Tonight, the Tampa Bay Lightning take on the Minnesota Wild at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Game-time is 7:30 p.m. EST, at which point this post will be updated regularly with the goings-on, along with my own thoughts and musings about the game. Please scroll down for the latest updates and feel free to leave your own comments!
4:30 p.m.: Still waiting for word on whether or not Marty St. Louis will play tonight for the Lightning. Brett Connolly has been called up from Syracuse, but at last report, St. Louis remains a game-time decision. While it’s not known if Connolly will be scratched should St. Louis be able to play, coach Jon Cooper did say the staff will make the decision tonight and “that will determine Brett’s fate.”
The Lightning are coming off a 5-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings while the Minnesota Wild lost their last game to the Toronto Maple Leafs despite outshooting the Leafs 37-14.
Barring a last minute surprise, the goaltending matchup should be Josh Harding for the Wild against Ben Bishop for the Lightning.
5:30 p.m.: Keith Aulie and Mark Barberio are confirmed as healthy scratches tonight, as per the Lightning website. No word yet on St. Louis/Connolly.
7:00 p.m.: Funny/interesting note: news is getting around that the Wild found a snake in the visitor’s dressing room. Animal control problem or Cooper thinking outside the box? :p
7:01 p.m.: Reports are saying Marty St. Louis is on the ice for warm-up.
7:09 p.m.: Looking more and more like St. Louis will play tonight. Does this mean Connolly’s out? Or perhaps Richard Panik?
724 p.m.: St. Louis is on the game sheet.
7:29 p.m.: Turns out Connolly is also in the lineup. P.C. Labrie is scratched. Lightning with plenty of firepower tonight. Line combinations will be interesting.
7:40 p.m.: Johnson/Palat/Purcell start the game. We’re underway.
7:42 p.m.: Brett Connolly skating with Nate Thompson and B.J. Crombeen on the fourth line.
7:47 p.m.: Feeling out process early. 15:43 remaining.
7:55 p.m.: 10:39 remaining and neither team is really pulling away. Quick pace, yet not a lot happening.
8:00 p.m.: Great move by Alex Killorn, who jumps by a defender and flips the puck to Val Filppula. Big stop by Josh Harding, and then a quick whistle ends the chance. Best chance of the period for the Lightning.
8:02 p.m.: Jason Pommenville trips Radko Gudas and heads off to the box. The Wild have not had a great PK this year.
8:04 p.m.: Ryan Malone jamming away on the doorstep, but denied by Harding. Good PP for the Lightning. A moment later, Val Filppula with a great pass to Tyler Johnson and Johnson SCORES! Incredible pass by Filppula through traffic. 1-0 Lightning. Johnson from Filppula and Panik. (Good to see Panik on the board after some brutal luck last game.)
8:12 p.m.: The Lightning are hitting the late man on rushes now. A couple of good chances, one fanned on by Salo after a nice pass from Purcell and and the other dropped back to Hedman who put it on goal.
8:12 (2) p.m.: Big hit from Gudas draws some attention, and the Wild are taking another penalty.
1ST PERIOD END, 8:15 p.m.: The Lightning head to the locker room with a 1-0 lead over the Minnesota Wild thanks to a nice goal by Tyler Johnson off a brilliant pass from Valtteri Filppula. It was a powerplay goal scored after the Lightning generated plenty of chances.
Alex Killorn had a very good period for the Bolts despite not registering a point, and, I have to say, Brett Connolly looks like an NHLer out there. Connolly looks faster than when we last saw him near the end of the 2013 season and has been applying some physical pressure as well. Definitely making the most of his fourth line icetime.
The top line looked good again, and Marty St. Louis is showing no ill-effects of the foot injury, and registered 6:48 of icetime in the period. Ryan Malone is having yet another strong game after looking slow and out of sync to start the year. Steven Stamkos was noticeably more physical in that period, and was instrumental in creating a couple of Lightning scoring chances.
All in all, it was a good period for the Bolts.
Going into the 2nd period, the Wild have an 11-10 shot advantage, but the Lightning had the better scoring chances in the period. The Bolts have out-hit the Wild, 9-5 (the most memorable being a monstrous hip-check by Radko Gudas that ultimately drew a penalty). The Wild, the #1 faceoff team in the league, and a big 12-6 edge at the dot.
The Bolts will start the 2nd period with about a minute of powerplay time remaining.
1st Period Scoring: Johnson TB, (Filppula, Panik) PP
See you in the second.
8:32 p.m.: The puck drops and here we go. 1:07 remaining on the Minnesota penalty.
8:34 p.m.: Wild kill it off. Lightning looked a little flat on the remainder of the PP.
8:35 p.m.: And the Lightning are going right back to the PP. Richard Panik gets driven hard into the boards by Jared Spurgeon.
8:38 p.m.: Much better PP effort by the Lightning, but alas, the Wild kill it off. The Bolts had some great opportunities near the end, with Stamkos loading up from just inside the point and Malone in front of the net.
8:39 p.m.: The Bolts are going to the box. Brett Connolly for high-sticking Zack Parise.
8:42 p.m.: The Wild had some good pressure but the Lightning kill the penalty off. Killorn was notable on the kill. He’s having a great game at both ends of the ice.
8:47 p.m.: Huge scramble in front of the Lightning net. Bishop makes at least 3 big saves. Score remains 1-0, but only because of Bishop.
8:48 p.m.: Bishop with two more huge saves. Holding the Lightning in at this point. Top line got pinned into their own end.
8:49 p.m.: Steven Stamkos in the box for holding the stick. Does not look happy about it. The Wild have a lot of momentum here.
8:52 p.m.: Johnson almost goes on a breakaway and gets interfered with. Spurgeon again. 4-on-4 hockey for the next 1:40.
8:58 p.m.: Minnesota has dominated this period. Shots are currently 23-14 in their favor. Looks a lot like the 2nd period of the Kings’ game. 5:18 remaining.
9:02 p.m.: 2 on 0 with Killorn streaking down with Stamkos open. Killorn makes the pass for Stammer to slam dunk, and Josh Harding makes one of the best saves you’ll see this week. Incredible.
2ND PERIOD END, 9:07 p.m.: The Wild were all over the Lightning in the 2nd period, but luckily Ben Bishop was there to bail them out. Bishop made 13 saves in the 2nd, many of them spectacular. Make no mistake — he’s the only reason the Lightning are ahead in this game.
Bishop’s counterpart, Josh Harding, has been exceptional as well. Harding made a brilliant save on Stamkos near the end of the period and has stopped all but one of the 17 shots he’s faced through two periods.
Total shots are 24-17 Wild, while the Lightning maintain an edge in hits, 12-8. The Bolts also managed to even up the faceoff contest, and going into the 3rd the Wild have an 18-16 advantage. The Lightning are also on the hook for 10 giveaways through two periods, compared to just three for the Wild.
There was no scoring in the 2nd period.
Get ready for the third.
9:26 p.m.: We’re underway in the 3rd. 1-0 Lightning.
9:29 p.m.: Top line gets lots of pressure on the Wild. St. Louis has the best shot, but they can’t converge.
9:33 p.m.: Minnesota takes a penalty. Neiderreiter to the box for hooking. T.B. looks much better this period, so this could be a big moment in the game.
9:37 p.m.: Matt Carle hits the post at the end of the penalty, but the Lightning fail to convert.
9:40 p.m.: After some great play by the Lightning, a costly turnover at the blue line results in a Minnesota breakaway. Radko Gudas made a great play to break it up, but then Neiderreiter finds Mikko Koivu out front and Koivu SCORES! 1-1 game. 8:26 remaining in regulation.
9:45 p.m.: Matt Cooke takes his first penalty of the season for the Wild. High-sticking. 7:19 remaining. Ryan Malone is cut badly on the play. 4:00 PP.
9:48 p.m.: Surprise, surprise, the Lightning take a penalty for tripping. It’s Killorn. 2:00 of 4-on-4 and then a 45 second PP for the Lightning.
9:50 p.m.: Steven Stamkos jumps behind the defense and Matt Carle hits him with a pass for a semi-breakaway. Stamkos with an incredible shot straight up off the cross-bar, Stamkos SCORES. Great pass by Carle. Stamkos from Carle and Gudas. 2-1 Bolts.
9:57 p.m.: Another tremendous game by Stamkos. He’s really stepping up the physical side of his game. Becoming a different, better player as he matures. Not just a scoring machine anymore. One minute remaining. Wild about to pull their goalie.
10:00 p.m.: After a great shift by the Lightning, particularly by Ondrej Palat, pinning the Wild in the corner of their zone, the puck slides back into the Lightning zone and Sami Salo clears it — but his clear winds up slowly hitting the center of the empty net. Salo SCORES! Moments later, the game ends. Lightning win 3-1. Some scuffling after the buzzer.
GAME END, 10:00 p.m.: The Lightning had some shaky moments, but they held on to win in what was ultimately a good performance against the Minnesota Wild. Goaltenders Josh Harding and Ben Bishop dueled throughout the night, each having multiple highlight reel moments. Bishop has still yet to surrender more than two goals in a game, and he gets the win in another fantastic effort. He has to get NHL-wide player of the week consideration.
You could feel Steven Stamkos take his game to a different level in the 3rd period. Stammer was flying in the 3rd, as he was for most of the game, and playing a physical game with a nose for both the puck and the net. He wound up scoring the winning goal, a beauty if I’ve ever seen one, showing off his blazing speed and then wristing a ridiculous shot over the shoulder of Josh Harding.
Other impressive performances were put in by Radko Gudas, Victor Hedman, and Matt Carle. Hedman is improving every game, and is getting closer to being the elite NHL defenseman we’re all hoping he can be. He had multiple chances to score tonight and was slickly picking his opportunities to jump into the play. Carle hit the post early in the 3rd and made a brilliant pass up-ice to Stamkos on the winning goal.
The Lightning outshot the Wild 13-2 in the 3rd period, and overtook them in the total tally as well, finishing with a 30-26 advantage. The Bolts out-hit the Wild 21-16, and wound up with a 28-24 edge in faceoffs. It was a great 3rd period that led to a great win.
Third Period Scoring: Koivu MIN (Niederreiter, Suter); Stamkos TB (Carle, Gudas); Salo, unassisted, EN.
The Lightning 3 Stars (according to me):
1st Star: Ben Bishop (25/26 saves)
2nd Star: Steven Stamkos (GWG)
3rd Star: Matt Carle (1A)
Honorable Mention: Victor Hedman, Alex Killorn.
The best Minnesota Wild player was unquestionably Josh Harding. The game could have gotten away from either team at multiple points. He and Bishop put on a show tonight.
The Lightning’s next game is at the Tampa Bay Times Forum against the Boston Bruins. Game-time is 7:00 p.m. EST. Check back in to Bolts by the Bay for updates.