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Victor Hedman leads shorthanded Lightning over Kings, 6-4

16 skaters? No problem.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Los Angeles Kings
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 18: Victor Hedman #77 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates his goal with teammates during the first period against the Los Angeles Kings at Crypto.com Arena on January 18, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.
Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NHLI via Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the LA Kings 6-4 in a late-night rumble in Crypto.com Arena. Victor Hedman finished the game with two goals and an assist playing a full 32 minutes for his team after injuries caused the team to only be able to dress 16 skaters (four defensemen) ahead of the game.

Mathieu Joseph and Nikita Kucherov both finished with a goal and assist at important moments in the game, with newly minted All-Star Steven Stamkos adding two more points to his scoring bag. Andrei Vasilevskiy wasn’t spectacular, but he stopped 32 of 36 shots in the win, saving his best work for the third period where he saved a couple goals at crucial moments.

Along with Hedman’s 32 minutes, Ryan McDonagh skated for 29 minutes, Mikhail Sergachev for 27, and Cal Foot 24. All the guys chipped in (except for the fourth line that only played eight minutes).

Back to that roster thing, the Lightning had to play with only four defensemen (Hedman, McDonagh, Sergachev, Foote) because Erik Cernak, Jan Rutta, and Zach Bogosian were all injured and the team didn’t have any cap space left to call up Andrej Sustr or Daniel Walcott. The Bolts had the players available to have six defensemen, but the NHL doesn’t give any cap exemptions until after they play short on the roster (meaning they can call those guys up for the weekend back-to-back). Also, the Taxi Squad exemption is for players in COVID protocol only, apparently.

This has happened to a couple teams already this year, including Toronto who used their EBUG for one night, so that’s the rule. I don’t agree with it, I think if you’re missing one person you deal with it, but if the team has to lose two skaters that’s not okay. Teams should be able to have a minimum for each position — 11 forwards, five defensemen, one goalie — and create an exemption for that. That’s my proposal.

Unfortunately, none of the Lightning players got the memo to stay out of the penalty box to save the defensemen from the penalty kill as there were 20 PIMs handed out in the second period alone in this very chippy game. Things calmed down in the third, which helped the Lightning shut things down and head to Anaheim with two points.

First Period

Boris Katchouk drew a high sticking penalty a couple minutes into the game. The first power play unit didn’t get much going, but Corey Perry loosed a slap shot that was heading for the top corner before Cal Peterson deflected it away.

1-0

Looked like the forwards and defense swapped places for a shift, because Hedman got a breakaway and lasered the puck into the top corner to give the Lightning the lead in the first period. Hedman stole the puck from Anze Kopitar, who was trying to pass back to Olli Maatta at the point, but Hedman stole the puck and just blew by everyone to get the breakaway. OK, Heddy, you can go on cruise control now, save that energy.

Despite only having 16 players, the Lightning took a too many men call that they had to kill. They didn’t give up any shots, while Cirelli got a shorthanded chance off an offside face-off.

After One

I’m going to give the Lightning a lot of slack in this game and the first period is where that starts. They were outshot 7-10, with similar ratios in scoring chances and expected goals. But they led after one period and didn’t look out of their depth by any means.

Second Period

Stamkos nearly doubled the lead early in the period, but his shot into the top corner (same corner as Hedman’s goal) just slightly brushed off the jersey of Peterson and off the post. I thought it was in on first look.

Cirelli took an interference call for another penalty kill. Before this moment, the Lightning were running circles around the Kings for about five minutes. They were cycling through lines and keeping the Kings in their own zone, tiring them out. The way it ended was with the Kings getting a small rush, throwing the puck at Vasilevskiy, and then crowding the goalie to get a scrum for some emotional pushback. The Lightning killed the penalty by denying the Kings any sort of a good setup, really well done.

1-1

Hedman got elbowed in the head, the Kings got past him, and scored a goal. And then Blake Lizotte tripped Point so he could walk straight to the net. Should’ve been two penalties there, but neither were called.

Philip Danault slew-footed Point once play resumed, so Point went after him and fought the former Canadiens center. Danault got a tripping penalty, but Point got a roughing to cancel them out. Sigh, at least Point took an important player with him.

Oh, now the haymakers are getting thrown. Killorn and Stamkos were part of a pileup in the Kings net after Sean Durzi cross checked Hedman in the back. Half of Florida had a heart attack when Heddy came out of the scrum holding his pack and stayed on the ice. Jon Cooper couldn’t bare to look.

1-2

The Lightning got a power play for the cross check, but Alex Iafallo scored on a long range shot to give the Kings the lead.

2-2

But on the same power play, Kucherov shot a bullet past Peterson to keep the game tied. Hedman and Stamkos got the two assists, but honestly Hedman should’ve gotten two for holding the puck in the zone a few seconds earlier. He got the puck in the air at a reasonable speed.

But then Pat Maroon took another penalty...

3-2

MATHIEU JOSEPH AND PIERRE EDOUARD-BELLEMARE, YOU ARE BAD BAD MEN!!! What a shorthanded goal! Joseph started the play by picking off the puck along the boards and out-skating Doughty into the offensive zone. He then led four Kings on a merry chase up to the corner of the zone before finding PEB completely alone in the slot. From there, PEB made a dazzling deke on Peterson buried the go-ahead goal. I was floored by this goal, it was amazing.

3-3

Arthur Kaliyev scored on the same power play to tie the game with a big shot from the left wing. He was shooting for the pass the whole way, but it bounced off Hedman’s stick as he was trying to cut off the play. Unfortunate, but Dustin Brown was going to get it anyway. The key mistake was Kaliyev passing Killorn at the point with a couple strides towards the face-off dot.

After Two

To recap, the Lightning lost the lead, got it back against, and then lost it again before the final buzzer for the period, so it was all evens heading into the third period. This definitely wasn’t the game Jon Cooper would’ve wanted heading into tonight with only 16 guys. High speed action, players running at each other, Norris defensemen holding their back while crawling away from the net, and key players getting in fights and shortening the roster.

Literally everything that could’ve made this game more difficult for his team happened, and arguably half of it came from his own players. At the end of the day, if Point, Stamkos, Hedman, and the rest wanted to play that kind of game, so be it. But even though it’s only January, I’m still thinking about May.

Third Period

4-3

Hedman scored his second of the night midway through the third period thanks to another turnover from Trevor Moore. Point and Kucherov battled hard along the boards and Kucherov made a smart backhand pass to Hedman who was coming down with speed. After that, it was all on the stick of the Sweet Swede.

Vasilevskiy was on his game in the next five minutes as he stopped the Kings several times, including a huge pad save on what was probably a slam dunk goal.

5-3

Joseph got his second point of the night with a huge one-timer with less than five minutes to go in the game. Hedman gave Joseph a perfect cross-ice pass to almost the goal line. From there, Joseph had to make the tough angle work and he did.

The insurance goal from Joseph was huge as the Kings immediately pulled the goalie with over four minutes to go in the game.

6-3

Stamkos scored the empty netter thanks to a lot of hard work in the defensive and neutral zone from Killorn. Game over.

6-4

I said “game over” Phillip Danault! Alas, he scored a fourth goal on Vasilevskiy, but not one of consequence.