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Special teams sputter as Lightning lose to Oilers, 3-2

Sometimes a fairly solid effort for a team can be undone by one bad stretch of play. Such was the case on Tuesday when the Tampa Bay Lightning lost, 3-2, to the Edmonton Oilers. Edmonton dominated special teams as they scored shorthanded (Warren Foegele) and twice on the power play (Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl). Brandon Hagel and Alex Killorn had the tallies for the Lightning as the Oilers won in Tampa for the first time in over a decade.

First Period

The Lightning started the game doing what they should do against a team coming off of a back-to-back. They pressured them all over the ice starting with a strong forecheck and followed it up with by holding the the line at both bluelines. Not only did it lead to a huge early lead in shots, and forced Jack Campbell to make several tough saves, it kept the Oilers offense from generating any speed whatsoever in the neutral zone.

After a dominant start at 5v5 the Lightning going on the power play midway through the period boded well, right? Right? After all this was an Edmonton penalty kill that entered the game performing about as well as I did in Calculus (D’s make degrees, folks). On Monday they gave up four power play goals to the Washington Capitals.

So we had the very movable object in the Oilers’ penalty kill versus the Lightning’s irresistible urge to give up shorthanded chances. Things did not go well for the home team. Victor Hedman whiffed on a passing attempt in his own zone and Vlad Namestnikov couldn’t handle a bouncing puck. The Oilers took over and Warren Foegele wristed a shot through Hedman’s screen and past Vasilevskiy. Awesome start to the scoring.

Warren Foegele (Ryan McLeod ) Shorthanded 1-0 Oilers

Back on more comfortable ice (even-strength) the Best Line in Hockey didn’t waste time in tying things up. The Oilers were a little loose with their entry and a quick transition started by Nick Perbix led to Brayden Point dropping it to Nikita Kucherov who cruised down the slot before sliding a no-look pass to Brandon Hagel who one-timed it under Campbell’s outstretched glove.

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

There was a bit of a let up by the Lightning following the goal and Edmonton was able to move the puck through the neutral zone a little easier. That led to some zone time for them and Vasilevskiy, who finished with 26 saves, had to be sharp. He stoned Derek Ryan on a partial breakaway and kept a couple of tough Jesse Puljujarvi shots out of the net.

Still, it was a solid period for the Lightning as they were on the right side of Scoring Chances (10-7) High-Danger Chances (5-2) and Expected Goals (62.14%).

Second Period

Connor McDavid is going to Connor McDavid. He posted up to Vasilevskiy’s right on an Edmonton power play. The puck found his stick after ricocheting around a bit and he had an easy goal. Just a ho-hum 14th goal in his 14th game.

Connor McDavid (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Tyson Barrie) 2-1 Power Play, 2-1 Oilers

There was a stoppage of play a few minutes later as Evander Kane needed to be attended to after he fell to the ice and his exposed wrist was clipped by Patrick Maroon’s skate. Kane immediately went down the tunnel, leaving a pool of blood on the ice. He would be transported to the hospital later in the night in stable condition.

A penalty by Nikita Kucherov led to another power play for the Oilers. At this point the Lightning might as well just concede a goal if they take a penalty. This time it was Leon Draisaitl who backhanded one home just nine seconds into the advantage.

Leon Draisaitl (Connor McDavid) Power Play, 3-1 Oilers

Following a defensive breakdown that led to two more quick shots by the Oilers, Vasilevskiy showed a moment of frustration as he batted a puck into the boards following a stoppage in play. As well as the Lightning played in the fist period, Edmonton completely flipped the script in the first part of the middle frame.

A power play for the Lightning went better than the first two Tampa Bay had, in the sense that they didn’t give up any goals. Outside of a Steven Stamkos blast that was saved, they really didn’t generate much offensive. Frustration bubbled up for the Lightning as Kucherov snapped a stick over the netcage after Campbell swallowed up a shot and then Ross Colton mixed things up following a big hit on Cole Koepke by Foegele.

The Oilers kept giving the Lightning chances with an extra skater and Tampa Bay kept politely declining the opportunity to score. Point had a chance on the power play following the boarding penalty by Foegele, but that was it. Another power play quickly followed after Kucherov was slashed. That ended almost as quickly as Stamkos flipped the puck into the crowd in his own defensive zone.

Zach Hyman almost made it 4-1 (yes, on the power play) but a review (that took longer than all of the Edmonton power plays combined) deemed that the puck entered the net after a “distinct kicking motion”. No goal. I always liked you referee Mitch Dunning. Vasilevskiy then denied Hyman with a nice blocker save after play resumed. See, not every blocker-side shot on Vasy goes in the net.

It was an ugly period for the Lightning’s special teams as they surrendered two power play goals and failed to generate any real pressure on their three chances with the extra skater. In 4:50 of ice time on the power play the Bolts generated just 5 shot attempts with three going on net. Against one of the worst penalty killing teams in the league. Just for fun the Oilers schooled them at 5v5 outchancing the Lightning 13-2 with a 5-0 advantage in High-Danger chances.

Third Period

The Lightning have been able to mount a few comebacks so far this season, but they would need to score quickly. So they did. Point drove the zone, circled the puck back to Nick Perbix whose shot-pass was tipped home by Alex Killorn.

Alex Killorn (Nick Perbix, Brayden Point) 3-2 Oilers

A really strong shift by the fourth line led to a couple of chances but ended with a Pierre-Edouard Bellemare penalty. The struggling penalty kill needed to come up big and by that we mean Vasilevskiy needed to come up big. He stopped the three shots he faced and the Lightning were actually able to clear the puck a few times, as the penalty kill came up with a stop when they needed to the most.

It seemed that the back-to-back started to catch up with the Oilers and the Lightning put the pressure on, much like they did in the first period (Tampa Bay ended the period with a 10-2 edge in High-Danger Chances). Pat Maroon went to the front of the net midway through the period, fought off Darnell Nurse, and chipped the rebound over Campbell to tie the game. Momentarily. Edmonton challenged the play and it was ruled that the puck did not cross the line (although Edmonton’s challenge was for offsides).

While disappointing to the crowd assembled in Amalie, it was the correct call (plus he was probably offside as well). Credit Ryan Murray for clearing the puck off the line after it got behind Campbell.

The Lightning kept pressing, but the Oilers and Jack Campbell, who finished with 35 saves, held them off. With over two minutes to go, Vasilevskiy headed to the bench for the extra skater. Somehow Campbell spied a missile from Hedman through a crowd and snared it. He also snagged a tricky shot from Kucherov off of a face-off. For a goaltender that has struggled through the first month, he was absolutely solid in net.

Rolling pucks denied opportunities in the last minute for both Stamkos and Kucherov. One last one-timer blast from Stamkos was turned aside and the Oilers held on to the 3-2 victory for their first win in Tampa since 2009.

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