The Tampa Bay Lightning are not falling off a cliff, but there has been little good news in recent weeks. Tonight’s game showed some signs of positivity, but was ultimately another loss as the Lightning fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-4 in overtime.
“Big” acquisition Tanner Jeannot got an assist on Colton’s opening goal when his shot got obstructed and fell to his linemate at the side of the net. But beyond that early moment, Jeannot recorded no shots and three hits in nine minutes of icetime.
The reality for the Lightning is that they’re still a team run by their stars. After the Penguins took the lead, it was Brayden Point, Steven Stamkos, and Victor Hedman who scored for the Lightning, tying the game three times. But that wasn’t enough as the Penguins stayed one step ahead, eventually finishing the Lightning off in overtime.
Jeff Petry and Jason Zucker each scored twice for Pittsburgh, with Drew O’Connor also scoring. A big reason for the Penguins scoring five times on Andrei Vasilevskiy was the plentiful rush chances behind the Lightning’s defense for the Penguins. Stretch passes and banks off the boards created way too much free space for the fast-flying Penguins. None of the defenders, except for Hedman, were immune from it, from Cole and Sergachev down to Perbix and Raddysh.
The only defender not mentioned, Erik Cernak, left the game in the second period and he didn’t return for the third period. Jon Cooper wasn’t able to provide an update on Cernak after the game. I’m sure Julien BriseBois will want to have that update before 3pm tomorrow.
Jon Cooper on if he has an update on Cernak: “Not yet”— Gabby Shirley (@Gabby_Shirley_) March 3, 2023
Whether it’s a sorely-needed defender (with or without Cernak hurt) or another impact forward to join the stars, the Lightning need something. I don’t think they’ve received the confidence boost that comes with the GM investing in the team and rewarding them ahead of the playoffs. I wonder if there’s a sense of nervousness with the deadline looming and Namestnikov just getting shipped out. Pittsburgh had that confidence boost with Mikael Granlund coming into the fold.
This heatmap wasn’t the whole story of the game, as the Lightning did out-shoot the Penguins at 5v5 37-33, but the team’s shots have been slowly drifting away from the front of the net (where rebounds are found). This game was a stark difference in offense as the Penguins often found themselves with open space and the Lightning defense unprepared for their speed, while the Lightning tended to find a structured defense in front of them when they entered the zone. It’s just harder to make plays with more sticks in the way, the offense ends up going horizontal and heading to the net becomes less of an option.
And in a game where one team is getting shots from in-zone plays and the other is getting them from odd-man rushes, the team facing a much less structured defense is going to be more dangerous in a way that can’t be accounted for by xG. The NST xG model I share mostly works on shot locations and time between shots to account for rebounds. It doesn’t account for how many defenders are in front of the puck at the time of the shot or when the play entered the zone. Teams and some companies have that proprietary information that I’d love to get my amateur hands on.
A final big aspect of this game was the power play. The Lightning had five power plays in this game, including almost a full 5v3 that extended into the third period, followed by two more power plays in the third. They had every chance to win this game from the refs point of view. Stamkos scored right as the 5v3 expired, so you can call that a power play goal unofficially, while Sergachev had two great chances in the slot on the power play in the third when the score was 3-4, but hit the crossbar on the first and had his second shot stopped point blank. One of those goes in and it’s a different game.
After another loss, and another potential injury to an important defender, we hold our breath until tomorrow evening. For the next game, the Lightning play in Buffalo on Saturday.
Colton!! Jeannot’s first point with the Lightning was a contested shot from the slot that bounced to the side of the net where Colton was present to collect and bury into the back of the net. Great first start for the Lightning. Unfortunately for Jeannot he wasn’t credited with a shot on goal (it never reached Jarry) so he still doesn’t have a shot in two games with the Lightning after this game.
Perry stole Jarry’s stick going into the corner. Hilarious, but I know I would’ve hated it if someone did that to Vasilevskiy. I may be in the minority, but I’m firmly in the “don’t touch goalies” camp, mostly because I know our goalie is better than theirs.
Vasy with an important one-timer save with the pad on Crosby. See?
A lead at the end of the period, but the cracks in the defense were showing. They were getting spun around and losing contact with the wingers in the neutral zone.
The Lightning led in shots 15-13 at 5v5, but the Penguins had two power plays in the period that looked fairly dangerous. The PK had their moments of winning battles and clearing the puck, but there was a puck battle where Perbix got swallowed by Malkin along the boards and turned a potential clear into zone time and chances for Pittsburgh. I know that battle is hard to win for Perbix because of who he’s up against, but it’s an indicator of the lack of insulation he has on the thin defense group. I think about Luke Schenn helping out there.
Petry tied the game with a lot shot along the ice that got under Vasilevskiy’s pad. Notice how the Penguins rotated to the strong side, the Lightning winger didn’t pick up on Petry attacking, and he had a wide open shot with traffic to find the right gap.
Petry diversified his goal locations with his fifth of the season between the ear of Vasy, the crossbar, and the post from a tight angle as the Lightning were once again caught chasing the guy on the strong side. You can see Cole following one guy and then immediately realize he left the other side completely open. Petry scored his second of the night before it was too late.
Point with the equalizer! This goal on the power play came from Sergachev’s point shot hitting Killorn on its way to the net and Point using his quick reflexes to move from trying to tip the shot to scoring the rebound pretty much before the puck even hit the ice. Really important goal.
Zucker got the Penguins their lead back with five minutes to go in the period. You guessed it, another rush chance. This time it was Sergachev half-heartedly going after the puck in the neutral zone following a power play, giving Zucker a clear path through Vasilevskiy.
With less than two minutes left in the second, both Letang and Petry took identical puck over glass penalties four seconds after each other. This gave the Lightning a 5v3 power play for 1:56. The Bolts power play had four great chances before the period ended, but no goal.
The Penguins were doing a good job of drawing the Lightning one way and rotating an extra player onto the weak side. That happened three times in this period.
Cernak missed the third period after suffering an undisclosed injury. Cooper gave no update after the game.
Stammer!! Early in the third period and just four seconds after Letang’s penalty ended and zero seconds after Petry’s penalty ended, Stamkos changed the angle on a rush and sniped a shot past Jarry. This was credited as a 5v5 goal, but neither Letang or Petry had gotten a few steps out of the box before the goal was scored so this was unofficially a second power play goal of the game for the Lightning. Kucherov and Vasilevskiy got the assists for the quick-up.
Not too long after the Stamkos goal, Drew O’Connor outclassed Darren Raddysh around the outside after a zone start in the Penguins zone.
Back to back power plays for the Lightning with Malkin and Rust going to the box 2:05 apart. Sergachev with two big chances, one off the crossbar, the other saved by Jarry. Gah.
PO Joseph (Mathieu’s brother) forced Vasy to make a huge stop directly after the four minutes in power play time.
Hedman ties the game again! Stamkos made this play by dekeing his way laterally across the top of the zone, and just as he was going to lose the puck, Hedman came barging through with lots of speed towards the net and found the five-hole on Jarry. It was quickly obvious Marcus Pettersson completely blocked Jarry from seeing the puck as it slid under him.
Sergachev with a great sliding play to save Kucherov from a giveaway in the slot to Malkin. Didn’t give up a shot.
Crosby with some clever moves, but couldn’t get himself free for a shot.
Pettersson takes a lap around the outside, finds Zucker and he scores with a one-timer from distance. One-timers, man.
I think we got four out of five? Vasy certainly stole a point despite the chances in front of him.
Dues to some preexisting commitments, live tweeting tonight's game from this account will be limited. So some evergreen tweets that should apply:— Raw Charge (@RawCharge) March 2, 2023
1. They look uninspired!
2. What a save! (repeat)
3. Pointer with the equalizer!
4. Can't believe that call!
5. Vasy stole that game!