LIGHTNING : GAMES 36-40 RECAP
By Leo Haggerty
So, the Bolts go into this five-game period coming off a nine-point performance in the previous segment. Plus, Tampa Bay is riding a 10-game consecutive points streak.
This five-gamer should be a good litmus test as to where the Lightning are as they get close to the midpoint of the campaign. Two more contests in Canadian then a quick couple of home games followed by a trip to the West Coast.
No one expects the Bolts to keep up their torrid pace of 19 out of 20 possible points over the last 10 games. Let’s see how Tampa fares over this fistful of tilts.
CALGARY FLAMES (W 5-4 SO)
The Bolts completed their Canadian swing with a 5-4 shootout triumph at Scotiabank Saddledome. This game was a lot more difficult than the score would indicate.
After F Ondrej Palat (4) opening the scoring for Tampa Bay at 3:38 of the opening period but then the roof fell in on G Louis Domingue. Calgary responded with three goals to take a 3-1 lead into the first intermission.
The Lightning tied the score in the middle period with two goals of their own. The first by F Steven Stamkos (18) at 3:19 and the second by F Alex Killorn (9) at 5:52.
The third period saw Tampa Bay go up 4-3 when D Dan Girardi (3) put the biscuit in the basket at 15:35. Calgary evened the score a little less than two minutes later to send the game to overtime.
Both goals were spectacular in extra time but Domingue was just a little better in the Shootout. F J.T Miller won it on the seventh round.
#70 wins his seventh consecutive game to improve to 14-4 on the campaign with 30 saves. G David Rittich took the hard-luck loss stopping 28 shots.
EDMONTON OILERS (W 6-3)
The Bolts continued their hot streak with a 6-3 victory over Edmonton at Rogers Place. The win kept the Lightning run of consecutive games with a point at a dozen along with a modest three-game winning streak.
Both teams scored singletons in the first period. The Oilers opened the score midway through the opening 20 minutes. Stamkos (19) answered with a power-play goal at 17:09 to knot the score.
Edmonton retook the lead early in the middle period but the Bolts put up two markers of their own. F Nikita Kucherov (16) and Miller (7) lit the lamp at 13:00 and 14:32 respectively to take a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes.
Tampa Bay exploded for three goals in the final period to seal the deal. F Tyler Johnson (15) at 4:17 made it 4-2 and, after a Oilers power-play score, Stamkos (20) at 15:03 and Johnson (16) again at 18:39 finished off the scoring.
Bolts G Andrei Vaselivskiy stopped 25 shots to move to 12-3-2 on the campaign. Oilers G Mikko Koskinen made 38 saves in the loss.
PHILADELPHIA FLYERS (6-5 OT)
After an extremely successful 3-0-1 Canadian road trip, that registered seven big points, the Lightning returned to the friendly surroundings of Amalie Arena to take on the Flyers to begin a two-game home stand. To no one’s surprise, this contest went to extra time.
Philly drew first blood at 10:50 of the opening period. F Michael Raffl deflected a puck over the left shoulder of Bolts G Vasilevskiy.
This came after the Flyers had the first power-play of the evening and had numerous chances. After Tampa Bay killed off the penalty, Philly kept the pressure on and it led to the first goal of the night.
Tampa Bay answered at 13:56 of the first period. With a 3-on-2 rush from the red line, F Nikita Kucherov (17) converted a perfect pass from F Tyler Johnson into a slap-shot goal from the right circle. The puck went top shelf eluding Philadelphia G Michael Neuvirth to tie the game at 1-all.
The Bolts took the lead on a power-play goal by F Brayden Point (22) at 19:12. Tampa Bay is lethal on the power play and #21 knocked in the rebound after Neuvirth made a big save on Stamkos from just inside the left circle.
That was all the scoring in the opening 20 minutes. Both team went to the locker room with Tampa Bay holding a 2-1 advantage.
The Flyers tied the score at 4:36 of the second period on a brilliant individual effort by F Claude Giroux. The Philadelphia captain snaked in from the Bolts blue line and slid the puck by #88 to even the score at 2-each.
The Lightning went back on top at 12:23 of the middle period. Stamkos (21) was left alone in the slot and rifled a point-blank wrist shot into the top of the net.
Stamkos (22) then took a perfect pass from Kucherov at 14:54 to extend the lead to 4-2. With Tampa Bay on the power-play, #91 went top shelf with a one-timer from the left circle.
Johnson (17), on a delayed penalty situation, redirected a Kucherov bullet from the right circle at 19:51. The puck fluttered into the net over Neuvirth’s shoulder to give the Bolts a commanding 5-2 lead at the second intermission.
Philadelphia cut the lead to 5-3 at 1:33. Flyers F Dale Weiss kicked a pass onto his stick and the deflection fooled Vasilevskiy.
Philly got within a goal when D Robert Hagg scored at 4:21. #88 was screened and never saw the puck until it ended up in the back of the net.
The Flyers climbed all the way back to even the score at 5-each at 8:38. Philadelphia D Ivan Provorov went high to make it a hockey game again and that would be how it would end sending the game to overtime.
It didn’t take the Bolts long to end the contest. F Alex Killorn (10) put a wrist shot over Neuvirth’s right shoulder 18 ticks into OT.
G Vasilevevskiy moved to 13-3-2 with 28 saves. G Neuvirth took the loss stopping 31 shots.
You may notice that the recap of this game is more in depth. That’s because I was in attendance as the Bolts became the first National Hockey team to attain the 60 point plateau.
The Bolts have now gone 13 straight games scoring at least one point. Also, the Lightning are on a four-game winning streak and will look to increase both of those with Montreal coming to Tampa next.
MONTREAL CANADIANS (W 6-5)
The beat goes on at Amalie Arena. Tampa Bay extended their point streak to 14 games, going 13-0-1 over that stretch, with a come-from-behind 6-5 victory over Montreal. That also increased the Bolts winning ways to 5 straight contests.
The Canadians jumped to a 2-0 lead with goals 16 seconds apart against G Vasilevskiy midway through the opening period. F Yanni Gourde (11) at 14:12 and D Anton Stralman (2) at 17:07 slid the puck past Habs G Antti Niemi to knot the score at 2 apiece. Montreal retook the lead just 28 ticks later and both teams went to the locker room with the Lightning on the short end of a 3-2 score.
Both teams were able to light the lamp twice in the middle period. Kucherov (18) tied the score at 7:55 with a power-play goal and Johnson (18) gave the Bolts their first lead of the evening at 4-3 at 8:33. The Canadians responded with a couple of goals of their own to retake the lead and that’s how second period ended with Montreal up 5-4.
The Lightning even the score at 5-all midway through the final 20 minutes when F Adam Erne (5) put the biscuit in the basket. Erne (6) then scored the game-winner with just 62 seconds left in regulation.
G Vasilevskiy notched the win with a 33 save performance to improve to 14-3-2 on the campaign. Niemi took the loss turning away 26 shots.
The Bolts now head out on a three-game road swing starting New Years Eve. Let’s see if the Lightning keep up its winning ways as they head to California to take on Anaheim and Los Angeles followed by San Jose.
ANAHEIM DUCKS (2-1 OT)
In a game with the Ducks, the Lightning proved they could win not just high-scoring affairs but a defensive game affair with a 2-1 triumph at the Honda Center. That keeps the Bolts streaks alive with their sixth straight victory and consecutive games with a point at 15.
Both teams scored their only goals in regulation in the initial period. The Bolts Kucherov (19) began the scoring at 6:06 and the Ducks countered with a marker of their own late in the period. That sent both teams to the dressing room tied at one all.
For the final two periods, Ducks G John Gibson and Bolts G Vasilevskiy were the show. Both net minders made save after save to send the game to overtime.
The extra session ended quickly. Point (23) put the biscuit in the basket 35 seconds into overtime to give Tampa Bay a hard-earned two points.
G Vasilevskiy made 35 saves to improve to 15-3-2 for the season. G Gibson took the hard-luck loss stopping 33 shots.
So, another 10 point segment. For those of you who are asleep at the wheel, that’s 29 out of a possible 30 points with a 14-0-1 record over the last 15 contests. Some national prognosticators have predicted the Tampa Bay will finish somewhere between 58 and 60 wins. That’s 120 points.
I’m not ready to drink that Kool Aid yet but, to be honest, I’m starting to look real hard at that possibility. Another 8 to 10 point segment and I may come over from the dark side.
Look for the next column around the middle of January. Until then, enjoy the ride.