Game 7 recap: Tampa Bay Lightning steal two points in Calgary, win 2-1 in spite of listless effort
58 minutes of uninspiring play was capped off by Jonathan Drouin's first NHL point and an overtime goal by Ondrej Palat as the Tampa Bay Lightning won 2-1 in Calgary over the Flames to salvage two points.
There are very few good things to be said about Tampa Bay's 2-1 overtime win over the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night.
Jonathan Drouin scored his first NHL point late in the third period, and Ondrej Palat buried a chance in close, but there's little doubt -- after 58 minutes of listless, ineffective play, the Lightning somehow found a way to steal two points and a critical ROW (regulation or overtime win) to keep pace in the standings.
Calgary is a top-heavy team and it showed early; when Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie are on the ice, the Flames are a threat. When they aren't, the Flames are in trouble, and the Bolts created most of their offense away from Calgary's top pair in the first period.
The new-look forward lines for the Bolts looked strong early, with some extended offensive pressure from the trio of Valtteri Filppula, Steven Stamkos, and Jonathan Drouin. But, for the most part, neither team dominated the balance of play and both sides struggled to generate much in the way of high-quality scoring chances or extended forays into the offensive zone, as the puck sputtered about in the neutral zone for much of the evening.
Late in the period, Nikita Kucherov took a hit from Flames defender Mark Giordano, and looked shaken. The exit pass was in Kucherov's feet and his head was down, but the hit looke clean. J.T. Brown went after Giordano and dropped the gloves for the first time in his NHL career, sending Calgary's best blue-liner to the box in exchange for a bottom-6 winger.
The 2nd period was very uneventful -- Brown and Giordano served nearly 10 total minutes in the box because there was no stoppage of play to release them.
A tripping call to Mike Blunden in the offensive zone saw the game's first power play go to the Flames about halfway through the second. Anton Stralman broke up a late chance in front of his own net while sprawled on the ice, and Karri Ramo stopped a shot on a shorthanded rush from Ondrej Palat, but both teams continued to lazily move the puck around with little urgency and fewer actual shots towards the net.
Valtteri Filppula took a penalty in the period's final minute to put the Lightning on the penalty kill to start the third. The Lightning kill looked fine for the first minute and a half until Flames rookie Johnny Gaudreau sliced through the neutral zone uninhibited and fed Dennis Wideman for a tap-in goal and a 1-0 lead.
Tampa Bay finally had a few decent looks at the Calgary net in the waning minutes, including a one-timer in front of the net off the stick of Steven Stamkos, but the Lightning captain hit the post. Just when pulling the goaltender started to be something you might expect from Jon Cooper, Jonathan Drouin's first NHL point -- a secondary assist on a pass to Jason Garrison on the point -- ended with the puck behind Ramo off the stick of Valtteri Filppula and the Lightning heading to 4v4 overtime and with no business being there.
Perhaps it was the Filppula goal (or maybe just the extra space), but the Lightning finally seemed to wake up in the extra session. Drouin had a fantastic chance to end things on a 2-on-0 with Steven Stamkos, but Karri Ramo slid over and made the save of his life to keep things knotted up. The Lightning had a few more opportunities on the rush, including a 2-on-1 with Valtteri Filppula and Brett Connolly, before Ondrej Palat cashed in on another misplay by the Flames, lifting a backhander past Ramo to finalize the Lightning's first great heist of the 2014-15 season.
- Some will say the Lightning were just tired after losing to Edmonton 3-2 the night before, but the Bolts looked more disorganized and disinterested than legitimately gassed. Exits and entries were anything but crisp, and there was no sense of urgency in their game.
- Nikita Kucherov, who left the game following a hit from Mark Giordano, returned in the third period and looked no worse for wear, so the Lightning won't be short another forward when this road trip resumes on Friday in Winnipeg.
- Mike Blunden drew in over Luke Witkowski as Jon Cooper opted for a 12 forward/6 defense alignment. Perhaps it was the day of travel, or no practice time, but Blunden looked every bit the replacement level player. He laid three hits in his 10:09 of ice time skating with Brian Boyle and Brenden Morrow and took a bad tripping penalty in the offensive zone in the second period.
- It's still very, very early but Evgeni Nabokov has been quite good in net for the Lightning so far in spelling starter Ben Bishop. That's important especially during back-to-back situations -- the Lightning face another one this weekend in Winnipeg and Minnesota. Nabokov stopped 21/22 shots faced (.955) and stopped everything fired at him during 5v5 play. Again -- too early to declare him a revelation in net but certainly bodes well moving forward if Nabokov can be trusted to, at the very least, handle games in back-to-back situations.
- Brett Connolly looked good moved up to a scoring line, skating next to Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson. He didn't hit the scoresheet, but the did hit a post, and generally looked as effective as he did the night before in Edmonton, when he was a lone bright spot for an otherwise poor effort.