The Tampa Bay Lightning lost their first game in regulation since February 6th in a 5-4 road loss to the Vegas Golden Knights to close out a four-game road trip where the Lightning bagged five points.
Vladislav Namestnikov and Steven Stamkos on the power play scored in a back and forth first period that ended with the Lightning trailing by two. Corey Perry scored in the second to tighten the game back up, but it was an empty net goal that proved to be the game-winner as the Lightning didn’t get close until the final seconds of the game when Pierre-Edouard Bellemare scored.
Andrei Vasilevskiy had a weird night where he started the game allowing four goals on 10 shots, followed by no goals for the rest of the way. He stopped 21 of 25 in the loss. I’ll talk about the goals he allowed in the highlights portion, but he had absolutely no help in front of the net or disrupting passes through the slot. And then got boned on a borderline high stick call for the fourth goal. I’ll talk about the review below, but it was the right call.
This was a game that started in the first period almost like a scrimmage. There wasn’t much defense happening on either side of the rink and offenses were taking advantage. That’s why we saw six goals in the first period. In fact, looking at the shot plot, the first seven goals were during a very high-event game before it died down into a very even slog.
The game tightened up and there were times when the Lightning really struggled to put shots on net. With the Golden Knights blocking 22 shots and the Lightning missing nine more, the Lightning could only manage 24 shots on Adin Hill, despite carrying over 55% of the shot share at 5v5.
Vladdy!! Namestnikov opened the scoring from the fourth line thanks to the impressive playmaker, Corey Perry, driving around the back of the net and getting a centering pass into the blue paint despite pressure. It was a deft tip right in front of Adin Hill that pushed the puck up and into the roof of the net.
On the ensuing faceoff, the Golden Knights sent two forwards deep and Vasilevskiy could do nothing but was as the centering pass got through a couple aimless sticks found Brett Howden — the former Lightning prospect — all alone. Brayden Point looked at the sky on that play, knowing it was he who missed his assignment.
Holding that though, as I look at the replay again, Kucherov circled all the way to the left wing near the boards and abandoned his right side completely. Howden could just walk in and score while Point was tracking the center, Roy. So yeah, the first line got caught thinking too much about offense after a goal.
With that same Roy in the box for hooking, Stamkos put the Lightning back on top with a classic blast from the wing. Nothing special about it, except the obvious talent on display. Hedman and Kucherov got the assists.
Again, the Lightning were pretty loose in the slot, allowing Marchessault two wrist shots from the middle of the ice. The first one was fought off by Vasilevskiy as he bonked it away with his mask. But he couldn’t get the second one.
A passing play too fast for the Lightning to figure out and the puck was in the back of the net. A lot of motion vectors came together on this play for the puck to end up on four sticks perfectly in a matter of seconds. Either way, Point did a fly by as he missed where Rielly Smith went, and Kucherov was several strides back of Theodore on the goal. Loose kaboose.
So this goal was controversial because the broadcast kept saying Marchessault deflected the puck above the goal line. However, that was not the puck touch that resulted in the puck going in the net. Because it was a normal high stick play (where the ref blows the play down), the line players can’t cross with their sticks during contact is their shoulders. This is so refs don’t have to gauge based on an object several hundred feet away in the motion of the game. They can base it off the shoulder of the player.
I don’t think it’s a bad rule, just a rare instance of the grey area showing up. What’s important for the Lightning is another player was alone in front of the net.
Taking a holistic approach to figuring out what was missing from the Lightning’s defense, you could say the team was struggling to tie up sticks and disrupt the play on the whole. That sometimes came in the form of obvious missed assignments, but also not aggressively pushing to the blue paint for rebound control, or letting guys move freely in the slot as passes were going by them. The Lightning were definitely left guessing where the puck was going to go when it was on a Golden Knight stick.
Scorey Perry with his second point of the game! Very good work by Namestnikov along the boards returning the favor on the first goal of the game. It was in fact Roy again with a big giveaway to Hedman as the Golden Knights thought they were heading up the ice. Instead it came to Perry who got the shot just far enough around the glove of Hill to fall in.
Hagel hit the post from close range on the power play on the team’s second opportunity. I feel like a goal at that moment, less than two minutes after the Perry goal, would’ve changed the direction of the game.
Cirelli earned himself a partial breakaway by disrupting the Vegas defender at the offensive blue line. As Cirelli was off to the race, he was hooked and harassed the whole way along. I’ll mention this in the period recap but Vegas was getting away with a lot. As Cirelli was trying to make an attempt at a shot, Martinez knocked him off balance and straight into the goal post (back of the neck and shoulder), before falling on the Lightning center for good measure.
Cirelli eventually got up on his own but went down the tunnel into the room for concussion protocol. He missed one shift for protocol (Kucherov skated with Stamkos and Killorn) before coming back in the second period.
Vegas’ defenders were clutching and grabbing a lot throughout the game. Sticks on the hands, hands on sticks, arms on shoulders, all of it. I get playing hard, but there was a line that got crossed a few times — like the Cirelli play — where calls didn’t come.
Vasilevskiy with several big saves as the Golden Knights counterattacked for most of their offense in the period. They got two 3-on-1s in the final five minutes, the first one didn’t lead to a shot, but the second forced Vasy to make a huge stop seconds before he skated off the ice for the extra attacker.
Unfortunately, minutes after making that save, the Golden Knights found the empty net. Roy, who was famous in this recap, got the goal with a long range shot.
Hold on! With 10 seconds left, Bellemare made it a one-goal game again with a goal with a tip in front on Sergachev’s shot. Not much of a celebration on the goal as I think the team knew there wasn’t enough time left to tie the game. However, all three members of the fourth line got a goal in this game. That’s something. It’s a shame the first line went 0-2 in the first period.