LIGHTNING : GAMES 41-45 : RECAP
By Leo Haggerty

This five-game segment will take the Lightning past the halfway portion of the National Hockey League’s regular season.  Honestly, if the Bolts can replicate what they’ve done the first half of the campaign, this could be a season for the ages.

Why are people saying that now? That’s because Tampa Bay had another 10-point span over 5 games and, the way the Lightning are playing, there looks like no let-up in sight.

Tampa Bay starts this segment on the West Coast for two contests then heads back to Amalie Arena for a couple of home encounters. Finally, the Bolts hit the road for the first of three encounters to complete the five-game sequence.

It’s somewhat unrealistic to think the Lightning will continue this extended run of success. With that being said, there just seems to be no let up in the Tampa Bay game performances. So, let’s see how the Lightning fared over this group of contests.

LOS ANGELES KINGS (W 6-2)

Tampa Bay wasted little time in continuing their victory streaks with a 6-2 triumph over Los Angeles at the STAPLES Center.  The Bolts moved to 16 games in a row with a point, 15-0-1 over that time period, as well as their 7th consecutive win.

The Bolts exploded for three goals in the opening period with the first two of the power-play variety.  Both F Nikita Kucherov (20) at 6:28 and F Brayden Point (24) lit the lamp when the Lightning had the manpower advantage.  F Ryan Callahan (4) at 14:05 scored the last goal in the first period to give the Lightning a 3-0 lead at the end of the first 20 minutes of play.

Tampa Bay added to its lead in the middle period with two more markers sandwiched around a Kings goal.  D Ryan McDonagh (4) put the biscuit in the basket behind Los Angeles G Jonathan Quick.  The Kings cut the lead to 4-1 at 7:55 but F Steven Stamkos (23) got that one back for the Bolts at 17:25 putting the score at 5-1 at the end of two periods.

Each team score once in the final period.  Lightning F Mathieu Joseph (10) scored at 10:04 to increase the count to 6-1.  The Kings pushed a late power-play goal past Bolts G Andrei Vasilevskiy to end the scoring.

#88 stopped 28 shot in the win to move to 16-3-2 on the year. Kings G Quick took the loss making 27 saves.

Now the Bolts move up the coast to take on San Jose. Then it’s the red-eye home for a couple of home tilts.

SAN JOSE SHARKS (L 5-2)

As they say, all good things must come to an end.  For Tampa Bay, their winning streak was stopped at seven games and their consecutive points streak was ended at 16 when the Bolts dropped a 5-2 decision against the Sharks at the SAP Center.

The Lightning found themselves in a 2-0 hole just past the midpoint of the opening period.  D Victor Hedman (5) cut the deficit in half at 16:13.  Both teams went to the dressing room after the first 20 minutes with Tampa Bay on the short end of a 2-1 count.

Both teams found the back of the net in the middle period.  The Sharks made it 3-1 at 4:23 with a power-play score only to have D Mikhail Sergachev (1) notch his first goal of the season exactly 30 seconds later.  The period ended with the Lightning trailing by a 3-2 score.

It was all Sharks in the final 20 minutes.  San Jose posted two more markers and Sharks G Matt Jones pitched a shutout.

Bolts G Vasilevskiy make 28 saves in a losing effort.  #88 dropped to 16-4-2 on the campaign.  Sharks G Martin Jones, who took over early for injured G Aaron Dell, got the victory stopping 17 shots.

Now the Lightning head back to Tampa for some much-needed home cooking.  Let’s see if Tampa Bay can continue this hot streak.

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS (W 4-0)

Tampa Bay returned home after their successful West Coast swing and started their four-game home stand with a 4-0 victory over Columbus at Amalie Arena.  The Lightning showed no hangover from their loss to San Jose on the last leg of their California road trip and jumped on the Blue Jackets early.

The Bolts drew first blood at 15:55 of the opening period.  Joseph (11), who was stationed right in front of Columbus G Sergei Bobrovsky, took a perfect pass from Sergachev who had skated behind the goal line.  #7 parlayed the puck off his skate and then went top shelf over #72 to open the scoring.

The Lightning went up 2-0 less than a minute later.  Kucherov banked a shot from behind the net right off the skate of Point (25) at 16:39 of the first period.

The middle period belonged to the guys between the pipes. Bolts G Vasilevskiy and Jackets G Bobrovsky both put up scoreless efforts to keep count at 2-0 in favor of Tampa Bay.

The roof fell in for the Blue Jackets quickly in the last period.  The Bolts made it 3-0 at 6:05 of the final period.  After a turnover at the Columbus blue line, Johnson charged the right side of the net and, at the last moment, slid the puck across the goal mouth to Kucherov (21) and #86 made no mistake.

The Lightning made it 4-0 on a great individual effort by Point (26) at 8:53.  Being sent on his way by Sergachev, #21 lit the lamp going 5-hole on Bobrovsky.

#88 moved to 17-4-2 on the campaign with a 31 save shutout performance.  Bobrovsky, who was replaced by G Joonas Korpisalo at 8:53 of the third period making three saves, stopped 14 shots in a losing effort.

Next up for the Bolts on this home stand are the Carolina Hurricanes.  We’ll see if the Lightning continue their winning ways then.

CAROLINA HURRICANE (W 3-1)

Tampa Bay got a hard-earned two points with a 3-1 triumph over Carolina at Amalie Arena.  It took some late-game heroics, with the Lightning having the man advantage, to secure the victory.

After a scoreless first period, the Hurricanes lit up the scoreboard first with a goal early in the middle period.  Carolina made that stand up and both teams went to the dressing room with the Bolts on the wrong side of a 1-0 score.

The Lightning turned the tide with three markets in the final 20 minutes with the first two of the power-play variety.  Ondrej Palat (5) at 11:56 and Point (27) at 16:45 scored with the man advantage  to put the Lightning up 2-1.  Point (28) added an empty-netter with just 26 ticks left on the game clock to seal the victory.

#88 got the victory making 24 saves to move to 18-4-2 on the season.  Petr Marzek took the hard luck loss stopping 27 shots.

Tampa Bay now hits the road to finish up the five-game sequence.  First stop is Buffalo for a date with the new and improved Sabres.

BUFFALO SABRES (W 5-3)

The Bolts finished off this five-game segment with a 5-3 win over the Sabres at the KeyBank Center.  Again, it was not an easy triumph as Buffalo is starting to become a hockey team that is starting to trend up.

Before the fans had settled into their seats, Point (29) lit the lamp 26 seconds into the contest.  Buffalo answered with two goals of their own with the second coming with just 10 seconds left in the opening period.  That gave the Sabres a 2-1 advantage at the first intermission.

The Lightning tied the score at 2-all at 7:50 of the middle twenty minutes.  Palat (6) put the biscuit in the basket so both teams went to the final period all tied up at 2-each.

Buffalo took a 3-2 lead at 5:54 of the third period but that was short-lived.  Kucherov (22) struck 23 seconds later to even the tilt again and then Tampa Bay took the lead for good when Stamkos (24) found the back of the net at 14:44.  Callahan (5) concluded the scoring at 18:41 with a power-play insurance marker to finish off the scoring.

Bolts G Louis Domingue, making a rare start, stopped 30 shots in a winning effort.  That improved #70 to 16-4 on the campaign and that’s not bad for a back-up net-minder.  Sabres G Linus Ullmark took the loss making 25 saves.

So, here’s the funny part.  For most teams, an eight-point segment would be a celebration.  For Tampa Bay, it’s almost a letdown because it’s their lowest output over a five-game span in the last 4 periods.  That’s how well this team is playing.

So, the road trip continues for two more contests before the Bolts return home for a pair of tilts.  Then, after their one-week bye, the Lightning head out for a quick three games in four days starting in Pittsburgh.

Look for the next installment at the end of January.  Until then, let’s see if the Lightning keep up this frenetic winning pace.  See you at the TV.