Following a long day of celebrating the mythical Jose Gaspar, local Tampa hockey fans were treated to a fun night of hockey as the Lightning hosted the Vegas Golden Knights. Tampa Bay waited until the third to put the puck in the net, coming back from a two-goal deficit to take it to a shootout. Mark Stone had the deciding goal in the bonus section while Brett Howden and William Carrier scored in regulation. Ross Colton and Corey Perry had the markers for the Lightning.
Andrei Vasilevskiy had a busy first period, stopping 11 shots, but a light third as he only faced one shot. Overall he was 25 of 27 including a dazzling one in overtime. At the opposite end of the ice, Robin Lehner had an easy go of it early in the game as the Tampa Bay Lightning only mustered nine shots on goal through the first two periods. He was much, much busier in the third as the Bolts used three power plays to generate a total of 17 shots on net with two of them leaking through.
So the good news about the first period was that it ended better than it began. The first fifteen minutes were pretty much all Vegas laying siege to the Lightning net. As per usual, Andrei Vasilevskiy was a big factor in keeping the game close. “An inability to come out of our zone clean” was how assistant coach Jeff Halpern described what happened over the first twenty minutes.
The shotcounter had Vegas overwhelming the Lightning 12-4 with Vasilevskiy stopping 11 of those shots. Vegas entered the zone quickly and put the puck on the net. At times Tampa seemed to struggle to match their speed and got caught chasing the puck around. One of those sequences led to the Vegas goal.
Three Lightning players get caught down low looking for the puck and it let Brett Howden get open to swat home the rebound off of the Will Carrier shot. Both Golden Knights had too much space to operate. Credit to Vasilevskiy for the save off the Carrier shot, but he wasn’t able to reset in time to stop the former Lightning draft pick from potting the rebound goal.
Brett Howden (William Carrier) 1-0 Golden Knights
This is the type of period where Vasilevskiy proves his value to the Lightning. He didn’t make a lot of acrobatic saves, but he did stop 11 shots, keeping the score from getting out of hand (the post helped on a Jonathan Marchessault shot as well) early while Tampa Bay sorted itself out.
It wasn’t like the entire game was played in their zone. They had their chances throughout the period, the most dangerous from Ross Colton as he aggressively attacked down the right side of the ice and cut in front of the net but Robin Lehner was able to make the stop. Steven Stamkos also sped in on that side and almost pulled off a wraparound, but spun out behind the net and wasn’t able to tuck the puck in.
Vegas blocked 7 shots in the period, blunting the Lightning attack and keeping the danger at the perimeter. They also did a pretty good job of parrying the Tampa Bay forecheck by moving the puck out and being first to loose pucks.
When teams execute their defensive schemes it really cuts down on the chances and slows the game down. When they fall out of those schemes, the excitement level increases. Nothing gets teams out of their structure more than speed. In the middle frame, both teams used their speed to generate plenty of chances (if not actual shots on ice).
Vasilevskiy was in excellent form stopping Mark Stone from in close twice, including off a on odd-skater rush. The Lightning had several chances as well. Mathieu Joseph streaked down the ice, threw on the breaks and had plenty of room to slide the puck across the ice to Steven Stamkos. Stamkos’ sites were on but Lehner made the save on the one-timer.
Ross Colton, who had been flying all game long, split the defense and tried to sneak a backhander through the pads, but Lehner was up to the task. Stamkos also had a quick three-on-one early that he fired wide.
The difference between the teams in the period was that while the Lightning were able to get some chances off of their rush, they weren’t able to sustain the pressure. Vegas was able to get in with pace, and keep the puck in down low. Their second goal of the game came when they forced a turnover behind the net and William Carrier threw the puck at the net and it bounced off of someone or something and past Vasilevskiy.
William Carrier (Brett Howden) 2-0 Golden Knights
There were two scary moments for the Lightning blueline in the period. Right before Colton’s breakaway, Victor Hedman blocked a shot with his....midsection and was really slow to get up and off the ice. He missed a couple of shifts but returned. Later in the period, Mikhail Sergachev had his stick break on an attempted breakout pass and the puck went right to the Golden Knights. Sergy didn’t hesitate to dive out in front of the net and block the shot...with the side of his helmet. Valiant, but not an ideal way to stop a shot. He was down for a quick second but wasn’t any worse for wear.
Through two periods, the Lightning’s expected goal share was just 35%, very un-Tampa Bay-like. That matched with the eye test that showed Vegas was the better team at getting the puck not only on net, but from dangerous areas.
There was a little more sense of urgency on the Lightning’s behalf as they started the final period down two goals. Their play resulted in a few more shots as well as a few power plays. The power plays weren’t bad, but they also weren’t productive.
The first man-advantage (thanks to Joseph’s speed) did generate a couple of golden opportunities. A nice passing sequence put the puck on Hedman’s stick in a dangerous spot. He ripped it on net, but Lehner swallowed it up. As the power play time was dwindling, Corey Perry fed Pat Maroon in the left circle and his snapped wrister but the Vegas goaltender was there to make the stop.
The second power play wasn’t as good but Stamkos had yet another good look but his snapshot was gloved by Lehner.
The second-year player had a heck of a sequence. First he draws a penalty by eating a retaliatory check from Keegan Kolesar after Colton had laid out a Vegas player with a clean hit. Then as a really dangerous power play came to an end, Corey Perry slid a pass across the crease to him and Colton ripped a one-timer past Lehner.
Ross Colton (Corey Perry, Pat Maroon) 2-1 Golden Knights
We had ourselves a ballgame. The Lightning also had a 14-0 edge in shots thanks to those three power plays. The only thing they really didn’t have was a lot of time. That’s not a problem for these Find-a-Ways.
With less than three minutes to go they won an offensive zone penalty and got the puck to the net. Well behind the net really. Corey Perry jammed it off of the pads of Lehner and somehow the puck pinballed around and into the back of the net. This game was somehow tied.
Corey Perry (Alex Killorn) 2-2
Corey Perry scored, and we’re headed to OT! pic.twitter.com/gYb4UjZcNO— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) January 30, 2022
Even without the three power plays, the Lightning dominated this period statistically. At 5v5 they had 81.82% of the shot share (18-4) and an 89.49% xGF. Throw in the power plays and those numbers skyrocket to 27-5 for shot attempts and 93.41 xGF. If they had played like that for even half of the second period they probably walk away with a regulation win. Still, to gain a point after being down two goals with less than ten minutes to go is pretty impressive.
That was exhausting. This was a three-on-three like the early days before the coaches found ways to suck the soul out of it. Both goaltenders had to come up big in the waning seconds. First it was Lehner from his stomach denying Sergachev. Then on the ensuing rush Vasilevskiy went full Stretch Armstrong with his legs to deny William Karlsson.
Victor Hedman - save
Nicolas Roy - goal
Brayden Point - goal
Shea Theodore - goal
Steven Stamkos - goal
Johnathan Marchessault - save
Alex Killorn - save
Evgenii Dadonov - save
Corey Perry - missed high
Nolan Patrick - missed wide
Ross Colton - goal!
William Karlsson - goal
Pat Maroon - save
Mark Stone - goal
That’s it. 3-2 Vegas in a fun game to cap off Gasparilla Saturday.