The Tampa Bay Lightning shook off a valiant effort by the Montreal Canadiens and used two power play goals in the second period to post a 5-1 win. Four different Lightning players recorded goals as Brandon Hagel (x2), Nick Paul, Anthony Cirelli, and Nikita Kucherov scored. Andrei Vasilevskiy picked up another victory as he stopped 22 of 23 shots.
For the second game in a row, Mikhail Sergachev was scratched. Zach Bogosian was also out of the line-up so Haydn Fleury and Cal Foote teamed up as the third defensive pairing.
So, should the Lightning have been leading three minutes into the game? Heck no. The first couple of shifts featured turnovers, sloppy passing, and Montreal wheeling around in their zone. However, it only takes a moment, a flash in time, for the Lightning to score. Brandon Hagel got behind the defense and Ian Cole put the pass on his stick. Hagel was all alone and beat Jake Allen easily.
Brandon Hagel (Ian Cole, Erik Cernak) 1-0 Lightning
As Bernie Taupin wrote, Saturday nights are alright for fighting. Following a big (legal) hit along the boards on Anthony Cirelli, Arber Xhekaj entertained Pat Maroon’s request for a tussle. The rookie known as “Wifi” landed some rights to the back of Maroon’s helmet, but that was about it.
Cal Foote joined Maroon in the box a few minutes later as he got his stick tangled in the legs of old friend Jonathan Drouin. The 31st ranked power play took to the ice and, true to form, did not convert. Vasilevskiy did have to make a save or three, but nothing to get the heart rates of the Lightning coaches too elevated.
The Nick N’ Nick connection struck shortly after as Nick Perbix flung a shot into the crowd in front of Jake Allen. The bounces favored the Lightning and Nick Paul corralled the rebound and calmly slung it past the diving goaltender.
Nick Paul (Nick Perbix, Steven Stamkos) 2-0 Lightning
Pauly can't help but do it to 'em pic.twitter.com/r0dRHKF1Ak— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) December 18, 2022
The Lightning had a power play to end the period, but after a couple of chances from Stamkos and Victor Hedman, there wasn’t much to write home about. The period ended with the Lightning leading 2-0. However, the lead was a bit of a mirage. Montreal carried the play early and had the better chances. Vasilevskiy had to be sharp on several occasions as the Canadiens found opportunities right in front of him. Montreal was credited with 5 high-danger chances and 14 scoring chances all together.
A disjointed line change by the Canadiens that led to a too many men penalty gave the Lightning another power play early in the second period. It was not a pretty display of hockey for the Lightning special teams units.
They ended up with a better chance shorthanded a few minutes later as Pierre-Edouard Bellemare snapped a shot on Jake Allen off of a feed from Alex Killorn. The second half of the power play was better for the Habs, but they did not score. To add to their woes, they immediately took a penalty.
It was the best looking power play of the night for the Lightning, not that they scored, but there were chances. To make things more exciting, Brayden Point took a stick in the face with 35 seconds to make it a two-man advantage. They did not score with two extra skaters, but just as Josh Anderson was skating out of the box and back into the play, Anthony Cirelli jammed home his own rebound as he was being checked to the ground.
Anthony Cirelli (Corey Perry, Nikita Kucherov) Power Play, 3-0 Lightning
Tampa Bay was still on the power play because Jake Evans high-stick was a double-minor, but it was Montreal that almost put one on the board.Specifically it was Michael Pezzetta. First he rung the post behind Vasilevskiy on a wicked shot. Then he was robbed by the Lightning netminder.
With the way the refs were calling penalties you would think they were getting a dollar per call. Erik Cernak was already in the box when Nick Paul went for high-sticking AND Juraj Slafkovsky sat for interference. Nothing happened on any of the power plays, but Nikita Kucherov was stoned alone in front of the net (this is a few minutes after his breakaway was thwarted by a strong backcheck from Kaiden Guhle).
Why not one more penalty to end the period? Stamkos barked at the ref like he was getting called for crosschecking, but it was actually Josh Anderson that was whistled. Hopefully he apologized to the ref because the Lightning scored off of the face-off. Hedman sent the puck to the net and Brandon Hagel (or Stamkos) tipped it home. It was hard to tell. As of right now it’s Hagel according to the bigwigs.
Brandon Hagel (Victor Hedman, Steven Stamkos) Power Play, 4-0 Lightning
Stammer's goal? Hagel's goal? HEDDY'S goal? Your guess is as good as mine #TBLvsMTL— Lightning Radio (@BoltsRadio) December 18, 2022
Either way, the Bolts are up 4-0, as called by @DaveMishkin
: @1025TheBone or Lightning Radio 24/7 on TuneIn pic.twitter.com/lTbKkwHR7e
There wasn’t much 5v5 play during the middle frame, but the Lightning were much better in shutting down the Canadiens chances in front of Vasy.
A nice keep by Guehle caught the Lightning off-guard and Nick Suzuki snuck one past Vasilevskiy on the shortside. Once again, there would be no shutout for the Bolts tonight.
Nick Suzuki (Kaiden Guhle) 4-1 Lightning
Before the goal was finished being announced in either French or English, Cole Caufield was in on a breakaway. Vasy made the stop on that one.
The first half of the period was frantic and mostly in the favor of the home squad. It wasn’t quite the lockdown third periods we’ve seen of late. The Habs had 4 shots on goal and 3 scoring chances through the first half of the period.
Just as the the thought of pulling Allen started to circulate, Vasilevskiy made a nice save on Pezzetta (again). Then the Lightning raced the opposite way and Nikita Kucherov somehow elevated the puck over Allen and into the net despite having almost no room to work with. He’s really good at hockey.
Nikita Kucherov (Branden Hagel, ) 5-1 Lightning
Just a ho-hum three point night for Hagel.
There were some hiccups for the Lightning throughout the game, but their goaltender bailed them out while their offense received contributions from just about everyone (10 different players had at least a point). Vasilevskiy may have made “only” 22 saves, but there were some key ones early on Joel Armia and at least two more on Pezzetta It’s not always the volume, sometimes it is the timing.
Unlike against Columbus, where the Lightning kept the front of the net clean, Montreal was able to get in Vasy’s kitchen with 9 high-danger chances that helped them generate a 2.17 expected goals. The Bolts will have to clean that up because their next opponent, the Toronto Maple Leafs, will bury those chances.