The Tampa Bay Lightning took fans on a rollercoaster ride on Thursday night as they defeated the Winnipeg Jets in an intense battle ending with a shootout.
The Tampa Bay Lightning has been dealing with a lot of issues both on and off the ice as of late. Unfortunately, some of those issues seem to be spilling out onto the ice. This was put on full display on Thursday night as the Tampa Bay Lightning opened the doors to the Amalie Arena in Tampa to host defenseman Dustin Byfuglien and the Winnipeg Jets.
When the puck dropped to start the first period, the Winnipeg Jets seemed to be dominating the Tampa Bay Lightning on the ice. They were spending a lot of time in the Lightning’s defensive zone and making shots the net while the Lightning seemed to chase their tails and struggle to keep the Jets out of the back of the net. This continued for much of the period.
As the time continued to tick off the clock and the Lightning got closer and closer to the five minute mark, all of a sudden things seemed to kick into high gear and the Tampa Bay Lightning wrestled complete control of the game from the Jets. Everything started at 15:38 in the first period when Tampa Bay Lightning right wing J.T. Brown wrestled control of the puck in the neutral zone.
J.T. Brown would take the puck into the offensive zone with many of his teammates in tow. Brown would pass the puck off to Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman. Hedman hesitated for just a moment and the pulled back his stick and sent the puck flying into the corner of the net to give the Tampa Bay Lightning the early lead.
Just when you think things couldn’t possibly get even more exciting, well…they did. Just about two minutes after the Hedman goal, Winnipeg Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec would play the puck behind the net. When his own defenseman crosses behind him, he moves the puck to the other side which allows Lightning center Alex Killorn to get control of the puck behind the net and send it our front of Jonathan Marchessault.
Before Pavelec had any chance of getting back into the crease and getting set up to make a stop, Jonathan Marchessault sent the puck flying into the back of the net for his seventh goal of the season. This would give the Tampa Bay Lightning a two goal lead over their Western Conference opponents.
The Tampa Bay Lightning weren’t quite done making Pavelec work for his money just yet. Almost two minutes after the goal from Marchessault, the Tampa Bay Lightning would be on the assault once again. Lightning defenseman Andrej Sustr would take a shot from the blue line, which would be deflected out in front. The puck would come off the stick of Ryan Callahan and back in front of the net where a waiting Steven Stamkos would snipe the puck into the back of the net and give the Lightning a now three goal lead over the Jets.
At this point in the game, you can imagine just how much the Winnipeg Jets must have been fuming inside. You dominate a team for a majority of the period and then out of nowhere you end up with a three-goal deficit. This is a frustrating situation, to say the least. Well…at least if you’re a Jets fan, that is.
Unfortunately for both teams, the second period is when things started to get really shaky. At 13:45, the Jets would finally make their way onto the scoreboard with a goal from Tyler Myers. Myers would originally take control of the puck in their own zone, but between him and right wing Anthony Peluso they were able to take the puck through the neutral zone and into the Lightning’s zone.
Peluso passes the puck back to Myers, who was virtually uncovered and had more than adequate space to make his move. As you can imagine, Myers drew back his stick and got his team on the board for the first time that night.
It was just under four minutes when things would escalate from bad to worse between these two teams. Winnipeg Jets center Brian Little was playing the puck through the neutral zone with his head down at almost waist level. Without even knowing what happened, Little came barreling into Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman who reacted by pushing Little away with his forearm trying to deflect some of the incoming brunt.
Unfortunately, Stralman caught Little in an awkward position and Little went tumbling to the ice in quite a bit of distress. As Little remained down on the ice, his teammate Blake Wheeler immediately went after Stralman. The two battled on the ice until Stralman was able to take down Wheeler and the referees decided it was finally time to break up the chaos.
Winnipeg Jets Head Coach Paul Maurice was visibly angry when there was no call made by the officials against Anton Stralman. Unfortunately, after reviewing the play a number of times, there was really nothing to call there with the exception of the brawl between Stralman and Wheeler. Unsurprisingly, Maurice had some rather choice words for the referees.
When the two teams made their way back onto the ice for the third period of play, Maurice was not quite done mouthing off to the referees. Eventually, the refs had enough of it and they decided it was time for Maurice to hit the showers. Unfortunately for the Lightning, Paul Maurice’s grand plan worked spectacularly. After their coach was ejected from the game, the Jets played with much more intensity and really took control of the game.
The period would start with a beautiful goal from Alex Killorn just two minutes into the period. This would give the Tampa Bay Lightning back the three-goal lead they had in the first period. Unfortunately, this lead would soon dwindle away to nothing. It almost seemed as if the defense had given up and called it a night. The same thing could be said for the Lightning’s offense.
Unfortunately, the real deal breaker for the Lightning in this battle was their special teams. Two of the next three goals from the Winnipeg Jets would come while the Power Play or Penalty Kill squad was on the ice. At 12:44 in the third period, the Jets had officially tied the game at four goals apiece with a goal from Jets captain Andrew Ladd. This was Ladd’s second goal of the night, having scored the shorthanded goal minutes earlier.
Once again, the Winnipeg Jets would capitalize on their opportunity with the man advantage. This time, it would be Jets center Mathieu Perreault who would put the puck past Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy with the assist of Blake Wheeler and Dustin Byfuglien.
At this point, the Tampa Bay Lightning were out of time and if they had any hope at all of bringing home the two points in tonight’s encounter they needed to make a move, and it had to be right now. Thankfully, this is exactly what the Tampa Bay Lightning did.
It was Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn who would pass the puck across the ice in the neutral zone. Jets center Alex Burmistrov would get a piece of the puck, but wouldn’t be able to control it. It was eventually Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov who would take control of the puck and put it in the back of the net, tying things up for the Tampa Bay Lightning with just 4:56 left in the period.
After the Winnipeg Jets were able to outshoot the Tampa Bay Lightning 37-24, this game would be headed to overtime. There were plenty of moments in the overtime period when the Winnipeg Jets could have put an end to this game and went on their merry way with the two points, but Andrei Vasilevskiy came up with some amazing saves and was able to hold off the onslaught of the Jets and take this game to a shootout.
Tampa Bay Lightning alternate captain Ryan Callahan would be the first to sink the puck in the back of the net during the shootout, but the very next round the Jets would come back with a goal of their own. The shootout would extend to the fifth round where Nikolaj Ehlers would have one final attempt to bring home the win for the Jets. Unfortunately for the Jets, it would be Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos who would seal the deal, allowing the Tampa Bay Lightning to steal yet another game away from the Winnipeg Jets.
While we will assert that this was one of the most exciting and exhausting finishes to a game we have seen in quite some time, the game was far from well-played by the Tampa Bay Lightning. They started out with a three-goal lead that simply dissipated into nothing over the course of the next 40 minutes of hockey. The specialty teams needs more than their fair share of work, and the defensive miscues will definitely need discussion.
The Tampa Bay Lightning don’t have a lot of time to get their affairs in order before they take on another large obstacle in their way to the postseason. On Saturday afternoon, the Tampa Bay Lightning will be headed to the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh to take on Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Then, on Sunday the Lightning will finish off their back-to-back weekend series against the Carolina Hurricanes.
What do you think the Tampa Bay Lightning need to focus on in order to be successful this weekend against the Penguins and the Hurricanes? What do you think will be the catalyst to a Lightning victory? Let us know what you think in the comments below.