Welcome to another Real-Time Commentary. Tonight, the Tampa Bay Lightning play host to the Los Angeles Kings. Game time is 7:30 EST. Please scroll down for the latest updates, and feel free to leave your own comments at the bottom!
5:00 p.m.: Coming off Saturday night’s heartbreaker against the Pittsburgh Penguins, things aren’t about to get any easier for the Lightning. Tonight, they square off against the 2012 Stanley Cup champions, the Los Angeles Kings.
The Kings roll into Tampa Bay with a 4-2 record, good for 5th in the very tough Pacific division. Two days ago they pitched a 3-0 shutout against the Florida Panthers, in a game in which backup goaltender Ben Scrivens stopped 20 shots. Of course, the Kings’ starting goalie is none other than Jonathan Quick, arguably the best goaltender in the world, and it’s Quick who will be suiting up against the Lightning tonight. Quick season stats for Quick: 3-2, 2.64 GAA, .905 Save Percentage.
L.A. has had some struggles scoring goals so far this season. Heading into tonight’s game they’ve scored just 16 times in six games, good for just 21st in the league. That said, the Bolts will have to be wary of Jeff Carter, who’s looking to get back to 40-goal form in his first full-length regular season with the Kings. Carter has four goals in L.A.’s first six games, and last season he scored 26 in 48, just three shy of our own Steven Stamkos and good for fourth in the league.
Anze Kopitar has five assists heading into tonight, but he’s yet to notch a goal this season. If you’re familiar with Kopitar, you realize that means he’s due. The hulking center has never scored less than 20 goals in an 82-game NHL season, and is the Kings’ perennial scoring leader.
For the Lightning, Ben Bishop appears to have healed from a minor injury and will be back between the pipes for tonight’s game. And after a shaky performance on Saturday from his counterpart, Anders Lindback, that might come as good news to Lightning fans. Bishop has ranged from solid to spectacular in the three games he’s suited up for this year, and comes into tonight with a perfect 3-0 record to go along with a 1.93 GAA and a .928 save percentage.
After going without a goal in his first three games, Steven Stamkos has lit the lamp four times in his last two, including a jaw-dropping three-goal performance against the Panthers last Thursday. Coming into tonight’s game, Stamkos’s seven points is tied for the Lightning lead with Marty St. Louis. But Stamkos’s main focus right now appears to be playing a 200-foot game, and he has been noticeably more physical. If he keeps this up, Stamkos could become an even more valuable player than we’re used to.
When the Lightning picked up Valtteri Filppula this past off-season, it was arguably the most criticized move of the free agent frenzy. Now? Five games into the season, Filppula has arguably been the Lightning’s best player. He comes into tonight with four goals and an assist, but offensive contribution aside, it’s his complete game that makes him valuable. He leads by example on the ice, and the Lightning, most of the time, appear to be following that example.
Richard Panik returns to the Lightning lineup tonight looking for redemption. Panik took a pointless penalty near the end of the Penguins game, a penalty which ultimately led to the loss. Panik could be one to watch tonight – he’s known for being something of an enigma, and perhaps tonight we finally see his A-game. Panik is one of only two Lightning players below par in the plus/minus category, and he comes into tonight with an ugly -4 rating.
The puck drops just under three hours from now. I hope you’ll stay tuned for updates throughout the night, which will appear in descending order below. And as always, feel free to leave your own thoughts and comments below. Thanks for reading, and Go Bolts!
7:28 p.m.: A couple of things to keep your eye on tonight. How does Panik respond after taking the brunt of the heat after the Penguins game? How does Ben Bishop looking coming off a minor lower body injury?
7:39 p.m.: What a start! Puck drops and the Lightning immediately apply pressure. Sami Salo wrist a shot from the point and the Lightning SCORE! Waiting to hear if it was tipped in front. ADD: Salo from St. Louis and Stamkos. CORRECTION: Goal changed to Ryan Malone, his first of the year, from Salo and St. Louis.
7:42 p.m.: Radko Gudas in the box for 2:00. 18:40 remaining.
7:44 p.m.: Kings pressuring in front. One dangerous shot from Jeff Carter that it looked like Bishop didn’t say, but the save was made regardless.
7:45 p.m.: Stamkos with a huge opportunity in front with speed. Looked like he lost the handle and didn’t get a shot. Stamkos has a lot of jump tonight.
7:52 p.m.: Marty St. Louis gets a clear breakaway and gets stopped by Jonathan Quick. Big save off the shoulder.
7:53 p.m.: Bolts are struggling more than we would like to see in their own zone.
7:57 p.m.: Teddy Purcell streaks down the wing and Purcell SCORES! Backhand to forehand move at the last second and Purcell fires it passed Quick. Nice effort there by Purcell, who’s off to a great start this year. No issues with over-passing so far. Purcell from Palat and Carle. 2-0 Bolts. 6:56 remaining.
7:59 p.m.: And yet again, moments after the goal, the Lightning are heading back to the box. This time it’s Ryan Malone.
8:03 p.m.: Lightning kill off another one. They had an easier time with this one.
8:03 p.m.: Ryan Malone with a huge chance right in front off a feed from Stammer. Unclear if he got robbed or sent it wide. Malone appears to be having his best game of the season.
8:08 p.m.: Scary moment. Bishop takes a shot somewhere up high and goes down quickly. He’s back up and appears to be okay after a quick visit from the trainer. Lightning fans were really holding their breath right there.
8:10 p.m.: Scramble in front of the net, looks like the Kings hit the post. Puck stays out. Last minute of play.
PERIOD END, 8:12 p.m.: The Bolts finish up the period with Val Filppula centering Stamkos and St. Louis. Nothing of consequence happened, but it’s interesting to see nonetheless.
While the Kings perhaps had more puck possession in the first period, the Lightning undoubtedly had the better chances. Some of their best chances wound up not making it on net. The period was played with an incredible pace, and there were long stretches of play. The Lightning are better suited to such a pace than the Kings, and most Lightning players performed well in that period. Steven Stamkos had a lot of zip tonight, and not only had some quality scoring chances, but he also created a few scoring chances. He was probably the best Lightning player in that period.
In keeping an eye on Richard Panik and how he responds after Saturday night’s fiasco, Panik had a relatively quiet period. The other player I had planned to keep an eye on was Bishop. And Bishop has picked up right where he left off. He looks comfortable in the net, and hopefully the puck he took up high was something he’s been able to shake off.
Ryan Malone played his best period of the young season and appeared to be an asset on the top line. It paid off for him — he scored the Lightning’s first goal.
Shots in the period were 11-10 in Tampa Bay’s favor. Hits were identical: 11-10 Bolts. Matthew Carle led the Lightning in icetime with 8:16.
1st Period Scoring: Malone TB (Salo, St. Louis); Purcell TB (Palat, Carle)
See you in the 2nd.
8:31 p.m.: Puck drops and we’re underway in the 2nd period.
8:32 p.m.: After a weird defensive miscue by the Lightning, the Kings put the puck in the net but for the time being it looks like the goal is being waved off for contact with the goalie. The Lightning might have dodged a bullet here. Result: No goal.
8:36 p.m.: The Kings have come out with some jump and the Lightning are making mistakes. Lightning might be lucky to still be up by 2 right now.
8:37 p.m.: Salo heads to the box for high-sticking. A double minor to boot. 4:00 in the box. This is a big moment. Momentum has swung big-time in the King’s favor.
8:40 p.m.: 1:00 remaining in the penalty. Plenty of close calls. Hedman saved a sure goal.
8:42 p.m.: Penalty over. Huge kill for the Bolts. Let’s see if they take any momentum from this.
8:44 p.m.: Note: That penalty kill is especially significant after the Lightning’s PK woes vs. the Penguins. There were a few scary moments on this one, with LA’s Jeff Carter being particularly dangerous, but the Bolts get the job done. 11:51 to go, remains 2-0.
8:47 p.m.: Panik-watch: Panik makes a nice move breaking into the Kings’ zone and drops it off to Killorn for a good shot.
8:51 p.m.: LA’s Matt Greene takes a blatant interference penalty at center ice. Tampa heading to the PP for the first time in this game.
8:53 p.m.: Powerplay a little lifeless. Kings kill it off. 7:30 remaining.
8:55 p.m.: The Kings have firmly taken momentum back. The Lightning simply don’t look crisp out there right now, and are lucky to have a lead. Bishop is standing, get ready for the pun, tall.
8:59 p.m.: Ben Bishop makes his best save of the night on King after a cross-crease pass by Carter. Looked like a sure goal.
9:00 p.m.: Delayed penalty on Dan Carcillo for tripping, but on the ensuing rush Marty St. Louis SCORES! Jonathan Quick gets handcuffed by a Stamkos shot and can’t recover before St. Louis bangs the rebound home. 3-0 Lightning. Quick is coming off the ice for Ben Scrivens. St. Lous from Stamkos and Sustr. First point of Sustr’s career.
9:05 p.m.: Ben Bishop is having an outstanding game. The Lightning shouldn’t be up by three right now, but Bishop’s stellar play has allowed them to build a lead. What a game.
SECOND PERIOD END, 9:12 p.m.: Despite being thoroughly outplayed in the 2nd period, the Lightning managed to score the period’s only goal and now lead 3-0. Ben Bishop has undoubtedly been the best Lightning player tonight, stopping all 25 shots the Kings have fired at him.
Other than Bishop, the rest of the Lightning struggled in the period. They surged briefly after killing off Sami Salo’s double minor, but then after failing to score on a powerplay of their own, or generate much offense at all, the Lightning once again gave momentum up to the Kings. While the Bolts have a comfortable lead, they don’t want to put up another effort like that if only for their own confidence-level moving forward.
Shots after two are 25-18 Kings (15-7 in the period). Hits have also tilted in the Kings favor, 17-15, and the Kings have an 18-13 edge in faceoffs.
2nd Period Scoring: St. Louis TB (Stamkos, Sustr)
9:27 p.m.: Puck drops and we’re underway. Period 3.
9:28 p.m.: Alex Killorn makes a great move in front of the net and Drew Doughty hooks him down. Following the play, the Lightning have a couple of excellent chances with Ben Scrivens down, but somehow the puck stays out. Bolts PP coming up. ADD: A bit of confusion here, as it’s looking like the puck might have crossed the line. It hit Killorn in front. Under review, but it seems like there’s no conclusive angle to show the puck crossed the line. Result: No goal.
9:33 p.m.: After 1:53 of another lifeless PP, Radko Gudas takes an interference penalty. Not a bad penalty, as it probably prevented a breakaway.
9:35 p.m.: Another big save by Bishop on Carter in front. 1:05 left in the penalty. LA takes a timeout to keep the 1st unit fresh.
9:37 p.m.: Another successful kill, this one stamped by a big blocked shot by Marty St. Louis. A little slow to get up, but seems fine.
9:48 p.m.: Slava Voynov SCORES, roofing a shot over Ben Bishop’s shoulder. The puck squirted out to him all alone and he beat Bishop with a great shot. Bishop got a small piece of it. 3-1 Bolts. 9:30 left.
9:54 p.m.: The Lightning rush up the ice in a 2 on 1. Stamkos drops back to the late man, Ryan Malone, and Malone sweeps the puck over to the side of the night and St. Louis SCORES! A pretty passing play, St. Louis’s second goal of the night. He has an assist to go with it. Big night for the top line. Malone appears to have finally found his A-game. He’s been a real asset out there tonight. 4-1 Bolts.
9:58 p.m.: Jarret Stoll of the Kings heads to the box for a hold. Lightning PP. They’ll be looking for St. Louis.
10:01 p.m.: A much better powerplay effort, with the Lightning’s best chance coming on a Stamkos shot with Scrivens down and out. Unfortunately for the Lightning, Drew Doughty got a limb on the shot. 3:27 remaining.
10:03 p.m.: After a wild scramble in front, the puck squirts free to Ondrej Palat, and Palat SCORES, and then goes crashing to the ice. Palat’s second of the year, from Johnson and Purcell. 5-1 Bolts, under a minute remaining.
GAME END, 10:05 p.m.: It wasn’t a perfect performance. It might not even have been a great performance. And yet the scorebored shows the Lightning winning a semi-blowout, 5-1. The main factor in that lopsided score was Ben Bishop, who managed to hold the Kings off the board for much of the game despite plenty of opportunities.
It was also a big game for Marty St. Louis, who exits tonight’s game with a nifty three points, giving him 10 in the first six games of the season. The top line had arguably its best game of the season, much of which can be credited to Ryan Malone having his best game so far (and that, I don’t think is arguable).
It was a quiet game for the second line, and perhaps the most invisible Val Filppula has been since joining the team. Despite that, Alex Killorn still managed to have a nice performance, picking up a game-high six shots, although he went without a point.
At game’s end the Kings had a 31-25 advantage in shots, but seemed to carry the play in much of the 2nd and 3rd periods, particularly the 2nd. The Bolts got some life out of St. Louis’s late goal, and stopped the Kings’ momentum in its tracks. Hits and faceoffs both wound up pretty even, with the Kings taking a slight edge in faceoffs, 27-25, and hits were dead even at 24 apiece.
Coach Jon Cooper distributed icetime fairly evenly. Matt Carle led all Lightning players with 22:27 played, but P.C. Labrie, who played the least amount, still racked up nearly 10 minutes.
Radko Gudas played his signature physical game and finished the night with six hits.
My choice for tonight’s three stars:
1st Star: Ben Bishop (30 saves)
2nd Star: Marty St. Louis (2G, 1A)
3rd Star: Steven Stamkos (2A)
With honorable mentions to Ryan Malone and Victor Hedman, each of whom had terrific games.
It was a feel-good night for Bolts fans. The team made mistakes, but didn’t have to pay for all of them. Bishop further solidifies himself as the #1 goalie and Marty St. Louis might be getting better with age. Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed.