partially because of Raddysh’s checking up the wall, but mostly because Quinn Hughes and Tucker Poolman were both caught completely flat-footed at the blueline, refusing to back off, and giving up a two player breakaway.
The Lightning’s offense mostly turned into rush chances in the third period as the Canucks wanted to hold possession in the offensive zone but the Lightning were succeeding at breaking up chances high in the zone. One such breakup play led to a breakaway for Point. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get the puck past Demko and the puck ended up going the other way...
Right after the breakaway for Point, the puck went the other way through Highmore. As the puck got deep in the zone, Tyler Motte came down towards the net as Highmore and another Canuck were fighting for possession behind Vasy. Motte found the loose puck and tucked it up and over Vasilevskiy, bringing the game back to nerve-wracking.
With that goal putting the game very much in jeopardy, the Lightning had to hunker down and defend for the last two and a half minutes when Bruce Boudreau pulled the goalie.
But that was naught for the Nucks as Point put home the empty netter after Bellemare cut off an offensive opportunity with a good shot block high in the zone. Game over.