LIGHTNING RECAP – DECEMBER 16
By Leo Haggerty

GAMES 28 THROUGH 29

We’re going to have to call another audible but this time it doesn’t fall on us.  Sadly, it’s due to a spiking in Covid positive testing among certain National Hockey League organizations.  Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, one of those teams that had their games postponed was the Colorado Avalanche who just happen to be their next opponent in Denver Saturday.

With all that being said, we are going to post our Lightning Recap now instead of waiting until Monday.  Both contests in this span were home tilts so the commentary as well as the photos plus interviews of the Bolts are ready to roll.

So without further adieu, below is the encapsulation of the two Lightning wins for four big points.  As you will read, it was definitely a struggle.  Enjoy.

LOS ANGELES KINGS  2  TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING 3 OT

Tampa Bay never took the lead until the Lightning scored in bonus hockey defeating Los Angeles 3-2 in overtime.  The Bolts advanced to 18-6-4 with the victory moving the point total up to 40.  The Kings with the OT loss advanced to 12-10-5 for a total of 29 points.

The Kings struck first at 9:06 of the opening period.  With Bolts F Steven Stamkos off for hooking, Los Angeles D Drew Doughty (3) fired a slap shot by G Andrei Vasilevskiy (28 saves on 30 shots) that gave The Tinsel Towners a 1-0 lead.

The Lightning returned the favor at 18:01of the first period.  With the Bolts having the extra attacker due to a delayed penalty, D Victor Hedman (6) blistered a one-timer by G Jonathan Quick (30 saves on 33 shots) with F Steven Stamkos (20) and F Pat Maroon (3) getting credit for the assists.  That knotted the score at 1 all.

Los Angeles went back on top just 30 seconds into the middle period.  F Viktor Arvidsson (6) redirected a shot into the top portion of the net from right in front of the crease putting LA up 2-1.

The Bolts knotted the count at 14:19 of the second period.  F Taylor Raddysh (4) put the biscuit in the basket tipping D Jan Rutta (5) shot with F Boris Katchouk (4) providing the other helper making the score 2-2.

Both goalies pitched shutouts in the third period taking the tilt to overtime.  After #88 flat out stoned Kopitar on a breakaway, and you need to read below how HC Jon Cooper described the save, Lightning F Mathieu Joseph (5) received a pass from F Ross Colton (8) and launched a shot from the right circled squeezed through trickling into the net to give Tampa Bay a thrilling 3-2 triumph.

Had a chance to catch up with, as usual, Cooper and Joseph and Colton in the post game interview room.  Below are their answers to my questions.  Enjoy.

LH : The save Vasilevskiy made in overtime.  Can you describe the degree of difficultly it was to go from closing the five hole to getting enough push off the right leg to get the left leg to the post and do the splits to stop the breakaway shot by Kopitar?

JC : I think any male that watched that save in overtime cringed.

LH : You haven’t played Los Angeles is close to two years.  Film is great but having a familiarity with a team face-to-face is better, right?

MJ : Yeah, absolutely, that’s a good point.  We were looking at the lineups because it’s guys that you don’t see often.  You kind of have to adapt a little bit and, I think, it’s the same thing for these guys too but it’s fun.  It’s fun to play against these guys too.  You don’t play as much in the other divisions and, like I said earlier, it’s a good hockey team. I’m glad we got away with two points.

LH : The team looked a little bit out of sync in the first period.  Is that just the result of coming off a long road trip?

TR : I don’t think so.  We had a day off and time to get back here and back home.  We didn’t like the way we played in the first period until the last five minutes.  I think that’s when it was but we have to be ready to play a full 60 minutes.

OTTAWA SENATORS 1  TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING 2

After falling behind in the first period, Tampa Bay stormed back with two goals in the second period and held on for a 2-1 triumph over Ottawa at Amalie Arena.  The win propelled the Lightning to 19-6-4 equating to 42 points.  The loss dropped the Senators to 9-17-1 totaling 19 points.

The Sens cashed in first at 15:43 of the opening period.  D Thomas Chabot (1) garnering his first goal of the season and it was an unassisted one as #72 skated in on G Vasilevskiy (25 saves on 26 shots) going top shelf for the score.  That gave Ottawa a 1-0 lead and that was count after the first 20 minutes of play.

The Bolts evened the score at 1 all at 3:47 of the middle period.  F Alex Killorn (9) converted a beautiful feed from Colton (9) redirecting the puck past G Anton Forsberg (25 saves on 27 shots) with Hedman (22) collecting the other assist.

Tampa Bay took a 2-1 lead at 15:05 of the second period.  With the Lightning on the power play, Hedman (7) skated in from the point and faked a shot.  Instead of passing, #77 decided to launch the rubber disk on goal and it ended up in the back of the net.  Raddysh (5) and Stamkos (21) were both credited with helpers. 

That marked a milestone for #91.  That assist gave the Bolts captain 900 career points, all with Tampa Bay, on his illustrious career.  During a media timeout, he was treated to a rousing round of applause by the fans in attendance as well as being saluted by teammates along with the Senators.  A fabulous exclamation point on a budding Hall of Fame career.

That also proved to be the winning marker as both goalies pitched shutouts in the final period.  That gave the Lightning a hard earned two points as they prepare for a three-game pre-Christmas western road swing with the next contest Saturday in Colorado against the Avalanche.

Had the opportunity to talk with, as usual, Cooper along with Stamkos and Hedman.  Below are their answers to my queries.

LH : You’re starting to hit a stretch of your season where you haven’t seen teams in close to two years.  How hard is that in terms of preparation?

JC : It’s probably harder on the coaching side of things and, just in a sense and take the LA game for example, the rosters are different.  They’re all NHL players but some of them we haven’t seen before.  When it comes to matching, or how you want to set things up in a game, it takes a period.  Just so you can get a vibe for the other team.  Now, Ottawa we saw last week and you get your second crack at them.  A little different situation but it can be different.  It’s different not seeing these guys and just the roster turnover alone is different.  So, now we go on the road and it will be a little bit different but out of our control but, yeah, it’s different.

LH : With Kucherov and Point out, is the power play still a jigsaw puzzle to see who actually fits where the best?

JC : No, not really.  Palot has been in Kuch’s spot before.  Killer and Stammer and Heddy are in the same spots.  We worked a little bit with Raddy and we know where he’s at right not.  It’s just about guys getting more and more comfortable but, let’s be honest, that’s a hard act to follow.  I don’t know if there’s anyone better on the half wall than Kuch.  The hard thing is that you can’t compare yourself to him or play like him.  You have to play within your skill set and that’s what has helped these guys.

LH : Without Kucherov and Point on the power play, is it still a matter of people trying to get comfortable in the new spots they’re put into?

SS : Yeah, and we’ve talked about it before. We have guys that are capable of making plays but we have to be realistic here.  You have, probably, the best power play guy in the world in Kuch.  You have one of the best shooters in the hole and skaters and someone who can break the puck out on his own in Pointer.  No one is going to replace those guys.  It’s going to be by committee.  It’s got to be that guys are willing to get out of their comfort zone a little bit.  Like I said, I think we need to take a step back and see who we are missing.  At the same time, we have guys that can fill in for the time being and we’re doing that.

LH : When it came up that you had reached the 900 point milestone, you get a tremendous ovation from the fans and your teammates.  Even the Senators saluted you.  Did that surprise you?

SS : Yeah, that was very classy.  Had a couple of their guys come up to me, before the faceoff and after the whistle, come up and congratulate me.  That’s kind of when it hit home a little bit more, too, when your peers recognize stuff like that.  Like I said, the more you sit back and take it in, it’s an amazing accomplishment and something I am very proud of.

LH : It appeared on your goal that you faked a shot and then decided to launch it on net.  Is that how it happened?

VH : Yeah, I had a lot of room and I was waiting for the guy to come at me but he took away the pass to Pally.  So, I had the opening and I took the shot and it found the net.  A big goal and it became the game winner.  It was a big goal at that time of the game.