LIGHTNING RECAP – FEBRUARY 4
By Leo Haggerty

GAMES 5 THROUGH 8

Yes, I know there’s a Super Bowl in town and the Buccaneers are one of the participants.  Still, we won’t ignore the defending Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning especially when the Bolts are playing at such a high level.

A really good four game stretch for the Bolts.  Tampa Bay notched seven out of a possible eight points with a 3-0-1 log.  That’s good enough to put the Lightning at the top of the Central Division with 13 points.

Below is the recap of those four contests.  Also included are pregame as well as postgame quotes from players and coaches.  Enjoy.

GAME 5 – TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING 0 CAROLINA HURRICANES 1 OT
This will, no doubt, be the shortest recap of the season.  Tampa Bay fell to Carolina 1-0 in overtime.  That dropped the Lightning to 3-1-1 on the campaign while the Hurricanes improved to 3-1 in 2021.

The whole story of this game was the goalies and both were superb.  Bolts G Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 33 of 34 shots while Canes G Petr Mrazek saved all 32 shots he faced.

The only goal was scored at 1:12 of the extra period.  Carolina F Martin Necas (1) took a perfect give-and-go pass from F Jordan Stall just to the right of the crease and made no mistake to give the Hurricanes a hard earned two points.

GAME 6 – NASHVILLE PREDATORS 3 TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING 4
The Lightning returned home to the friendly confines of Amalie Arena and held on to beat the Predators 4-3.  Tampa Bay moved to 4-1-1 on the season and Nashville fell to 4-4.

The Preds notched the only score in the first period and it came at 17:55 with the man advantage.  D Ryan Ellis (1) put the puck past Vasilevskiy (23 saves on 26 shots) on the power play to put Nashville up 1-0.

I have no idea what HC Jon Cooper said to his charges during the first intermission but he should bottle it.  That’s because the Lightning posted four markers in the middle period.

F Tyler Johnson (1) started the barrage with a power play score at 3:33.  That was followed by the first NHL goal for D Cal Foote at 6:41.

After the game, I asked Foote if, on his goal, he was just trying to quickly get a shot on net or if he was aiming for a specific spot.  #52 replied, “Well, we were lucky enough to have one of their forwards break a stick so they were kind of scrambling around on that shift so I had a little extra room.  Usually, I’m not that close to the net so I just wanted to get that on net and it found it way in on the short side.

D Victor Hedman (2) put the Bolts up 3-0 at the 8:05 mark.  F Steven Stamkos (3) finished off the second period with a power play laser that eluded Preds G Pekka Rinne (29 saves on 33 shots) at 17:27.

Nashville made it interesting with two goals in the final period.  F Mathieu Oliver (1) lit the lamp with a power play score at 7:00 and  F Viktor Arvidsson (2) put the biscuit in the basket with 1:34 left in regulation.  Still, the Bolts were able to hold on to that lead and secure the two point victory

Also in the post game press conference, I queried Coach Cooper if the Bolts were making too many passes instead of trying to shoot more.  The Lightning Head Honcho responded, “It’s not necessarily the shots on goal.  We had 30 plus tonight.  It’s the attempted shots.  A lot of times shots are blocked and you miss the net or what have you.  You can’t go in there with only 14 attempts.  I think that’s what we had in the first period.  That’s not enough. If we’re not north of 20, and we need to be north of 20, it’s just the way that we play.  It speeds up our game.  We are a really good retrieval team.  That’s what we need.  The more we do it the better we get.  When you look at the second period, we’re in the mid 20s in attempted shots and four of them went in.  Eventually, it comes down to a percentage game.  That’s how it works.”

GAME 7 – NASHVILLE PREDATORS 2 TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING 5
The Lightning swept the two game home series with the Predators with a 5-2 victory.  Tampa Bay advanced to 5-1-1 on the season and Nashville dropped to 4-5 on the campaign.

Unlike the first game with the Preds, the Bolts scored three goals in the opening 20 minutes of play.  F Ondrej Palat (4) began the scoring at 9:13 and that was followed by F Yanni Gourde (2) at 13:59.  F Brayden Point (3) scored a backbreaking goal when he slid the puck past G Jusse Saros (23 saves on 27 shots) with one tick left in the first period.

On the third Lightning goal, F Mathieu Joseph could have easily attempted a shot from the right side of the crease.  Instead, with time running out, #7 chose to draw Saros to him before sending the puck right back to Point for an easy redirection into an open net.

When I asked Joseph if that was an example of the unselfishness of the team, he stated, “Absolutely not.  Sometimes, I think that we are even passing the puck too much as a team.  I think that we can shoot the puck a little bit more as a team.  Yeah, I think everyone wants the best for the team.  We all want to win and we all want to make it to the playoffs.  I would pretty much say that everyone one on the team is an unselfish guy.  I think that the way that we play, sometimes, looks a little fancy out there in front of the net when we can shoot the puck but we ended up with an empty net.  I think everyone wants to touch the puck and then pass it so we end up with an empty net out there.  We have a very unselfish team and that’s a great atmosphere to have and you can tell it’s a bunch of good guys.

The Lightning made it 4-zip in the second period.  Stamkos (4) scored one of his patented power play goals at 7:23.

Nashville scored two early third period goals to make it competitive.  F Eeli Tolvanen (1) scored at 2:53 and F Mikael Granlund (3) found the back of the net past Bolts G Vasilevskiy (29 saves in 31 shots) but Gourde (3) posted his second goal of the night with an empty netter.

After the game, I asked Coach Cooper that does the team speed of the Lightning just wear out the opposition by acting like Novocain.  The Head Coach chuckled and said, “Novocain? I’ll think about that.  Speed helps if you have it up and down your lineup, and you use it correctly, it can put a team on its heels.  When we’re going, we can be pretty quick but the league is fast.  Its remarkable, just the time that I’ve been in this league, just how fast these players are playing the game.  It’s one thing to be skating up and down the ice without the puck or whatever but, to make plays, the way they do it and with so much speed.  Especially since 2015 when we started to put some of these fast guys in the lineup, we’ve just got quicker and quicker but so has the league.  When we are going, for our team in particular, we can put teams on their heels.  That’s for sure.”

GAME 8 –  DETROIT RED WINGS 1TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING 5
The Bolts continued their winning way with a 5-1 triumph over the Red Wings.  The win moved Tampa Bay to 6-1-1 and Detroit posted a 2-7-2 log with the lost.

The Lightning blitzed the Wings for three early goals.  Hedman (3) lit the lamp just 97 seconds into the contest and F Anthony Cirelli (2) found the back of the net at 3:57.  D Ryan McDonough (1) placed the puck behind Detroit G Thomas Greiss (3 saves on 6 shots) at 4:54.

Point (4) made it 4-0 at 7:25 of the middle period.  Detroit cut the margin to 4-1 at 9:49 when Anthony Mantha (4) slid a breakaway behind G Vasilevskiy (15 saves in 16 shots) but F Alex Killorn (2) put the rubber sphere behind G Calvin Pickard (19 saves in 21 shots) who replaced Greiss at the 5:26 mark of the opening period.

I asked F Alex Killorn after the game that the Lightning scored five goals and, at the other end, held the Red Wings to 17 shots.  Does that show that your playing both ends of the ice?  #17 explained, ” Yeah, I think so.  I mean, especially when you go up 3 goals pretty quickly.  I think at the end of that first period we left the foot off the gas a little bit but that’s just human nature, maybe.  I think, as the game progressed, we played pretty good hockey.  In the third period, I think we played a great period.  We didn’t really give them any scoring chances.  You can’t really play the score.  You have to keep playing like it’s a 0-0- game so you can continuously get better but I like the way we played on both ends of the ice.”

Look for the next LIGHTNING RECAP after Game 12.  Until then, stay safe and GO BOLTS.