Kucherov, Stamkos, and Vasilevskiy power Lightning through 6-0 dismantling of Stars
There should be a mercy rule in the NHL for games like this.
There was apparently a hockey game this evening at Amalie Arena. Only one team got the memo as the Tampa Bay Lightning dismantled the Dallas Stars 6-0 Thursday night. The Lightning exploded for four goals in a span of seven and a half minutes in the first period and never looked back. They chased Anton Khudobin out of the Dallas net on two separate occasions and made a Dallas team that was finally rounding into form look like one of the worst teams in the league.
This recap isn’t going to go period by period because it would just be a mess of explaining every goal and what led to them. Instead, I’ll provide an overall summary of the game and brief explanations of the goals. Analyzing a game like this is rather moot when nearly every bounce went Tampa Bay’s way this evening.
It’s been normal for Lightning fans to decry about missed chances and bounces not going there way. Tampa Bay is good enough to overcome games where the puck doesn’t always bounce right, but this evening displayed how terrifying they can be when everything goes their way. Loose pucks landed on Lightning sticks, puck battles were rarely lost in any zone, and the goals were as beautiful as ever.
Tampa Bay’s scoring started during their second power-play of the game after Mattias Janmark was called for tripping at 7:11. The call was due to Adam Erne laying a big hit to free up a loose puck that eventually led to the infraction occurring. Now, as great as Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Andrei Vasilevskiy were this evening Adam Erne was one of the other forwards to really step up this evening. Erne wasn’t great statistically with a CF% at 25%, but his physicality and forecheck caused issues all night for Dallas. He laid two big hits in the opening period that helped set the tone and Tampa Bay never looked back.
The best power-play in the league continues to operate at an absurd rate. No one picks up Stamkos on the back side and career goal 379 for the Captain drew him four goals shy of Vincent Lecavalier’s franchise record of 383 goals.
Steven Stamkos now has 379 career goals. He's four goals short of tying Vincent Lecavalier's franchise record for career goals (383).— Matthew Esteves (@mattestevesSBN) February 15, 2019
It wouldn’t be long after Stamkos’ goal that the onslaught began.
Mikhail Sergachev picks his corner and Anton Khudobin can do nothing but stand there and move his arm against it. This goal is the definition of a snipe—top of the circles, pick a corner, and make the goaltender look foolish. Sergachev hasn’t had the offensive year he, and many others, expected but he’s vastly improved in his own end. Seeing him get this one was great to see. His celebration afterward further shows how much pressure he puts on himself to contribute offensively. Just wait until he gets hot and starts scoring more.
Yes, Stamkos is in between four Dallas players with none of them really attempting to do anything to stop him from pushing this puck up the ice for Tyler Johnson to tap into the net. Now, Johnson is a bit fortunate here. If Khudobin doesn’t reach out to poke check the puck then this goal more than likely doesn’t happen. Johnson barely got anything on the puck when he pushed it and with Khudobin pushing out of the crease, he could’ve just smothered the puck. Instead he tried to poke it away and Johnson made him pay. That was Johnson’s 20th goal of the season, making him the fourth player on the Lightning to register 20 goals this year (Point, Stamkos, Kucherov, and Johnson).
After the Johnson goal Dallas swapped Khudobin out for Landon Bow, who had one NHL game of experience under his belt. Needless to say, Kucherov showed Bow what it’s like to face an elite scorer with this lazer of a shot. A clearing attempt bounces off of Kucherov and toward the center of the offensive zone. No Stars player is in position for this as Alex Killorn recovers the loose puck and feeds a pass to Kucherov at the top of the circles. Kucherov does what Kucherov does best and fires it past Bow to make it 4-0. As for Dallas, they just looked lost on most of these goals. Sure, the bounce didn’t go their way here, but there’s no one even trying to rush back to disrupt anything—they looked defeated.
In a span of 7:21 this entire game was turned on its head. Prior to the onslaught this was an even game. Dallas had a slight edge in possession, but was trailing in the quality department. Tampa Bay simply took advantage of some bounces and their shooting talent outshone the goaltending of Dallas.
The “even” game wouldn’t be the case moving forward as the Lightning outplayed Dallas in the second frame and went into cruise control in the third. Khudobin returned to the net to open the second period.
As for the second, Dallas recorded 12 shots, but only a handful were dangerous. A partial breakaway for Janmark two minutes in was denied by Vasilevskiy and a small push back around the five minute mark saw the Stars maintain control but struggle to get shots on Vasilevskiy. Then the Lightning came back and made an ugly situation even worse.
What I love about this goal is what Ryan McDonagh was trying to do before Killorn scored. He sees J.T. Miller in front angling himself for a deflection and McDonagh immediately goes for it. I wish that would’ve converted because it would’ve been so much more entertaining to talk about. Instead, Anton Stralman recovers the loose puck and fires it on net. Khudobin kicks the save toward his right where Killorn just happens to be standing. Killorn immediately fires it toward the net and it bounces off Khudobin’s skate and into the net. Not gonna lie, Killorn was going to miss the net had it not bounced off Khudobin’s skate. Which is vintage Killorn at this point, but that belies the fact that Killorn had a great game this evening.
Dallas tried to push back as the period progressed but anything they did muster was thwarted by the Lighting defense or Vasilevskiy. It wasn’t until Tampa Bay pinned Dallas in the offensive zone that another mistake doomed the Stars. Tyler Seguin attempted to clear the puck by lifting it over everyone, but got too much of the puck and it sailed out of play. Thus, to the penalty box he went for a delay of game penalty (this is still the dumbest penalty that the NHL has, please get rid of it).
Steven Stamkos then took another step toward a franchise record.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning
There's goal 380. Now 3 behind Lecavalier for the franchise record. 6-0 TB— Matthew Esteves (@mattestevesSBN) February 15, 2019
Within the next week we are going to see the greatest goal scorer in Lightning history have his name immortalized in the record books as the franchise leader in goals—he’s 29 years old. What makes this goal even better is how Stamkos dangles Andrew Cogliano so bad that Cogliano loses his balance and crashes into the boards. As for Khudobin, I have no idea why he went down so early on this goal. That’s Steven freaking Stamkos for crying out loud. He isn’t going to beat you low, he’s going to pick a corner or power one through you.
The remainder of this game saw the Lightning work their tails off to get Vasilevskiy a shutout. Khudobin didn’t return for the third, so, the Stars sent out Landon Bow once again. Dallas did generate some good chances in the third, including a wraparound chance for Tyler Seguin that Vasilevskiy shut the door on, but they still struggled to keep those chances coming. Obviously, when you’re down 6-0 it’s hard to keep the intensity up, but Dallas did keep pushing until the final minute and a half. The Lightning were just clicking on another level tonight.
It’s been a bit frustrating for the Lighting in regards to closing out games. They’ll have a solid lead and give up one or two goals in the third that shouldn’t happen (see, Calgary on Tuesday night). It’s good to see them lock it down to give their goaltender some love.
You Want To Talk About Offense?
Remember that offensive slump after the All-Star break? Feels like an eternity has passed since then. In their last four games, Tampa Bay has scored 22 goals while only allowing nine. That’s absolutely absurd. Kucherov recorded four points for the second staright game and has 11 in his last three games. That puts him at 92 points on the season and on pace for 130 points. The Lightning have four 20 goal scorers and very well could end the season with five if Yanni Gourde nets five more before the end of the season. Tampa Bay will also likely finish the season with three 30 goal scores seeing as Kucherov is only four away from that mark.
Tampa Bay has been on a whole other level compared to the rest of the league in offensive production. Sure, teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs and Calgary Flames might hit hot-streaks that wow everyone, but Tampa Bay has been clicking at a ridiculous rate all season. They’ve been unreal this season.
There is quite literally nothing to pick at in this game. Tampa Bay played well in all three zones this evening. Just a great game from them.
Be on the lookout tomorrow morning for my player grades article. This will be a new piece that we are going to be running the morning after every game from here on out to give you folks some more content. I’ll go a bit more in depth on every player and the team’s overall play. It will also feature the poll the Raw Charge account tweeted out after the game concluded for the 1.21 Gigawatts Player of the Game. So, it’ll have your input as well!