The Tampa Bay Lightning entered Saturday on a skid after falling to the Boston Bruins on Thursday night to drop into a WIld Card spot in the Eastern Conference. First they rebounded against the Detroit Red Wings with a 2-1 overtime victory on goals from Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point with back-up goaltender Brian Elliott putting on a stellar performance. With the win, and Toronto losing, the Lightning moved back into third in the Atlantic with Toronto falling into the wild card spot.
The offensive struggles for the Lightning have continued, even against weaker competition with just the two goals against Detroit. The Lightning took on another weaker team in the New York Islanders on Sunday in a back-to-back with Andrei Vasilevskiy in net. The Lightning entered the game with a 4-6-0 record over their last ten, while the Islanders have gone 7-2-1 in their last ten.
The Lightning lost the services of Ryan McDonagh in Thursday night’s game and replaced him with Cal Foote in the Detroit game. It sounds like it’s not a long term injury for the veteran defenseman, but in the meantime, the Lightning will have to continue playing Foote, along side Zach Bogosian, until McDonagh can return from his injury suffered when he blocked a shot.
The only line-up change for the Lightning from the previous game is Andrei Vasilevskiy in net. Vasilevskiy faced off against fellow countryman Ilya Sorokin who has had a very solid season for the Islanders.
The Lightning got off to a good start with getting at least one shot on goal in each of the first three shifts of the game. The fourth shift was ended quickly after an Islanders icing forced by the School Bus Line and the first line coming back out. When the first line came off from their quick shift, the School Bus Line went back to work with a couple of shots of their own. Their shift ended with Perry mixing it up in front of the net and getting matching roughing penalties with Matt Martin. While that was going on, Pat Maroon mixed it up with Ross Johnston and both got fighting majors, though it was mostly a hugging match.
Up to the first TV commercial, the Lightning were playing well, controlling the puck and getting it at the net. After the first commercial break though, the Islanders were able to push back and do some shooting of their own to even up the possession numbers. With just under eight minutes left in the first period, Cernak took a tripping call sending the Lightning to the penalty kill for the first time in the game. The Islanders got one good chance right around the front of the net, but ended their power play early with Kyle Palmieri called for interference after taking down Mikhail Sergachev. This brought out four-on-four hockey followed by a short power play for the Lightning.
The Islanders opened up the scoring in the last two minutes of the first period. Brayden Point got a zone entry along the left wing boards. Sergachev got a little too deep trying to support him and Point lost the puck. This allowed the Islanders to go three-on-one against Erik Cernak, though Sergachev got back enough to eliminate one attacker, and Cernak took away the pass. Brock Nelson took the shot and placed it perfectly in the top corner to beat Vasilevskiy and put the Islanders up 1-0.
The School Bus Line followed it up with Corey Perry drawing a tripping call on Zdeno Chara giving the Lightning a late power play opportunity with 44 seconds left in the period. The Lightning were unable to convert before the end of the period and the rest of the power play carries over to the second period.
The Lightning opened up the second period with the rest of their power play. After some struggles to enter, the Lightning got into the zone and set-up Stamkos for a one-timer. The one-timer got Sorokin in the mask and resulted in a whistle after an Islanders clear. The Lightning re-entered with a Point pass across the neutral zone breaking Victor Hedman in along the right wing boards. He squeezed past the defender and got a clear look at the net. He shot the puck between the arm and body with the puck ticking off the jersey and then to the twine for a power play goal, tying the game at 1-1.
Victor Hedman power play goal assisted by Brayden Point and Andrei Vasilevskiy.
It didn’t take long for the Lightning to go back on the power play with Anders Lee called for tripping Alex Killorn. The best chance for the Lightning on the power play came from a Hedman point slap shot that got past Sorokin and the bodies in front, but hit the post. There was also some controversy as the Islanders put the puck over the glass, but because it hit a camera at the top of the glass and then went out, the linesman ruled it was not a delay of game penalty.
The Lightning got their first lead of the game near the half-way mark of the second period. Cirelli was able to knock a mishandled puck out of the zone to Killorn. Killorn then put it back across the ice for Cirelli to corral along the boards while Killorn drove the net. Cirelli got past the defender’s stick and put the puck to the top of the crease for Killorn to shovel into the net behind Sorokin. 2-1 Lightning.
Alex Killorn goal assisted by Anthony Cirelli.
The Lightning went on the penalty kill just after the goal with the referees making a questionable penalty call. Perry was called for Interference for knocking Chara’s stick out of his hands, which was a legitimate call. But behind the play, Matt Martin grabbed on to Rutta’s stick and then put Rutta into a head lock. The referees called Rutta for roughing for some reason and also called Martin for roughing and ignored him holding Rutta’s stick. This should have resulted in four-on-four hockey with penalties to Martin and Perry, but instead the Lightning went on the penalty kill since the referees decided to reward Martin for committing two penalties and starting the altercation. Fortunately the Lightning were able to kill off the penalty.
It looked like the Islanders scored in the last 30 seconds of the second period. Palmier entered the zone and passed to Pageau. He went down the outside with Rutta taking away the pass. Pageau took a backhander that beat Vasilevskiy. Upon further review though, Palmieri was offside and the goal was overturned.
The third period started with a change in net for the Islanders. After playing two strong periods, Ilya Sorokin was replaced by Semyon Varlamov. With Sorokin also not on the bench when Varlamov took over, it appeared to be injury related.
Despite having a cold and tired goaltender in net (Varlamov played the day before), the Lightning were unable to put much pressure on him for the first half of the third period. The Lightning were able to start turning the momentum around near the midway mark of the period with it culminating in a goal for the third line.
It was the kind of shift that you expect from this new third line with Ross Colton, Nick Paul, and Brandon Hagel. No one can replace the Gourde line, but they sure looked more like that group in this shift. They battled hard along the boards and forced a couple of turnovers too to keep the shift going. That culminated in a puck going back to the point for Sergachev. He quickly shot the puck looking for a rebound with both Colton and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare battling at the front. Colton was able to get free, gather the puck, and flick it into the back of the net. 3-1 Lightning.
Ross Colton goal assisted by Mikhail Sergachev and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.
A couple of shifts later, the Lightning went on the power play. Palmieri fell to the ice and kicked his foot out to trip Stamkos and keep him from getting to the puck in the corner. Palmieri went to the box and the Lightning went to the power play. The Lightning opened the power play with the second unit, but they failed to get much going before giving way to the first unit in the last minute of the power play.
At the very end of the power play, Brayden Point got called for holding the stick sending the Lightning immediately to the penalty kill. The Lightning did a good job killing off the penalty with Jan Rutta having a big shot block and clear right at the end that prevented a good chance after a cross ice pass.
The Lightning didn’t wait long to get back on the attack. The first line came out and looked like they were on the power play with their puck movement. Kucherov had the puck at the top of the slot with Stamkos battling at the front of the net. He slid the puck over to Sergachev on the left wing as he didn’t have a clean shot. Cizikas got too obsessed with taking Stamkos down which allowed Sergachev to walk right up to the net with the puck. Sergachev took a shot aiming for Stamkos’ stick for a redirect. The puck then came right back to him to bang in from the edge of the crease to put the Lightning up 4-1.
Mikhail Sergachev goal assisted by Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov.
The Lightning wrapped up the rest of the third period and took the win 4-1 over the Islanders.
Conclusions and Notes
- My three stars of the game were Andrei Vasilevskiy, Mikhail Sergachev, and Victor Hedman.
- Colton also had a strong game, finishing with 0.9 ixG at 5v5 according to NaturalStatTrick.com. Pat Maroon also finished up there with 0.85 ixG.
- Hedman was a shooting machine. He had six shot attempts at 5v5 and 10 overall for the game. Colton also recorded eight shot attempts at 5v5 with Kucherov tying Hedman with six at 5v5 and adding another on the power play.
- This was the kind of game the Lightning needed with their big boys and the depth guys getting in on the scoring, plus two of the four goals coming from the blue line.
- This has been a rough stretch for the Lightning with 10 of their last 11 games being on the road. 12 of their next 15 games will be at home and then they’ll finish the season with a road back-to-back to finish out the season. I think there’s a variety of reasons the Lightning have struggled over their last ten games or so, but the schedule has certainly been one of the bigger reasons in addition to adjusting to the changes in the line-up after the trade deadline.
- With his assist in the game, Andrei Vasilevskiy has recorded at least one assist in six consecutive seasons. If he can record another one before the end of the regular season, then it will be six consecutive seasons with at least two assists.
- Victor Hedman set a new career high in goals, recording his 18th goal of the season in today’s game. He set his career high of 17 in 2017-18 with 15 coming at even strength and two on the power play. This season he’s done it off of 13 EV goals and five power play goals. This also moves him into sole possession of second for the franchise record for goals in a season by a defenseman. He’s chasing Dan Boyle’s record of 20 goals in the 2006-07 season and he has a good chance of tying or even surpassing that total with 17 games left in the season. He’s also now nine points back of his own franchise record of 72 points by a defenseman which he set in 2016-17.
- With Sergachev recording a goal and an assist, he’s recorded his 30th career multi-point game in his career.
- Alex Killorn reached 20 goals for the second time in his career. His career high of 26 goals was set in 2019-20.