Lightning find their winning ways with 5-2 victory over the Flyers
There were signs of life in Amalie Arena on Tuesday night.
The Tampa Bay Lightning returned from their dismal two-game road trip and snapped their five-game winless streak with an emphatic 5-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn each had two goals while Andrei Vasilevskiy made 33 saves on 35 shots. Ross Colton also scored for the home team. The Lightning finished 3-for-6 on the power play while picking up their first victory since they beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-0 on February 25th.
Something that’s been apparent over the last few games is that the Lightning’s vibe just seems off. Lack of pace, lack of excitement, lack of energy, all of that we’ve seen during this slump. Coach Cooper mentioned after the morning skate that the players seemed to be in a good spot and Steven Stamkos talked about the “good energy”. So today, instead of focusing on the numbers tonight, let’s recap this game based on the vibes.
Sure, there was no Victor Hedman, who is officially “day-to-day”, but Erik Cernak was back and on a pairing with Ian Cole, a duo that had some solid moments earlier in the season. The new guys were both in the line-up as well with Tanner Jeannot on the third line with Ross Colton and Nick Paul while Michael Eyssimont was centering Pat Maroon and Corey Perry.
Alright, second shift in and there were some nice things from the Anthony Cirelli line as they kept the puck in and had two shots from the slot, sure Cirelli and Hagel both whiffed, but some nice forechecking created the opportunities. Process over results.
There was an early test to the positive energy as Erik Cernak had his dump-in blocked at the red line. Into scramble mode they went with three players caught behind the puck. One of the Bolts that was still in front of the puck, Nikita Kucherov, tried to break up the play in the neutral zone as he took out Owen Tippett. Unfortunately the puck stayed with the Flyers and they entered on a two-on-one. Joel Farabee had space to feed it to Morgan Frost who beat Vasilevskiy on the blocker side.
Morgan Frost (Joel Farabee, Owen Tippett) 1-0 Flyers
That was a little sad, but the Bolts had a chance to get their groove back with a power play. It didn’t take long to cast off the early goal blues as Alex Killorn tipped home a centering pass from Kucherov. The Flyers concerned themselves with Brayden Point in the high slot and left Killorn all by his lonesome. All he had to do was keep his stick on the ice and let Kuch bank it off of it.
Alex Killorn (Nikita Kucherov, Mikhail Sergachev) Power Play, 1-1
There was definitely some solid good times following the goal as the Lightning started stacking shifts together. They were forcing Philadelphia to dump the puck out of the zone instead of carrying it out. Tampa Bay was able to regroup and attack back in the zone instead of having to overwork themselves clearing their own area.
The top line was stringing together some passes, and more importantly, retrieving pucks that bounced off of sticks or shots that went wide. Philly seemed to be blocking a lot of shots (shocking for a John Tortorella team, I know) but Tampa Bay was getting to the pucks after the blocks. They were dictating the pace and it eventually led to a tripping call by Travis Sanheim.
They didn’t add to their lead, but there were some chances. Following the extra advantage time, Brandon Hagel laid out Farabee with a clean shot to the chest. The Flyer was not happy about it and on his next shift took it out on Cernak by boarding him. Another power play for the Lightning.
The score may have been tied, but it felt like the Lightning controlled most of that period.
During their little skid, it’s been the second period where things have fallen apart. For the most part first periods have been okay, but in the last few games have been lost in the middle frame. A power play at the beginning of the period always helps starts things off on a positive note.
Scoring on that power play also ramps up the vibes. Nikita Kucherov let one rip and it went in for his 24th goal of the season. Solid puck movement and bodies in front made it 2-1 in favor of the Bolts.
Nikita Kucherov (Mikhail Sergachev, Alex Killorn) Power Play, 2-1 Lightning
Philadelphia had some pressure following the goal as they found some space in the neutral zone. They had some good looks, but not many follow up shots. Isn’t that the Lightning way, though? Let the all-world goaltender make the first save and deny rebounds or second chances.
A nice stretch was started by the unlikely duo of Essyimont and Hayden Fleury. Pat Maroon brought it back into the zone and dished it to Essyimont who hit Fleury as the trailer. Hart had to make a tough save on Fleury and then on Essyimont’s follow-up from in close.
The third line followed up and maintained the pressure. They were were rewarded with a hard-working goal. Ross Colton outworked a couple of Flyers in front of the net and was able to poke a loose puck past Hart and just inside the far post.
Ross Colton (Tanner Jeannot, Nick Paul) 3-1 Lightning
Play hard and good things happen. Alex Killorn dumped a puck in and Carter Hart fell behind the net trying to play it. He scrambled back to the front of the net as Cirelli and Hagel won possession and fed it back in front where Killorn went bar down for his second goal of the night. Funny how those breaks start coming in bunches.
Alex Killorn (Anthony Cirelli, Brandon Hagel) 4-1 Lightning
Tortorella isn’t going to let his team roll over and the Flyers got one back a few minutes later. Cam York took a shot from the left point after a clean face-off win. The puck went in just over Vasy’s glove and he looked a little mystified that he didn’t glove it. Video replays eventually changed the goal from York to Brendan Lemieux who had waved his stick at the puck on the way in so he must have gotten a piece of it.
Brendan Lemieux (Cam York, Rasmus Ristolainen,) 4-2 Lightning
Alright, kind of an emotional turning point of the game here. After rolling for most of the period, something negative had happened. Do they hang their heads a bit with just under 8 minutes to go? Over the last few weeks there was a bit of a let down following trouble and things tended to snowball.
There would be no letdown tonight. First they killed off a penalty and then Eyssimont and his linemates created a little chaos in front of the net that had Hart scrambling a bit (and some post-whistle pushing and shoving).
A Sergachev high-stick led to another power play for the Flyers, so that wasn’t great, but the Lightning killed off the rest of the period. Philly had a brief 5-on-3 when Cernak had to skate off the ice because his helmet came off, but Vasy made a tough save through traffic and Fleury was able to race on the ice to help clear the puck.
They made it through the second period unscathed, so now the mission was to clamp down and finish things off for the win. They started strong by killing off the rest of the Flyers’ power play and then earned one of their own. We saw some smiles on the bench from Coach Cooper and some of the players including Pat Maroon. Just a completely different mood than what we’ve seen since the end of February.
The power play was brief as Alex Killorn, searching for a hat trick, got his hand out and spun out Travis Sanheim. Stamkos and Nick Paul combined for a chance during the 4-on-4 while Hagel and Cernak made big blocks during the abbreviated Philly power play. Eyssimont then rang one off the post right after Killorn stepped back on the ice.
It wasn’t a complete shutdown period as the Flyers were able to get some pucks on Vasilevskiy (and the post), but the Bolts weren’t sitting back. They held up their end of the offensive bargain with solid rushes from Point and Killorn. Coach Cooper must have liked the play of his third and fourth lines as he kept rolling them out there and they rewarded him with quality chances.
Tempers escalated as Tony DeAngelo speared Corey Perry in front of the Lightning net after a whistle and was gang-tackled by the other four members of the Lightning on the ice with Pat Maroon getting to him first. DeAngelo continued to mouth off as the linesman escorted him off the ice and he was assessed a five-minute spearing penalty and a game misconduct. He’s likely to receive a phone call from the league as well.
If you're wondering why the Lightning players were so upset with Tony DeAngelo, well... pic.twitter.com/dA56UBlKuf— Ryan Quigley (@ryanquigz) March 8, 2023
The Lightning made them pay on the scoreboard as well as Brayden Point fed the puck to Kucherov who pedaled past Ristolainen. A subtle little backhand through the five-hole and Kucherov had his second power play of the night.
Nikita Kucherov (Brayden Point) Power Play, 5-2 Lightning
It wasn’t a clean game, there were still a few too many turnovers and dangerous chances for the Flyers. It’s also easy to just dismiss this as a win over a bad team, but there were more positives than negatives. It’s something for the team to build on with Vegas coming in next.