Victor Hedman scored in overtime to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning over the San Jose Sharks, 3-2. Anthony Cirelli and Alex Killorn scored the other two goals for the Bolts while Rudolfs Balcers and Logan Couture scored for the Sharks. Andrei Vasilevskiy celebrated the dawn of the Year of the Tiger (aka a Big Cat) with 19 saves on 21 shots. James Reimer was stellar for the Sharks in the loss with 29 saves, including several sparkling ones in the third period.
Don’t let the Lightning build up speed in the neutral zone. That should be at the top of the game plan when going against them. San Jose decided to go in a different direction, allowing the Bolts to move the puck through the middle of the ice and enter the zone with speed. That led to a bunch of chances early, but thanks to the solid play of James Reimer there were no goals.
Corey Perry earned an early power play for Tampa Bay by eating a crosscheck from Nicolas Meloche and there was quite a bit of zone time early for the home team with the extra skater. Steven Stamkos was able to crack off two sharp one-timers but Reimer was able to intercept both of them.
A failure to connect with the extra skater did little to deter the Lightning’s forward play as all the lines were generating chances. Unfortunately, a penalty by Jan Rutta did halt things a bit. An early shorthanded chance by Mathieu Joseph went over the San Jose net and for the next few minutes the Sharks controlled play a little. Nothing got past Andrei Vasilevskiy, because, well, he’s Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Lightning regained the edge on ice, finishing the period with a flurry of activity in the visitor’s zone. Sadly, there were no goals to speak of, but the possession stats looked pretty good (55.73 xGF%, 66.7% scoring chances, 71.4% shot share at 5v5).
Cal Foote had a really good period as he was aggressive at the blue line and moving the puck cleanly to open spots. He’s come out of his shell a bit in the past few games and probably isn’t far from getting his first goal of the season.
The Lightning weren’t going to put in a lot of hard work in the second period and not score a goal like they did in the first period. Just 90 seconds in, they pounced on a neutral zone turnover and sped into the Sharks zone. Brayden Point drove to the left of Reimer, drawing some defenders with him. Anthony Cirelli was hustling down the center of the ice and Point curled a pass back to him. With the focus on Point, Cirelli was able to deflect the pass into basically an empty net to give the kids in blue the 1-0 lead.
Anthony Cirelli (Brayden Point, Ryan McDonagh ) 1-0 Lightning
The lead, sadly, did not last long. San Jose responded with some decent play and a long range shot from Marc-Edouard Vlasic that was headed in a harmless direction wide of the net was tipped by the stick of Rudolfs Balcers and into the net. Teams should do nothing but launch shots from a distance at Vasilevskiy since that seems to be the way to beat him these days.
Rudolfs Balcers (Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Logan Couture) 1-1
The two teams were skating pretty well for most of the game and midway through the period they traded breakaway chances. First it was the Sharks after Brayden Point dropped a pass to nowhere (actually it was to Ryan McDonagh, but the veteran shotblocker had peeled away to make a line change). Logan Couture peddled in on Vasilevskiy but his shot wasn’t up to snuff.
San Jose returned the favor when they didn’t see Mathieu Joseph jump off the bench and into open ice. The puck found him, but his shot found Reimer’s blocker and was batted aside.
The teams settled into a nice back-and-forth flow with each generating good-but-not-great chances until the Lightning were the beneficiaries of back-to-back power plays. Steven Stamkos had another nice one-timer but it whistled wide of the net. They didn’t convert on the first one so on the next they mixed things up with Stamkos trying a pass down low. It was deflected up in the air in front of the net. Alex Killorn gloved it down and quickly fired it past a slow-to-react Reimer to give the Lightning a 2-1 lead.
Alex Killorn (Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman) Power Play 2-1 Lightning
They would be right back on the man-advantage when Timo Meier crashed into Vasilevskiy. Anthony Cirelli took exception (well everyone did, but Cirelli more so than the other players) and they both picked up roughing minors. Meier was assessed an extra two-minutes for the initial contact with Vasilevskiy so it was two-more minutes of special teams play for the Bolts.
That special teams opportunity carried over into the third period and it was up to James Reimer to keep the Bolts off the board. He did so with a nice left pad save on Brayden Point. He followed that up with a wind-milling two-pad stack save (actually the puck went over the net, but his delightful old-school antics forced the shot high so it’s a save in my book). Unfortunately, Steven Stamkos picked up a penalty shortly after and the Sharks went back on the power play.
A power play they scored on. How? Long shot from the point that was deflected past Vasy. Seriously, it’s the only way you’re scoring people, might as well keep doing it.
Logan Couture (Brent Burns, Alexander Barabanov) Power Play 2-2
The game tightened up a bit after the goal as both teams shut things down a little. Slowly, the Lightning started to raise the temperature on the Sharks by controlling the puck in the offensive zone. James Reimer, who you may recall was chased from the net the last time these two teams met, was simply outstanding. He made saves on Mikhail Sergacehv and Cirelli down low as the Lightning kept putting pucks on net, but not in the net.
When they did finally beat the netminder as Victor Hedman did on a nice transition play, the crossbar got in the way. Hedman cranked up a couple more shots in the waning moments as the Bellemare line dominated the ice for about 30 seconds. Sadly all of the shots drifted just wide and the Sharks bent but didn’t break. Time expired on regulation with the score still knotted at 2. To overtime we go (again).
A minute in, Brayden Point got a step on his defender and had a look at the net but whipped it wide. Point’s grand overtime adventure continued as he turned the puck over in his own zone, but Vasilevskiy made two quick saves.
The refs actually called a penalty in overtime! But because they don’t want to give an advantage, they called offsetting infractions as Ryan McDonagh went for tripping and Timo Meier went for embellishment. Three on three continued!
Victor Hedman hit the post again in overtime. Only this time it hit the post and went in. As The Big Swede slowly drifted in the zone, Cirelli cut through the middle of the ice to open up a bit of a gap and Hedman just flicked a shot in the opening that went over Reimer’s glove, off the bar and in for the win.
Victor Hedman 3-2 Lightning