LIGHTNING : GAMES 26 TO 30 : RECAP
By Leo Haggerty
A 10-point segment. You can’t get any better than that and that’s exactly what Tampa Bay accomplished in this five-game period.
Two home victories sandwiched around three road triumphs gave the Lightning a clean sweep. It also moved the Bolts from second-place in the Atlantic Division to the best record in the National Hockey League.
Let me remind you that Tampa Bay made this run with their back up goaltenders. Below is how it went down.
BUFFALO SABRES (W 5-4)
In a battle for the top spot in the Atlantic Division, Tampa Bay slid past Buffalo 5-4 at the KeyBank Center to begin the winning streak. Frankly, it was an extremely hard-fought two points as these are no longer your Daddy’s Sabres who were riding a 10-game winning streak coming into the contest.
Tampa Bay scored first when D Dan Girardi (2) slid the puck past Sabres G Carter Hutton at 2:59 of the opening period. Buffalo responded with a couple of goals to take a 2-1 lead at the 9:45 mark. Less than two minutes later, F Alex Killorn (4) knotted the score at 2. The Bolts took a 3-2 into the first intermission when F Nikita Kucherov (10) lit the lamp at 15:55
The only scoring in the second period occurred when the Sabres tied the score at 3 all. Both Lightning G Louis Domingue and Buffalo G Hutton kept the score from increasing on either side with some truly amazing saves.
The final period began with an early Buffalo goal to take a 4-3 advantage. Less than two minutes later, the Bolts answered with a power-play marker from F Steven Stamkos (8) to tie the score again at 4 all. At 14:19, F Cedric Paquette (5) scored the game-winner to give Tampa Bay a well-earned 5-4 victory.
G Domingue improved to 9-4 with the win behind an 18-save performance. G Hutton stopped 32 shots in the loss.
The win put the Bolts back on top of the hill in the Atlantic. Also, it gave Tampa Bay some momentum heading into a three-game Eastern Conference road trip.
FLORIDA PANTHERS (W 5-4 OT)
The Lightning stated the roadie with a 5-4 victory over the Panthers. The score was the same as the Bolts win the previous game against Buffalo but the big difference is the contest went to overtime before the outcome was determined.
Florida jumped out to a quick 2-0 advantage at the 10:34 mark. Killorn (5) cut the lead in half at 11:18 and that’s how the score stood with both teams heading to the locker room after the first 20 minutes.
Both teams notched a pair of goals each in the middle period. The Panthers scored to first two take a commanding 4-1 lead at 8:04 with a power play goal. The Lightning answered with two markers of their own. F Mathieu Joseph (6) got the first and Kucherov (11) posted a power-play score when he drilled a one-timer from the circle past Florida G James Reimer.
Tampa Bay tied the score at 4 when Paquette (6) put the biscuit in the basket at 11:41. Both goalies kept the opposition off the scoreboard so the contest went to overtime.
The Lightning recorded the win at 3:12 of the extra session. F Brayden Point (19) found the back of the net to give the Bolts a come-from-behind two points.
G Domingue continued on a hot streak with 23 saves to move to 10-4 on the campaign. G Reimer took the hard-luck loss stopping 34 shots on goal.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS (W 5-1)
The Lightning made it three wins in a row with a 5-1 victory over New Jersey at the Prudential Center. The Bolts did it with a quick start which, normally, hasn’t been their MO.
Tampa Bay lit the lamp twice to take a 2-0 lead into the first intermission. Kucherov (12) started the scoring at 13:31 and Point (20) found the back of the net behind Devils G Keith Kincaid who was replaced after the fourth Bolts goal by Cory Schneider.
The second period saw the Lightning score twice again sandwiched around a New Jersey marker. F Tyler Johnson (11) recorded the first at 8:20 with F Yanni Gourde (10) providing the latter at 12:39 to give Tampa Bay a 4-1 lead after 40 minutes.
The Bolts providing the only scoring in the final period and it came early. Stamkos (9) netted a power-play just 20 seconds in the third stanza to finish the scoring.
G Domingue chalked up another win to move to 11-4 on the campaign behind a 26 save performance. The Devils Kincaid took the loss turning away 20 shots on goal.
DETROIT RED WINGS (W 6-5 SO)
Tampa Bay’s winning streak went to four games with a 6-5 Shootout conquest of Detroit at Little Caesars Arena. This one was of the come-from-behind variety.
Bolts G Eddie Pasquale was starting his first National Hockey League game between the pipes. For the first 30 minutes, it didn’t look like #80 was going to have a successful debut.
Detroit jumped out to a 2-0 lead with a pair of late markers less than 30 seconds apart in the first period. The Lightning offense looked a bit lethargic, playing it’s third road game in four days, managing only five shots in the opening 20 minutes of play.
The Tampa Bay offense awoke with three goals in the second period. Joseph (7) started the scoring at 5:10 and then #7 (8) put another past Wings G Jimmy Howard to tie the game at 2. Detroit then scored to take a 3-2 lead but, less than a minute later, Stamkos (10) lit the lamp to knot the score at 3 each. The Red Wings put up another score almost two minutes later and both teams went to the dressing room with the Red Wings up 4-3.
The third period began with Detroit going up by two goals early in the stanza. The Lightning clawed their way back into the contest with F J.T. Miller (6) finding the back of the net at 9:50 and Paquette (7) tying the score for the third time with a short-handed goal at 14:58 to send the contest to extra time.
After a scoreless, but exciting, overtime, the Bolts picked up the two points when a Kucherov wrist shot found a home in the net to win the Shootout.
G Pasquale wins his first NHL game stopping 19 shots on goal. Howard is the hard-luck loser making 30 saves.
BOSTON BRUINS (W 3-2)
The Lightning finished off the five-game sequence with a 3-2 triumph over the Bruins at TD Garden. That increased the Bolts winning streak to five games during this time frame.
Both teams scored in the opening 20 minutes. The Bruins drew first blood just after the 2-minute mark but Point (21) slid the puck behind Boston G Tuukka Rask one tick before the 15-minute mark. That sent both teams to the first intermission tied at 1-all.
Lightning G Louis Domingue and Bruins G Rask were the story of the middle period. Both net-minders pitched shutouts keeping the score tied at 1 going to the final 20 minutes.
The Bolts took a quick 3-1 advantage before the 5-minute mark of the third period. Joseph (9) gave the Lightning the lead at 2:40 and F Anthony Cirelli (5) notched the eventual game winner at 4:03.
Boston made a late run with a goal at 18:15 to get within a goal and sent a bevy of shots at Domingue in the final 105 seconds. All were turned aside by the Tampa Bay goalie to preserve the 3-2 victory.
#70 made 33 saves to notch the victory and move to 12-4 for the season. #40 was the hard-luck loser stopping 27 shots.
So, let’s recap. A 5-game winning streak and 10 big points over this stretch. Can’t get any better than that.
Only thing left to do is to sit back and see if this hot spell continues. One thing is for sure. Buckle your seat belts because this season is starting to take shape as one helluva ride. See you around Christmas for the next installment.