Tampa Bay Lightning comes up big over Flyers in their 5th-straight OT game

(Photo by Mark LoMoglio/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by Mark LoMoglio/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Tampa Bay Lightning shut down the Philadelphia Flyers in the shootout in what would be their fifth-straight game with extra time.

The Tampa Bay Lightning embarked on a long and hard journey this afternoon at the Amalie Arena. The Lightning opened up an eight-game homestand against one of the hardest-hitting teams in the National Hockey League, the Broad Street Bullies themselves, the Philadelphia Flyers.

Unfortunately, things didn’t exactly get off to the start the Lightning and their fans would’ve hoped for. At 6:22 in the period, Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy would be whistled for Tripping as Flyers forward Taylor Leier was sent tumbling to the ground. The penalty would be served by defenseman Mikhail Sergachev.

This would open the door for Flyers forward Nolan Patrick to catch Vasy unawares on the stick side and open up the scoring. There aren’t many moments where Vasilevskiy is caught like this. Hopefully, the Lightning doesn’t give up too many opportunities throughout the rest of the game and put Vasy in this position again.

Interestingly enough, it wouldn’t be long before Lightning would strike and the Bolts would tie things up. At 7:54 in the period, the Flyers would find themselves on the Penalty Kill as captain Claude Giroux would be sent to the sin bin for Slashing against Yanni Gourde.

The Lightning would do a beautiful job of gaining control of the puck and bringing it into the zone. From there, it was as simple as a game of tic-tac-toe. Nikita Kucherov would spin as he passed the puck off to Victor Hedman, who was waiting patiently at near blueline. Hedman would immediately send the puck towards Steven Stamkos, who would fire off a one-timer, beating Mrazek on the glove side to tie things up for the Bolts.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay Lightning /

Tampa Bay Lightning

Stamkos’ goal really seemed to energize the Lightning. They were playing more aggressively and really bearing down on the Flyers defensively. Regrettably, an errant pass from Braydon Coburn through the middle meant for Andrej Sustr would be intercepted and put on goal by Jakub Voracek. Vasy would make the stop on the original attempt, but Voracek would hit the five-hole on the rebound to regain the lead for the Flyers.

Just as Lightning fans thought things couldn’t possibly get any more frustrating, the Flyers add a little insult to injury. Flyers defenseman Robert Hagg is essentially allowed to walk into the zone, he splits the coverage to beat Vasilevskiy and extend the Flyers lead to two.

The tension between these two teams was almost palpable at this point. Seconds after the Hagg goal, the spark seemed to ignite and Lightning fans had their first real fight on their hands. Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald took offense to a hit along the boards and decided to take a shot at Yanni Gourde.

Gourde wasted no time in taking MacDonald down and absolutely hammering him. Eventually, the two would be separated by the referees and each would head to the penalty box with five minutes for Fighting. Eventually, the rest of the NHL is going to come to the conclusion Yanni Gourde is not the player to step to.

Both teams would start off the second period with a man in the box as Gourde and MacDonald served the final moments of their Fighting majors. Fortunately, being a man down seemed to have no effect on the Lightning. The Bolts came out for the second period much more energized and focused than they did in the first.

In the opening moments of the second period, the Lightning would pick up a goal that would give Bolts fans quite the chuckle. Victor Hedman would fire the puck towards the net from the side of the net. Funny enough, the puck would deflect off former Lightning forward Valtteri Filppula and beat Mrazek to bring this back to a one-goal game.

This is one of those classic “sorry, not sorry” moments. We still have a spot in our hearts for Filppula; just not when he plays against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and especially not in our house.

The next goal would definitely be a long time coming. Hedman would find himself in much the same position he was in when he scored the last Lightning goal. This time, he would pass the puck across the ice in front of the net. The puck would deflect off the boards and head straight for Lightning defenseman Dan Girardi.

Girardi wasted no time at all in pulling back his stick and firing off a slap shot, which would fly past Mrazek and into the back of the net, tying the game at three goals apiece. Girardi has been working so hard as of late. It’s nice to see his persistence is finally paying off in the form of a goal.

Unfortunately for the Lightning, the Flyers weren’t quite prepared to hand over control of the game to the Bolts just yet. Nikita Kucherov was whistled for a delayed penalty behind the play. There is good news and bad news here. The good news is, Kucherov didn’t have to make his way to the sin bin. The bad news is, it’s because Jori Lehtera was able to beat Vasy and retake the lead for the Flyers.

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The Flyers would rub a little salt in the wound of the Lightning in the early moments of the third period. As Vasilevskiy was crowded in front of the net, Ivan Provorov is able to extend the Flyers lead over the Bolts to two goals. The Lightning would have a lot of work in front of them if they wanted to retake control of this game.

Suddenly, the tide made an unexpected change. The Tampa Bay Lightning fans have come to know and love this season made an appearance. The Bolts would pick up three unanswered goals The first of these goals would come at the hands of one of the Lightning’s newest acquisitions, J.T. Miller.

Mrazek makes the initial save on the shot by Gourde, but he isn’t able to do anything about the rebound shot by Miller. This would be Miller’s first goal as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The second of the Lightning’s three goals would be the product of your typical Nikita Kucherov/Steven Stamkos magic-making plays. Alex Killorn makes a long pass up the ice to Nikita Kucherov. Kucherov carries the puck into the zone. Once in position, he hands the puck off to Stammer, who fires off a one-timer to tie things up once again for the Bolts.

The third goal truly was a thing of beauty. The Lightning sped into the zone with a renewed sense of passion. Steven Stamkos had possession of the puck in what could have been a decent scoring position. Instead of taking the shot himself, he passed the puck back to Victor Hedman, who wasted no time in firing on the net.

Alex Killorn had to make quite the leap to get out of the way of the puck, but when all was said and done, the puck hit the back of the net and took the lead for the first time in this strenuous hockey game. The mood was elation, but there was still plenty of hockey left to play before the Bolts could bring home the two points.

With less than three minutes left in the game, the Flyers would once again tie the game with a goal from captain Claude Giroux. The goal was much more of a desperation move than a skilled shot, but it definitely got the job done, much to the chagrin of Lightning fans.

6. 68. Final. 7. 23

As the final seconds ticked off the clock, it became abundantly clear the Tampa Bay Lightning would be headed to their fifth-straight overtime period. It has definitely been a stressful couple of weeks for Lightning fans, and as the buzzer sounded, today would be no different.

The Lightning would, once again, find themselves in a precarious position during the extra frame. Nikita Kucherov would get whistled for Hooking just past the minute-and-a-half mark in the overtime period. This would mean the Lightning would have to spend over half of the remaining time on the Penalty Kill.

Thanks to some incredible saves from Andrei Vasilevskiy, the Lightning would not only kill off the penalty, but they would make it through the remainder of the overtime period. This means the Lightning would be headed to another heart-pounding shootout.

Up first for the Lightning would be Cory Conacher. Conacher had a good approach, but Mrazek was able to make the stop. Thankfully, Vasy would return the favor against Flyers forward Sean Couturier.

This brings us to the most dependable part of a Lightning shootout. If there is anything Lightning fans have learned recently it’s Brayden Point shoots second in the shootout. Oh, and he usually scores. Today was no different. Point would beat Mrazek to give the Bolts the upper hand.

Next up for the Flyers would be Nolan Patrick. Thankfully, Vasilevskiy would make the save and give the Lightning one more round to shut down the Broad Street Bullies. The aforementioned shutdown would come at the hands of Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. Stamkos would put the puck past Mrazek and earn the second point for the Bolts.

Today’s matinee was one of the highest scoring games the Lightning has been involved in as of late. The six goals scored by the Flyers did absolutely no favors to Andrei Vasilevskiy’s Save Percentage and Goals Allowed Average. With 37 saves on 43 shots on goal, Vasy’s Save Percentage was a dismal .860.

This is not to say Vasy is responsible for the Lightning’s early deficit. In all honesty, if it wasn’t for Vasy’s skill between the pipes, the Lightning more than likely would’ve found themselves in a much worse position early in the game. Vasy came up big when it mattered, and at the end of the day, the Lightning brought home the two points.

One player in particular who had a spectacular night is Steven Stamkos. Stamkos would come up with two goals and three assists in today’s battle with the Flyers for a total of five points. Stamkos is currently in second place on the team in all manners scoring with 27 goals and 50 assists for a total of 77 points.

If the Lightning is going to continue to be successful in the final stretch of the season, they are simply going to have to be more consistent and not allow themselves to have such sluggish starts. Over the last couple of games, the Bolts have been able to battle back and go the distance, but if they continue the kind of play they exhibited in the first period, their luck is eventually going to run out.

For now, the Lightning continues to hold on to their spot atop the Atlantic Division and the National Hockey League. They’ll have to remain vigilant, though. The Nashville Predators are only three points away from the top spot in the league with 91 points.

The Bolts have a lot of divisional opponents on the schedule in the coming days. Over the course of the next seven games, all of which will take place at home, the Lightning will face off with five Atlantic Division opponents; the Florida Panthers (Mar. 6), Montreal Canadiens (Mar. 10), Ottawa Senators (Mar. 13), Boston Bruins (Mar. 17), and the Toronto Maple Leafs (Mar. 20).

These are going to be games where the Lightning will need to put their absolute best skate forward. When a team enters the final stretch of the season, the last thing you want to do is give up points to divisional opponents. Hopefully, having the next two days off will allow them to rest, recuperate, and refocus their efforts.

On Tuesday night, the Lightning will once again open the doors to the Amalie Arena to take on their in-state rivals, the Florida Panthers. The Panthers have one more obstacle to overcome before heading north to Amalie. The Panthers are set to take on the Flyers tomorrow night at the BB&T Center in Sunrise.

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There’s never a dull moment when these two in-state rivals come together in the center of the ice. Here’s hoping the Lightning get off to a better start against the Panthers than they did today against the Flyers. The puck is scheduled to drop at 7:30 p.m.