In a game that featured eleven power plays, it was a save that proved to be the difference. Andrei Vasilevskiy made a key save on a two-on-none rush for the Ottawa Senators that kept the game at 2-1 late in the second period. From there the Tampa Bay Lightning would overcome a dismal 1-for-8 performance on the power play (that included a 5-on-3 and a 5 minute major) to beat the Senators 4-3 thanks to third period goals from Alex Killorn, Brayden Point, and Nikita Kucherov.
In a game that featured just over 6 minutes of 5v5 action in the second period, the Senators frustrated the Lightning for much of the night before a flurry of goals in the second half of the third period proved to be the difference. Mikhail Sergachev, who played 25:04 in the absence of Victor Hedman, had a goal and an assist in the victory. Andrei Vasilevskiy didn’t have much work, facing just 15 shots all night long, but he was key when it counted.
Kucherov had another big night as he had the game-winning goal and two assists. Steven Stamkos didn’t score, but he had two assists and 8 shots on goal. Ian Cole picked up his first point as a member of the Lightning with an assist.
If you ever want to know why turnovers in the defensive zone drive head coaches bonkers, pull the tape from the first period of this game. The Lightning absolutely dominated the opening 20 minutes of the match yet headed into the locker room down 1-0. The reason? A turnover right in front of Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Mikhail Sergachev did a good job of pushing the rush off to the boards, but Nick Perbix was taken out behind the net as he tried to get the puck out. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare couldn’t control it, and tapped it to a teammate that wasn’t there. Dylan Gambrell skated onto the loose puck and slid it past Vasilevskiy for the the first goal.
Dylan Gambrell (unassisted) 1-0 Senators
Other than that, things were pretty, pretty good for the Lightning. They were flying around the ice (especially Sergachev and Nikita Kucherov) creating chances, causing hectic moments in the offensive zone and keeping Anton Forsburg busy. All the good things happened. Well, except for a goal.
The top line did almost find pay dirt when Kucherov and Hagel hooked up for a pretty passing play, but the puck glanced harmlessly off the post. Kuch also had a rocket off of a face-off that Forsburg barely fended off.
The 5v5 stats through 20 minutes.
Shot attempts - 20-13
Scoring chances - 10-8
Shots on goal - 8-3
The one thing that Ottawa did well was control the front of the net. They blocked plenty of shots (9) and swept away the puck before the Lightning could get a second swat at the puck.
For a team that was barely holding on at 5v5, it certainly didn’t behoove the Senators to start taking penalties. First it was Parker Kelly at the end of the first that was called for an extra push to the back of Cal Foote. They killed off that one. Two minutes into the second period Jake Sanderson was high-sticked Ross Colton. They didn’t kill that one off.
Mikhail Sergachev (Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov) Power Play, 1-1
Not content with giving up mere minor penalties, Gambrell sideswiped Erik Cernak with an elbow and was awarded a match penalty after a review. The Lightning had a full five minute power play that was kind of mediocre so the Senators gifted them a five-on-three with a too many men on the ice penalty. So the Lightning scored, right? They at least ended it still tied, right? Right? Wrong. Mathieu Joseph, on a shorthanded breakaway, reestablished the lead.
Mathieu Joseph (unassisted) Shorthanded, 2-1 Senators
All those shorthanded breakaways that we watched MattyJo fire wide over the years and he marked his return to Amalie by beating Vasilevskiy cleanly.
Another mediocre looking power play for the Lightning ended early when Sergachev got the puck stuck in his skates and he tripped up a pressuring Joseph. Things were pretty much under control until the end of it when a mix-up led to a 2-on-no-one for the Senators was stoned by Vasilevskiy. Good thing he is stretchy.
Biiiiiiiiiig stretch by the Big Cat.— NHL (@NHL) November 2, 2022
What a stop by Andrei Vasilevskiy. pic.twitter.com/kGgnlIylYj
Some may brush this save aside by saying that the Senator shot it into his pads. They don’t realize how hard it is for a goaltender to keep that trailing pad along the ice when he sells out to the far post like Vasy did. Nine times out of ten, that pad leaves the ice as the goaltender extends across the crease. If the Senators go up 3-1 at that point, with all the chances the Lightning had, it’s probably over.
With just six minutes of 5v5 time in the period, there is no real need to post the stats, but there were so many missed opportunities in the period for the Lightning. Shorthanded, the Senators sat back and waited for the cross-ice pass from the Lightning and disrupted it.
Should the Lightning have been down 2-1 heading into the final period? No. Despite their enormous gaffes, they had played well enough to at least be tied. So, you shake your head ruefully at a crazy period and go out and dominate the third.
Or, you play an even crazier when. Start it off with two failed power plays in the first five minutes. Ever since the five-minute major, the Lightning power play looked out of sorts. They struggled to enter the zone, they struggled to connect on passes, they struggled to win puck battles. It was just a struggle.
Just when it looked like they might have some momentum going thanks to a goal by Alex Killorn off of a nice entry and rush on the net by Nick Paul, a turnover behind the net just seconds later put the Senators back in the lead. Vasy has seen his teammates turn the puck over so many times he figured he’d get in on the action as well.
Alex Killorn (Steven Stamkos, Nick Paul) 2-2
Claude Giroux (Brady Tkachuk) 3-2 Senators
Resilience, they name is Tampa Bay. Brayden Point is faster than you think, well he was faster than the Senators defense thought. A nice touch pass at the blue line by Kucherov allowed Point to split the defense and put one past Forsberg. Offense in an instant.
Brayden Point (Nikita Kucherov, Ian Cole) 3-3
All of those missed opportunities were forgotten (well, maybe not by the coaching staff. They will definitely be going over that stuff in practice) when Mikhail Sergachev found an open Kucherov with a cross-ice pass (hey, if you don’t succeed at it the first 75 times, keep trying). Kuch didn’t miss.
Nikita Kucherov (Mikhail Sergachev, Brayden Point) 4-3 Lightning
After Kucherov and Point couldn’t connect on an empty netter, Nick Paul ended it with a tap-in goal. Sadly, it didn’t count as the refs ruled that Paul was offside. Nothing easy, baby!
Point and Stamkos failed to hook up on one more empty net chance in the waning seconds led to Brady Tkachuk breaking in alone on Vasilevskiy. He had to beat the world class goaltender and the clock and he beat neither. The shot went wide and the horn sounded. Somehow, the Lightning were victorious.