LIGHTNING RECAP – JANUARY 4
By Leo Haggerty

 GAMES 31 THROUGH 34

 After a five-day league-wide shut down, Tampa Bay got back into the swing of things with four games in this seven-day sequence but not without some major headaches.  Coaches as well as players tested positive for Covid and were forced to sit out multiple contests as Tampa Bay struggled to a 1-2-1 log during this four-game stretch which computed to only three out of a possible eight points.

How did that happen?  Check out our Lightning Recap to find out how everything went down but a quick note.  With the Outback Bowl and having to get a booster shot myself to cover the NFL playoffs, we moved the Lightning Recap back a day so we could post our Outback Bowl collage.

With that being said, I will be adding lots of player and coaches commentary after this is posted.  That’s due to the holidays along with the other events that I listed above.  Please return early Thursday for the compelling comments from the Lightning.

MONTREAL CANADIENS 4  TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING 5 OT

To say Tampa Bay grabbed victory from the jaws of defeat is an understatement.  With the Lightning down a goal in the last minute of the contest, the Bolts scored to force bonus hockey  and then won 5-4 over the Canadiens in overtime at Amalie Arena.  The entertaining win propelled Tampa Bay to 21-6-4 and 46 points.  The overtime loss moved Montreal to 7-21-4 and that equates to 18 points.

The Habs dented the scoreboard first at 10:46 of the first period.  F Lukas Vejdemo (1) notched his first goal of the season when the puck tricked past G Maxime Legace (27 saves on 31 shots) who was called up from Syracuse due to both Lightning goalies being Covid positive.  That gave the visitors an early 1-0 lead.

The Bolts posted their initial goal of the contest at 11:38 of the opening period.  In his first game back after an extended shoulder injury, F Brayden Point (8) on a two-on-one threw on the brakes right in front of G Sam Montembeaul (32 saves on 37 shots) who was also a call up and roofed it into the back of the net.  F Matthieu Joseph (6) along with D Victor Hedman (25) were credited with assists and that knotted the score at 1 all.

Tampa Bay took the lead at 14:10 of the first period.  With F Alex Killorn (17) setting the table with a beautiful pass that Point (9) redirected the rubber disk into an open net to give the Lightning a 2-1 advantage.

Montreal drew even at 2:05 of the middle period.  After receiving a centering pass right in the crease, F Rafael Harvey-Picard (1) recorded his first goal of the campaign to knot the score at 2 apiece.

The Bolts retook the lead at 8:11 of the second period.  F Ross Colten (3) put the biscuit in the basket to push Tampa Bay back in front by a 3-2 count.  F Steven Stamkos (22) and F Corey Perry (7) provided the helpers.

The Canadiens came all the way back at 6:11 of the final period.  D Kale Clague (1) kept the streak going of first goals of the season to level the score at 3-3.

The Habs took the lead at 13:09 of the third period on a costly Tampa Bay turnover.  Again, it was a first time goal scorer and this one was registered by former Lightning D David Savard (1) who intercepted a clearing pass at the blue line and went top shelf to put Montreal up 4-3.

The Bolts, with the goalie pulled for the extra attacker, posted the equalizer with just 19 seconds left in regulation.  Perry (7) was parked in the crease and converted a perfect backhand pass by Point (7) from behind the net.  Stamkos (23) registered the other assist and that led to extra hockey.

It only took the Lightning 36 seconds to put this one in the win column.  F Ondrej Palat (10) took a pretty pass from Hedman (26) and deposited the puck across the goal line to give Tampa Bay a heart stopping two point victory.

Wih HC Jon Cooper still on the shelf dealing with Covid protocols after testing positive on the recent road trip, I caught up with acting HC Derek Lalonde for a couple of questions.  His responses are below.

LH : Are there times when both teams deserve a point because of how well they played?

DL : Yeah, I think both teams played well at times.  Both teams probably want some plays and some time that they left out there that they want back.  For us, it was certainly the first, the first half of the first and the first half of the third.  Obviously, we dug a little hole in the first but came back.in the game in the third.  Probably, a little predictable the way things played out.  The way both teams lineups were and the fact of coming off a break.  In the end, as I told the guys, again, giving a huge credit to them to find a way like we’ve done all year long.  Hanging in there.  Executing on the goalie pull there at the end but we’ve done a good job, especially in the time I’ve been here, in judging ourselves on performance.  I think we knew, and know, we have to be a little bit better and little bit more consistent through the entire game going forward.

LH : You played two games in a week and now you’re looking at playing three games in four days.  How hard is that going to be when it comes to preparation?

DL : I think our guys are fine.  We had the break and this is normal on the schedule.  We come off last year where there were back-to-backs and three-in-fours were the norms.  There’s a lot of things that the Covid era in the NHL has brought us and being used to this type of schedule is one.  So, I think, it’s business as usual.  Guys have handled it well in the past.  They understand it and are used to it now and I think we have a pretty good approach in this tree-in-four coming up.

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING 3  FLORIDA PANTHERS  9

Before the Florida contest, had a chance to catch up with F Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and D Darren Raddysh after the pregame skate.  Here’s his answer to my question.

LH : You say you want to get back to normal.  Is that even possible or just move away from what this is now?

PEB : Yeah, I mean, we’re never going to go back to that normal or what we used to call normal before this.  Like I said, it’s the nature of the time right now.  You have to be careful not to be around too many people.  So, you can get this at any time.  I’m fully vaccinated and being as careful as I can.  You can be cautious and I still got the virus.  You try to control some of things that you can control but you can’t control this and I got it.  I was isolated for a few days and really happy to be back.  Normal would have been to be able to spend Christmas with the family.  Like I said, in the grand scheme, it’s just five days.  I’m not complaining.  Some people had it way harder than I did.

LH : To say this had been a wild and crazy ride for you would be an understatement.  How are you dealing with all that’s happening?

DR : I’m pretty excited.  It’s my first game tonight and to be in the same organization as my brother is in, and a few of our friends, its just exciting.  I’m excited for tonight.

The good news is that Tampa Bay scored in every period.  The bad news is that Florida found the back of the net three times in every 20 minute session that gave the Panthers a 9-3 thumping of the undermanned Lightning at the FLA Live Arena.  The win advanced the Cats to 20-7-4 and that totals up to 44 points.  The loss sank the Bolts to 21-7-4 and that equated to 46 points.

After spotting Florida a 3-0 advantage, Tampa Bay dented the scoreboard at 15:31 of the opening period.  D Zach Bogosian (2) put the biscuit in the basket behind G Spencer Knight (39 saves on 42 shots) with Bellemare (5) and Perry (8) getting the helpers.  That cut the Panthers lead to 3-1.

The second period started a little better for the Lightning.  Trailing 4-1, Stamkos (15) deposited the puck in the back of the net at the 6:19 mark.  The assists went to Palat (11) along with Colton (10) cutting the Cats lead to 4-2 but that’s as close as the Bolts would get as Florida would post two more markers before the end of the middle period.

Tampa Bay notched the first goal of the final period at 4:27.  With the Bolts on the power play, Point (10) with assists from Killorn (19) and Palat (12) managed to light the lamp cutting the deficit to 6-3 to give the Lightning hope but that was not to be the case.

The Panthers would counter with three more goals with the last being of the shorthanded variety to add insult to injury.  The big scorer for the home team was F Jonathan Huberdeau with a goal and four assists for a five point evening.

Neither of the Tampa Bay emergency goalies had much success.  Lagace, who posted the victory against Montreal in the previous contest, stopped 21 of 27 shots and replacement netminder Hugo Alnefelt turned away 7 of the 10 shots he faced in the final period but, being perfectly honest, the Lightning didn’t play too well in front of them this evening contributing to the defeat.

Had a chance to ask a question of HC Jon Cooper, who is now back on the bench after his Covid quarantine, following this debacle.  His response to my query is below.

LH : Is this the kind of game that’s going to say in your memory until you play Florida again in April?

JC : Well, to be honest, I didn’t know when we play them again until you just said it. I’m looking at the New York Rangers, who we play in less than 24 hours, so that’s the focus.  We have them two in a row and they were a hard luck third period from beating these guys and we weren’t close to beating these guys.  Another tough test for us.  We have to be better.  Were there some guys signs from this group tonight.  Of course there were but, hum, were gave up nine.  We’re better than that.

NEW YOUK RANGERS  4 TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING 3 SO

Tampa Bay, with numerous players out with injuries as well as positive Covid tests, fell to New York by a count of 4-3 in overtime at Amalie Arena.  The win propelled the Rangers to 20-8-4 and that translates to 44 points.  The shootout loss moved the Lightning to 21-7-5 and that makes the arithmetic 47 points.

The Bolts scored first at 18:21 of the opening period.  With Tampa Bay on the power play, Stamkos (16) wristed the puck past G Igor Shesterkin (25 saves on 28 shots) with helpers going to Hedman (27) and Palat (13) to give the Lightning a 1-0 advantage.

The Rangers posted the first two goals of the middle period to take a 2-1 lead converting two huge mistakes by Tampa Bay into scores.  F Alexis Lafreniere (7) tied the score at 5:30 and former Bolt Barclay Goodrow (5) gave New York the lead at 14:30.

The Lightning tied the contest at 2-all at 17:31 of the second period.  Colton (4) blistered a slap shot into the back of the net with Point (8) and Killorn (20) being credited with the assists.

New York retook the lead at 13:35 of the final period.  Again, it was Goodrow (6) beating G Brian Elliott (20 saves on 23 shots) with a slap shot to put the visitors up by a 3-2 count.

The Bolts drew even with just 1:57 left in regulation.  Perry (8) wristed a shot over the goal line with Stamkos (23) and Palat (14) providing the helpers.  That knotted the score at 3-all and led to bonus hockey.

After a scoreless five-minute overtime, the game moved into the shootout phase.  Both goalies turned in strong performances and, after five unsuccessful attempts to score the winning goal, F Mika Zibanejad gave the Rangers the victory with the 6th shot of the shootout.

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING 4  NEW YORK RANGERS 0

The Lightning traveled up to Madison Square Garden to complete the home-and-home series with the Rangers and didn’t fare well as New York shut out Tampa Bay 4-0.  The Blue & Red improved to 21-8-4 with the win and that computes to 46 points.  The loss kept the Lightning at 21-8-5 and that adds up to 47 points.

The home team struck for three first period goals with the first two of the power play variety by an oh-too-familiar face. Zibanejad, who netted the shootout winner in the previous tilt, converted both man advantage tallies.  The first came at 7:44 and the second at 12:37 giving the the Ranger sharpshooter his 9th and 10th goals of the campaign.  The third New York goal was scored at 14:53 by F Ryan Strome (7) who slid the puck past G Andrei Vasilevskiy (17 saves on 21 shots) who had not played in almost two weeks due to a positive Covid test to put the home team up 3-zip at the end of the first 20 minutes of play.

The Blue & Red notched the final goal of the game at 16:53 of the middle period and it was Zibanejad (11) posting the hat trick.  That gave the Rangers a 4-0 lead and that was plenty as Shesterkin turned away all 38 Lightning shots to record the shutout and his second consecutive victory over the Bolts.