Lightning win a crazy game 5-4 in OT over the Stars

Anthony Cirelli and J.T. Miller score their first points as Bolts

The Lightning defeated the Stars 5-4 in overtime in what was a night of firsts for newcomers to the Bolts roster. Anthony Cirelli scored his first two NHL points with a goal and an assist after being called up earlier in the day. Not bad for a first NHL game. J.T. Miller also scored his first points as a Bolt adding two assists including a pretty stretch pass to set up Steven Stamkos’ goal in the second period.

The Lightning started fast with a goal just over a minute into the game. Miller chased down a puck below the net on the forecheck, recovered it, and fed a perfect pass to Brayden Point in the slot. Point didn’t miss and put the Bolts up 1-0 against the Stars and former teammate Ben Bishop.

After the goal, Tampa continued to play well and controlled the game at even strength. Halfway through the period, Cory Conacher took a holding penalty on Tyler Seguin in the neutral zone. Seguin was skating into the offensive zone with speed and Conacher got overly aggressive in trying to slow him down putting his team on the penalty kill.

The power play gave the Stars their first sustained pressure of the game and ultimately their first goal. After drawing the original penalty, Seguin tied the game on a pass from his running mate Jamie Benn. Lightning goalie Louis Domingue had little chance of making the save as the cross ice pass found Seguin wide open in the left circle.

After the penalty, the Stars took over the game. They continued to put pressure on Domingue and tilted the ice toward the Lightning net. The Bolts goaltender was up to the challenge and kept the game tied heading into the first intermission. Dallas led in 5v5 shots (corsi) 18-10 after the first 20 minutes.

The second period started with the Lightning playing better and not conceding the ice to Dallas the way they did in the second half of the first period. They started to climb back towards evening the shot clock and eventually drew two penalties in quick succession to create what should have been an extended 5 on 3.

Instead, Yanni Gourde took a tripping penalty to bring it back to 4 on 3. Tampa wasn’t able to do anything with the power play and gave up a goal almost immediately after the penalty kill ended with the teams playing 4 on 4. The Bolts had just completed a poor line change and never figured out the defensive zone coverage.

Norris candidate John Klingberg picked up the puck along the boards in the offensive zone and fed a pass to Seguin who scored his second goal of the game. The goal was the kind that must frustrate the Lightning coaching staff as we’ve seen it far too often lately. Four skaters just floating the defensive zone looking around for help and then watching the puck go in the back of the net.

The lead for Dallas didn’t last as Cirelli responded by netting his first career NHL goal. And it wasn’t a cheapy. He rushed the puck up the left side of the ice 1v1 against Klingberg and beat Bishop short side. He looked every bit an NHL player on that play and throughout the game.

The Bolts tried to give the goal back immediately blowing another coverage that allowed a point blank chance on Bishop. This time, Victor Hedman and Andrej Sustr failed to handle a simple play in the defensive zone and nearly cost the team the lead. Louis Domingue bailed them out with a great save.

That save proved to be key as the Lightning played much better after that. They scored twice in quick succession to turn what had been a 2-1 deficit just a few minutes earlier into a 4-2 lead. Cirelli picked up an assist on the first goal with a great read in the neutral zone to steal a pass and then find Cedric Paquette in the offensive zone. Paquette put the puck on net, Bishop fumbled the rebound, and Alex Killorn pushed it into the net under the goaltender.

J.T. Miller created the next goal by recovering the puck along the wall in the defensive zone and throwing a slick stretch pass through the center of the ice to Steven Stamkos who was skating full speed into the offensive zone. Stamkos rushed in on Bishop 1v1 and beat him with a confident shot on the breakaway.

The Bolts continued to play well for the rest of the period and did not sit back defensively. The offensive outburst is especially impressive considering that Dallas is one of the best defensive teams in the league. Ken Hitchcock is known for his defensive system and the Lightning picked it apart with smart passing and opportunistic shooting. At the end of the period, the Lightning led 31-27 in shots and 4-2 on the scoreboard.

The third period started much the way the second ended with the Bolts playing well and creating a couple of chances. The next team to score though would be the Stars. This time, it was their forecheck that created the goal instead of the Lighting’s poor defense. While the Bolts did have a chance to recover the puck down low, this goal was more about good play by the Stars than any obvious mistake.

Forward Jason Dickinson recovered the puck and slid a pass back to Brett Ritchie in the right circle. Ritchie fired a one-timer that beat Domingue and cut the lead to one. With the pass coming from behind the net forcing Domingue to find the puck and then try to position himself, the shot was too good and Domingue barely had a chance to make a save.

The Lightning started to fade into a defensive shell as the period progressed. Dallas’ pressure increased and the Lightning left more and more work for Domingue. He was up to the task and maintained the one goal deficit. The Lightning created a couple of chances on the counter attack leading to a hectic pace as both teams had good looks on the rush.

The last eight minutes or so were purely in favor of the Stars with one way traffic headed straight for Domingue’s net. It looked like the Lightning would be able to survive but in a chaotic final ten seconds, the Bolts gave up the tying goal with just three seconds to go.

The Stars had the extra skater on the ice and were applying heavy pressure. For some reason, the clock stopped running for a few seconds and Mattias Janmark scored with the clock showing nine seconds. The officials reviewed the play and determined that the clock had only stopped for six seconds meaning that the goal counted.

Following that determination, the goal was reviewed again for goalie interference. Tyler Seguin made clear contact with Domingue including pushing the goalie’s glove out of position. The situation room apparently determined that Domingue had enough time to recover and try to make a save and the game headed to overtime. At the end of regulation, shots were 62-38, which is an indication of just how much the Lightning cratered defensively trying to protect the lead.

The Lightning started overtime with another crazy sequence as Domingue skated out to play a puck leading to Dallas having a shot at an open net. Bolts skaters scrambled to block the puck and clear the crease as Domingue tried to get back to the net.

The game continued in typical up-and-down 3v3 fashion with both teams getting chances. With three minutes left, Domingue made a save and wasn’t able to get up immediately. After a stoppage to allow him to test the injury, he stayed in the game much to the dismay of the fans in Dallas who felt he was exaggerating the injury to get a break from an intense Dallas attack.

When the game resumed, the teams resumed trading chances. Yanni Gourde was relentless forcing two turnovers that led to rushes but wasn’t able to finish either play. Cory Conacher played the role of unlikely hero speeding down the right side and selling out to beat Bishop with a backhand shot despite being dumped into the boards after the shot. Conacher scoring on Bishop to win a crazy game like that is a weird kind of hockey poetry for Lightning fans who see the two as forever connected after they were traded for one another.

The goal itself was extra bizarre as Bishop made the initial save deflecting the puck up in the air. Conacher’s stick then touched the puck while he was sliding past the net and tipped it over Bishop’s shoulder into the net.

Two points against a good team on the second night of a road back to back is always a good outcome. But the coaches will likely not be happy with the way the team played in the third period. After playing so well in the second, the team sunk into defensive shell and bled shots and chances putting undue pressure on Domingue until he finally broke.

The next game will be Saturday afternoon back at Amalie Arena against the Flyers. That should be another good game featuring two of the best teams in the eastern conference.