LIGHTNING : GAMES 31-35 : RECAP
By Leo Haggerty

After a five-game victory streak, that produced the maximum 10 points, no one expected the the Lightning to keep up that pace. After all, it is the National Hockey League and the guys in the other colored jersey are getting paid as well.

So the expectations weren’t for another 10-point performance. So, let’s see what actually transpired.

COLORADO AVALANCHE (W 7-1)

In what, arguably, was the best offensive performance of the season, the Bolts totally dismantled the Avalanche 7-1 at Amalie Arena. In fact, a nationally-known media member coined Tampa Bay with the moniker of “The Harlem Globetrotters of Hockey” after watching the passing expertise of the Bolts that led to multiple goals.

The onslaught began at 3:05 of the opening period when Tampa Bay F Steven Stamkos (11) slid the puck past Colorado G Semyon Varlamov to give the Lightning the early lead. #91 (12) lit the lamp again at 13:15 but the Avalanche answered one second short of a minute later. F Tyler Johnson (12) extended the lead to 3-1 at 16:26 and that’s how it would stay going to the first intermission.

Tampa Bay turned the contest into a rout in the second period with three more goals while G Louis Domingue was blanking Colorado in the middle 20 minutes. The Lightning goal-scorers were F Alex Killorn (6) at 2:00 followed by F Ondrej Palat (1) at 7:59 and finished with a marker by F Anthony Cirelli (6) at 10:01 to give the Bolts a 6-1 margin after 40 minutes of play.

Tampa Bay finished the scoring with a singleton in the final period. Palat (2) put the biscuit in the basket at 3:29 and that’s how it ended with the Bolts winning by a 7-1 margin.

Some of the goals by Tampa Bay was a result of two or three or, sometimes, four precise interior passes. That left the Avalanche goaltenders with no chance of keep the puck out of the net.

G Domingue stopped 29 shots to improve to 13-4 on the campaign. Varlamov, who was replaced by G Philipp Grubauer midway through the second period, took the loss. The Colorado goalies combined for 31 saves.

The win was the Bolts sixth straight. With a four game Canadian swing looming on the horizon after two more home games, the Lightning are building momentum that will be helpful helpful when they head North of the Border in just over a week.

NEW YORK RANGERS (W 6-3)

The Lightning extended their unbeaten string to seven games with another offensive outburst. Tampa Bay walloped the New York Rangers Rangers 6-3 at Amalie Arena but it didn’t start out like that was going to occur.

New York scored twice in the opening period and the Bolts countered with a goal of their own. All of the first period scoring occurred in less than a three-minute time span.

The Rangers goals were sandwiched around a Stamkos (13) marker that worked it way past New York G Henrik Lundqvist at 14:09. That sent both teams to the locker room at the first intermission with the Bolts trailing 2-1.

Tampa Bay took charge in the second period with two more scores. Stamkos (14) at 6:19 was followed by D Ryan McDonagh (3) at 12:42 and the Lightning surged to a 3-2 advantage at the conclusion of the second period.

The Bolts salted the contest away with a three-goal barrage in the final stanza. Cirelli (5) scored at 10:17 and then Stamkos (15) completed the hat trick 24 seconds later. New York score to cut the Lightning lead to 5-3 but Cirelli (6) closed out the scoring at 19:21.

Domingue won again to move to 14-4 this season stopping 23 shots. Lundqvist took the loss making 30 saves in the process.

The victory increase the Bolts streak to seven games. Now, Tampa Bay hits the road for their four-game swing through Western Canada after a visit by the Maple Leafs to Tampa.

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (W 4-1)

In a battle of the two front-runners in the National Hockey League Atlantic Division, Tampa Bay defeated Toronto 4-1 to put some more space between the front-running Bolts and the second place Maple Leafs.

The story of this game was not only the return of Lightning G Andrei Vasilevskiy. Not only did #88 return after a 14 game absence, but the Russian native came back on fire.

Toronto scored first at 5:26. That would be the last time the Maple Leafs lit the lamp the rest of the way.

Cirelli (9) would knot the score at 1 each with a shorthanded goal at 8:20. That score would stand for the rest of the opening period.

The Bolts would break it open with a three-goal outburst. F Nikita Kucherov (13) started the scoring with a power-play marker at 5:31. That was followed by two late backbreaking goals.

Killorn (7) at 19:24 slid the biscuit past Toronto G Frederik Anderson and Johnson (13) quickly followed just two seconds before the end of period. That gave the Lightning a 4-1 lead going into the final period.

Both goalies shut the door in the third period. G Vasilevskiy finished with a remarkable 48 save performance to improve to 10-3-1 in 2018-19. G Anderson took the loss stopping 17 shots.

So, riding an eight-game winning streak, Tampa Bay heads out for a four-game Canadian road trip. This will tell a lot about this team and that’s a fact.

WINNIPEG JETS (L 5-4 OT) 

The Lightning winning streak was finally halted with a 5-4 OT loss to Winnepeg at Bell MTS Plaza. That’s the bad news.

The good news is the Bolts picked up a point on the road. Also, it increased the Tampa Bay consecutive games with a point streak to nine games.

The interesting part of this contest was that it was tied at the end off all three period. Also, neither team had more that a one goal advantage all night. About as evenly matched as you can get in the National Hockey League.

Killorn (8) opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 13:01. The Jets tied the score with a goal of their own just 17 seconds before intermission with a power-play marker.

In the middle period, Winnipeg scored twice at 8:36 and 19:19. The Bolts cashed in with Stamkos (16) and Johnson (14) at 9:13 and 18:08.

The Lightning took a 4-3 lead at 6:55 when Kucherov (16) scored on another power-play. The Jets answered at 14:23 to send the tilt to overtime where Winnipeg won at 4:18.

Both goalies were outstanding. Vasilevskiy stopped 42 shots in defeat falling to 10-3-2 on the season. Connor Hellebuyck made 38 saves to notch the win.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS (W 5-2)

The Bolts continued their strong December play with a 5-2 victory over the Canucks at Rogers Arena. The win increased the Tampa Bay points streak to 10 consecutive games.

The Lightning scored twice in the opening period. Kucherov (15) at 8:40 was followed by F Cedric Paquette (8) at 11:07. The Bolts goals were sandwiched around a Vancouver score so both teams went to intermission with Tampa Bay holding a 2-1 advantage.

The Bolts increased their lead to 3-1 in the middle period. F Adam Erne (4) slid the puck past G Anders Nilsson for the only marker of the period.

The Canucks cut the margin to 3-2 at just under the six minute mark into the third period but Tampa Bay lit the lamp late twice to put the game on ice. Stamkos (17) at 17:22 and Palat (3) polished off the scoring at 18:17.

#88 moved to 11-3-2 on the season stopping 36 shots on net. Nilsson took the loss making 32 saves.

Now, it’s off to Calgary for the finale of the Canadian roadie. The Lightning are looking to pick up seven out of a possible eight points North of the Border.

So, the Lightning were not able to come away with another 10-point sweep as they did in the last five-game segment but nine out of a possible 10 ain’t bad. I’ll have to ask Coach Jon Cooper if he’ll take that.

Now, two more games on the North of the Border swing before it’s back home for Christmas.  Then a three-game California trip starting New Years Eve. Look for my next installment early in 2019. Happy Holidays.