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Brayden Point scores twice to lead Lightning over the Blues, 5-2

A three-goal outburst in the first period propelled the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 5-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Friday night. Brayden Point scored two goals, Nikita Kucherov added three more points to his season total while Steven Stamkos, Brandon Hagel, Nick Paul, and Alex Killorn also had multiple point nights. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 25 of 27 to pick up his eighth win of the season.

There were some line-up changes to start the night. Cal Foote and Ross Colton returned from injury while Alex Barre-Boulet made his season debut for the Bolts with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare out for the game. That led to some shuffling on the bottom lines:

First Period

Things were testy from the beginning. First, Niko Mikkola launched Rudy Balcers into the boards that left the Lightning forward skating off the ice favoring his shoulder/arm (he would not return to action). Then on the following face-off Corey Perry and Ivan Barbashev were tangled up and resolved their disagreement with some pushing, shoving, and and a couple of jabs.

The Lightning weren’t deterred by the physical play, though. The top line chipped the puck into the zone. Kucherov and Hagel did what they needed to do, by way of their sticks and feet to get the puck to Brayden Point who backhanded one through Jordan Binnington.

Brayden Point (Brandon Hagel, Nikita Kucherov) 1-0 Lightning

They weren’t done. The Stamkos line came out and doubled their lead 28 seconds later. It was nice to see another team blindly through a pass through their own zone. The Lightning picked it off, Nick Paul outworked a Blue and fed it Alex Killorn who was camped out in the slot, patiently waiting for the puck. Once he got it, he whipped it into the net for the goal.

Alex Killorn (Nick Paul, Steven Stamkos) 2-0 Lightning

Brayden Point had a chance to chase Binnington as he broke in all alone but his shot went high. Another breakaway, this time for St. Louis, ended in penalties. Robert Bortuzzo had a step on Mikhail Sergachev and when the Russian defender put his hip into him, Bortuzzo crashed into Vasilevskiy. Cal Foote immediately jumped Bortuzzo touching off a mini line fracas.

So, yeah. A nice first eight minutes of the game.

While on the four-on-four, Kucherov walked Mikkola whose lone means of defense was to hold him. That’s a penalty. And that’s a power play goal. Brayden Point from the slot off of a nice feed from Kucherov. The streaky power play is back on stride as they picked up a power play goal in their sixth straight game.

Brayden Point (Nikita Kucherov, Mikhail Sergachev) Power Play, 3-0 Lightning

The Blues got one back on the power play. Good for them. Vasy opened the pads a little too much and Pavel Buchnevich tipped it through the five-hole.

Pavel Buchnevich (Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou) Power Play, 3-1 Lightning

Second Period

It was the second period against the Boston Bruins where all the good things turned sour so the Lightning were looking to avoid that. Starting shorthanded didn’t help, but they killed off a Zach Bogosian penalty fairly easily.

They weren’t so lucky a little later as the Blues were able to enter the zone fairly easily and Jordan Kyrou wristed a shot past Vasilevskiy who didn’t seem to track the play that well. Ross Colton was a little late to recognize the danger and eliminate Kyrou from the play.

Jordan Kyrou (Robert Thomas, Pavel Buchnevich) 3-2 Lightning

Unlike against Boston, the Lightning responded as they should to adversity – with offense. The Best Line in Hockey connected for another goal. Point put on the rocket skates to get a clear chance that he ripped wide and Kucherov made a great read to get to the loose puck first before immediately dishing it to Brandon Hagel in the slot. Hagel snapped a six-game goalless streak as put it past Binnington.

Brandon Hagel (Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point) 4-2 Lightning

We all know Vasilevskiy hasn’t played to his usual Vezina caliber ability (yet) this season, but he is starting to make key saves at key times. The Blues had the Lightning pinned in their own zone, Erik Cernak and Hagel were hobbled after blocking shots, and the skaters were  approaching two-minute shifts. Sensing a chance to get back in the game, the shots were coming fast and furious from the Blues. Vasy made at least two solid saves to keep the score 4-2.

Oh he also did this earlier in the period:

To provide a little symmetry to the period, the Lightning ended it on the penalty kill as Erik Cernak took a tripping penalty. It wasn’t the cleanest period they’ve played all season, but it was a resilient one as they carried the two-goal lead into the final period.

Third Period

They started the final period by killing off the remainder of the penalty and then proceeded to play a nice long stretch of uneventful hockey, which, as the team with the two-goal lead, is exactly what they wanted. St. Louis did manage to build up some zone time, but the Lightning forced them to go the long way around the boards to move the puck and eliminated the chances from the dangerous parts of the ice. When the puck was along the boards, they made life difficult for the Blues to dig it out.

While they didn’t have a ton of chances, the ones the Lightning did generate were golden. Hagel had a breakaway stuffed by Binnington while Pat Maroon and Victor Hedman sent pucks wide of open portions of the net.

Coach Berube pulled the goaltender with about four minutes to go. Nick Paul blocked a shot that allowed the Lightning to exit the zone with ease and was rewarded with the easy empty net goal.

Nick Paul (Alex Killorn, Steven Stamkos) Empty Net, 5-2 Lightning

That would be the last of the scoring for the game and the Bolts closed out the home portion of their November scheduled with a solid win over the Blues. It was as complete of a 60-minute effort as they’ve put forth this season and sends them off their three-game road trip with some positive vibes.

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