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Lightning keep the home fires cooking with a 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens

After a long rest the Tampa Bay Lightning came out and dominated the Montreal Canadiens in their first game following the holiday break. Brayden Point scored twice and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 25 of the 26 shots he faced. The Lightning dominated the dangerous areas of the ice as they doubled up the high-danger chances (24-11) and posted a 5.15 to 1.81 advantage in expected goals. Alex Killorn and Brandon Hagel added the other goals for the Lightning while Victor Hedman had two assists.

First Period:

The Lightning have traditionally struggled a bit after long layoffs, with sloppy passing and disjointed rushes, and just looking out of sync in general. That was not the case against the Canadiens. Knowing that they were up against a line-up featuring five rookies on the blueline, the Bolts pressed from the drop of the puck, especially in their own zone.

Just two minutes into the game Victor Hedman stood up the rush at the Montreal blue line, stumbled his way into the zone and snapped a shot off the outside of the post. He was first to the loose puck and backhanded a pass to a wide open Alex Killorn who slid it under Jake Allen’s pads for the opening goal.

Alex KIllorn (Victor Hedman) Lightning 1-0

Tampa Bay was moving quickly in all three zones, not letting Montreal have too much open ice when they did have the puck. Pressure and speed are two of the hardest things for young teams to deal with and the Lightning were throwing copious amounts of both at the visitors.

On paper special teams greatly favored the Lightning heading into the game. During the first twenty minutes, they also were an advantage on the ice for the home side. The Lightning had one power play in the first period and they didn’t let it go to waste. Point took up his spot in the middle of the ice and Nikita Kucherov found him. The quick shot went upstairs and Allen really didn’t have a chance.

Brayden Point (Nikita Kucherov, Mikhail Sergachev) Power Play, 2-0 Lightning

Montreal did have two power plays of their own, both compliments of Nick Perbix penalties, but did nothing to improve their league-worst offense with an extra skater. Tampa killed off both opportunities rather easily, although the Habs did pick up 6 shots on the power play.

The first period was an indicator of why looking at just the shot counter isn’t a great way to see how the game is going. After 20, the Bolts only had a 14-10 lead in shots on goal at all strengths. The quality was vastly different through. At 5v5 the Lightning outshot them 11-3, outchanced them 11-2, the high-danger chances were 5-1 in favor of the Bolts as well. Expected goals for was a wipeout with the Lightning having a 91.79% edge. Montreal was able to generate absolutely nothing from the dangerous areas at even strength:

Second Period

The second period started off with a bit more even play, in the sense Montreal wasn’t giving up chance after chance, but the Lightning were still limiting their chances in the offensive zone (unless Vasy was literally leaving the puck on the doorstep for them).

The even play continued through most of the period with Montreal pushing back a little and spending more time in the Lightning zone, but again the Tampa Bay defense kept most of the shots to the outside.

At the other end Jake Allen kept Monteral in the game, as he made several key stops, including what could have been a backbreaker shorthanded. Still, with as red hot as the top line has been, it was only a matter of time till they found another goal. Well, not so much the first line as the pride of Calgary, Brayden Point. Let’s just look at it:

Brayden Point (unassisted ) 3-0 Lightning

Honestly he should get an assist on his own goal since technically he kind of passed it to himself.

It was another period where the shots on goal made it seem a little closer than it was. Yes, Montreal was better in terms of volume, but again, the quality was lacking. High danger chances were 13-5 in favor of the Bolts, and that includes the one Montreal power play (where the Lightning out shot them 2-1 and outchanced them 3-1).

Third Period

The Lightning dominated in the first, found the important third goal in the second, and needed to shut the Canadiens down in the third. The top line (and Sergachev) had Allen dancing around the crease within 60 seconds, but he made the saves on Sergy and Kucherov.

Montreal had another chance with an extra skater when Alex Killorn was sent to the penalty box. The Lightning didn’t allow a shot on Vasilevskiy, and following the kill, the top line put another goal behind Allen. This time it was Brandon Hagel who was able to control a rebound off of a Zach Bogosian shot and then torque his body into position to slide the puck home before he was dumped onto the ice.

Brandon Hagel (Zach Bogosian, Victor Hedman) 4-0 Lightning

Hagel almost scored again right after, but Allen had the quick pads to deny him. After that the Lightning began to grind things out. They forechecked rather well, and then pushed everything to the edges. Their positioning in their own zone was good and they were able to break up crossing passes easily. Corey Perry and Michael Pezzetta squared off with just over 4 minutes to go. Perry landed a gloved shot to begin with, but Pezzetta ended it with several solid shots. So, at least the Canadiens won something in the game.

They also finally put one on the board as Kaiden Guhle launched one from the blueline that hit something in front of the crease and deflected past Vasilevskiy. He’ll get a shutout one of these days.

Kaiden Guhle (Joel Edmunsson, Christian Dvorak ) 4-1 Lightning

The Lightning killed off one more penalty (and head one more shorthanded chance) before the final horn sounded. Outside of the penalties taken by the team (they were shorthanded 5 times) it was a pretty complete game. They won’t have much time to celebrate as they take on the New York Rangers Thursday night.

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