LIGHTNING : GAMES 11 TO 15 : RECAP
By Leo Haggerty

Another great five-game segment for the Bolts.  Eight out of a possible 10 points.

That puts Tampa Bay on top of the Atlantic Division with an 11-3-1 log.  That’s good for 23 points and positions the Lightning three points north of the second-place Toronto Maple Leafs.

So how did the Bolts manage to post a 4-1 slate over Games 11 to 15?  Read below to find out.

GAME 11 – NEW JERSEY DEVILS (W 8-3)

In the first game of the segment, the Bolts dug an early hole.  This, as you will see, is starting to become a reoccurring theme for the Lightning.

NJ scored the initial marker a little over a minute in the game.  The Devils took a two-goal lead just over five-minutes into the fray.

Tampa Bay managed to get those two markers back before the end of the period.  D Braydon Coburn (1) lit the lame for the first time in the campaign just over two minutes later.  #55 scored his second goal of the game, and the season, midway through to opening period.  That sent the teams to the locker room at the first intermission tied at 2 all.

Then, in the second period, the onslaught began.  Over the next two periods, the Bolts will score six more times.  Tampa Bay will score three in each period sandwiched around a Jersey score late in the second stanza.

Early in the second period, C Brayden Point (7) started the scoring.  He was followed by W Nikita Kucherov (4) then by W Steven Stamkos (2) and the Bolts took a 5-2 lead before the halfway point of the period.  The Devils score a late goal to make it 5-3 going to the second intermission.

The Lightning salted away the victory with three more goals in the final stanza.  C Tyler Johnson (5) and Kucherov (5) along with D Ryan McDonagh (1) all put the biscuit in the basket.

After coming off a five-game roadie, the Lightning needed some time to get their sea legs underneath them.  When they did, the Bolts offense exploded for eight goals and that matching their season high.

G Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 27 shots to up his record to 6-1-1.  After giving up two early goals, one in just over a minute, #88 was spectacular in allowing just one more marker over the final 55-plus minutes of play.

GAME 12 – NASHVILLE PREDATORS (L 4-1)

In the only game Tampa Bay lost in this five-game segment, the Bolts followed the same MO as in a majority of the other tilts and that was falling behind early.  That materialized into a two goal advantage at the end of the first 20 minutes for the Preds.

Late in the second period, Tampa Bay cut the lead in half.  D Slater Koekkoek (1) posted his first goal of the campaign and the Lightning went into the second intermission down 2-1.

The Bolts came out on fire in the beginning of the final stanza.  Tampa Bay peppered Predators G Pekka Rinne but to no avail.  The Nashville net-minder turned away all 13 Lightning shots, 42 for the game, and the Preds added two late goals to seal the deal.

Vasilevskiy stopped 20 Predator shots.  He fell to 6-2-1 on the season.

This, in my opinion, was just a matter of two upper-echelon hockey teams doing battle.  On this night, the Predators just happened to be better than the Bolts.  That’s going to happen over the course of an entire season.  You just hope to keep those contests to a minimum.

GAME 13 – MONTREAL (W 4-1)

The Bolts began a weekend back-to-back eastern Canadian tourwith a comeback victory against the Canadians.  It was not without its moments especially early in the contest.

The pattern of a slow start continued for the Bolts as Montreal took a 1-0 lead in less than a minute.

Tampa Bay quickly erased the deficit with two markers before the end of the first period.  Stamkos (3) and W J.T. Miller (4) both lit the lamp to give the Lightning a 2-1 advantage at the first intermission.

After a scoreless middle period, the Bolts iced the tilt in the third stanza. Stamkos (4) scored his second goad before the minute mark and W Yanni Gourde (5) sealed the deal late in the third period

Vasilevskiy made 34 saves in the win.  # 88 improved to 7-2-1 and Tampa Bay moved to 9-3-1 and that’s good enough to sit atop the Atlantic Division.

GAME 14 – OTTAWA SENATORS (W 4-3 OT)

The Lightning capped the North-of-the-Border weekend with an overtime win against the Senators.  Gourde (6) got the game winner early in the OT after Pointe (8) tallied a power play goal with just 27 seconds left in regulation to get Tampa Bay to bonus hockey.

The Bolts spotted the Sens two first period goals, one of them a power play marker, and went to the first break down 2-0.  No surprise there but I would bet Coach Jon Cooper may becoming a bit concerned with the continuous slow starts.

W Cedric Paquette (2) slid the biscuit in the basket before the second period was less than a minute old to cut the lead in half.  That would be all the scoring in the middle stanza.

The Lightning evened the score early in the third period when W Mathieu Joseph (1) registered his first National Hockey League goal.  Ottawa answered with less than five minutes remaining and that set the stage for the Bolts late-game heroics.

G Louis Domingue had 22 saves and improved to 3-1 on the campaign.  That pushed the Bolts to 10-3-1 and that keeps Tampa Bay in the drivers seat in the Atlantic Division.

GAME 15 – EDMONTON OILERS (W 5-2) 

In what I believe has been the best 60-minute performance of the season, Tampa Bay dispatched Edmonton.  The Bolts were exceptional at both ends of the ice.

For once, the Lightning jumped out to a lead.  Stamkos (5) followed by Point (9) gave the home team a 2-0 lead at the first intermission.

In the second period, Edmonton cut the lead in half around the middle of the third period.  Tampa Bay matched that and raised the lead before the second intermission.  Gourde (7) and Kuchrov (6) extended the advantage to 4-1 as both teams went to the locker room at the conclusion of the middle period.

The Oilers cut the lead to 4-2 on a power play less than a minute into the last period. Tampa Bay salted away the victory around the midway point of the period when Kuchrov (7) netted a power play goal.

Vasilevskiy improved to 8-2-1 on the season for his third consecutive victory in net.  The Bolts continued to stay in the catbird’s seat in the Atlantic Division with a 11-3-1 log.  That’s three points better than their closest pursuer, the Toronto Maple Leafs, with both teams playing 15 games to date.

One negative that has to be addressed is that the Bolts are becoming notoriously slow starters.  In of the five games, Tampa Bay was behind early and managed to find a way to claw back and win with the exception of Nashville.  The only game the Lightning drew first blood was the finale against Edmonton. Hopefully, Coach Jon Cooper and his staff will find a way to turn that around.

Now, in the next five-game sequence, the Lightning have two more at home before embarking on a Northeast roadie.  Home tilts with the Islanders and the Senators will be followed by travel to Buffalo then Pittsburgh and finishing in Philadelphia.

Just a reminder.  Anything over five points is considered a success when playing a handful of games.  It that number is seven or higher, it’s a great sequence especially if a majority of the games are away from the friendly-confines of Amalie Arena.

The way Tampa Bay is playing right now, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bolts put up at least five points.  That the over-under for Games 15 to 20.  I’m taking the over but not by much.  Always tough getting points on the road and the Penguins and the Flyers will be true tests of where the Lightning are this early in the campaign.

Look for the next column during Thanksgiving week.  Until then, go Bolts.