The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 in the shootout in what would be their 7th overtime game in the last eight games.
The Tampa Bay Lightning was definitely heading into this afternoon’s game with momentum on their side. The Lightning ran absolute roughshod over the New York Rangers on Thursday night, breaking their overtime curse with a 5-3 victory.
Adding to the momentum the Lightning came into today’s game with, fans were surprised to learn defenseman Ryan McDonagh would finally be making his debut in a Lightning jersey.
Ironically enough, the newest No. 27 made his debut on the day the old No. 27, Jonathan Drouin, comes to town. Adding to the irony here, McDonagh’s first shift was 27 seconds long. This is either a blessing or a dark, dark omen. We shall see.
Unfortunately, despite all the excitement coming into today’s battle against the Canadiens, the Lightning seemed far less interested in participating in today’s battle with their Atlantic Division rivals, the Montreal Canadiens than they did on Thursday night against the Rangers.
Just 2:45 seconds into the first period, the Lightning would find themselves on the Penalty Kill as forward Adam Erne was sent to the sin bin for Hooking. As the penalty was about to come to an end, the Canadiens would capitalize with a goal from forward Artturi Lehkonen.
As the period progressed, it seemed as if the Lightning seemed to wake up a little bit. There is a good possibility this one could be chalked up to the time of the game. Matinee games always seem to be an odd one for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Tampa Bay Lightning
At 12:32, the Lightning would get their first crack at the Power Play as Canadiens forward Jacob de la Rose was sent to the penalty box for two minutes for Tripping Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. Thankfully, the Lightning would capitalize on their opportunity with a goal from Tyler Johnson.
Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev would put a solid shot on the net, which would be turned away by Habs goaltender Antti Niemi. J.T. Miller, who was placed in front of the net, would get the puck out to Yanni Gourde before being dumped behind the net. Gourde would send the puck back to Sergachev, who was centered at the blueline. Sergachev would deliver a brilliant setup to Johnson, who fired the puck home.
The Bolts would finish off the first period on the Power Play as de la Rose was once again sent to the sin bin; this time for High Sticking defenseman Ryan McDonagh. When the buzzer would sound, the Lightning would have 1:37 remaining on the penalty to de la Rose, which would carry over into the second period.
The Lightning would have a few good looks during the Power Play, but they found themselves unable to capitalize on the opportunity presented to them. Unfortunately for the Lightning, not long after the Habs returned to full strength, they would retake the lead with a goal from Alex Galchenyuk.
One of the things killing the Lightning up until this point in the game was their turnovers. There were far too many passes which would end up in the hands of the Canadiens and led to a number of scoring chances for the Habs. This is something the Lightning would have to rectify if they wanted to get back on top of this game.
It was plain to see the players were frustrated with their play up to this point in the game. Even players like Nikita Kucherov were making mistakes completely out of character for them. Kucherov lost control of the puck in front of the Lightning net which almost converted into a scoring chance for the Habs.
Thankfully, the Lightning doesn’t have another one of these matinees on the schedule for the remainder of the regular season. There is one off-time game, which is on March 18 as the Lightning take on the Edmonton Oilers at 5:00 p.m., but nothing like these 1:00 p.m. games.
When the buzzer sounded to end the second period, the Canadiens would gain some ground as they outshot the Lightning 12-10 for a two period total of 18-21 in favor of the Bolts. The second was not the greatest period for the Lightning. If they had any hopes of getting back in the game, they would have to hit the ice with a renewed fire in the third period.
The opening minutes of the third period were interesting for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Cedric Paquette delivered a hard check to Brendan Gallagher along the boards. Apparently, Habs defenseman Jordie Benn was having none of it and immediately went after Paquette. Both players would spend the next five minutes in the sin bin for Fighting.
This is the Cedric Paquette fans have missed seeing as of late. Paquette is skilled at making the hard checks and disrupting plays. He may not be a scoring dynamo, but if he can put the puck in the hands of the Bolts, he can create scoring chances.
Unfortunately, this is not the last time the Lightning would spend time in the sin bin. J.T. Miller would take a bad penalty near the halfway point in the period where he would be whistled for Boarding against Habs forward Charles Hudon.
This has been a tough afternoon for Hudon as he seemed to be injured after a nasty collision with the boards. Thankfully, he was not seriously injured and was able to return to the ice.
Just past the halfway point in the third, the Lightning was finally able to get back in the game. Nikita Kucherov made a solid shot on goal, but it was turned away by Niemi. After a battle for the puck behind the net, Kucherov was able to position himself in front of the net. Stamkos fired the puck towards Kucherov who pulled back his stick and sent the puck flying past Niemi and into the back of the net to tie things up for the Bolts.
The Lightning would have a couple of good scoring chances towards the end of the period, but it seems as if old habits die hard. After a one-game reprieve, the Tampa Bay Lightning was once again headed to an Overtime Game.
While one guaranteed point is better than walking away with zero points, the Lightning had plenty of opportunities to seal the deal in regulation. If the Lightning is going to have a deep run in the postseason like everyone hopes, winning games in regulation is going to have to become the norm once again.
Both the Lightning and the Canadiens had some good looks in the overtime period, but neither Niemi nor Domingue were giving anything away. As the buzzer sounded, the game would be headed to a shootout.
First up for the Lightning was Mikhail Sergachev. Unfortunately, Sergy would lose control of the puck and miss the back of the net. Up first for the Montreal Canadiens was Paul Byron. Thankfully, Louis Domingue would make the save.
As usual, Brayden Point was up second for the Tampa Bay Lightning and as is par for the course, Point scored! Next up for the Canadiens would be Brendan Gallagher. Gallagher definitely would’ve liked to exact a little revenge on the Bolts with a shootout goal, but once again, Domingue came up with the save.
The third shooter for the Lightning was none other than Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. Unfortunately, Niemi would make the save on Stammer. Much to the chagrin of Lightning fans, former Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin would beat Domingue and send the shootout to a fourth round.
This time, it was Kucherov who would take the ice. Much like he has done all season long, Kucherov hit the back of the net to put the advantage back in the court of the Tampa Bay Lightning. As the Bolts Nation sat on the edge of their seats, Domingue would make the save on Artturi Lehkonen and seal the deal for the Bolts.
There were many ups and downs in today’s matinee, but when all was said and done the Lightning came away with the victory. It’s a good thing, as well. The Boston Bruins, who are six points behind the Lightning in the Atlantic Division, also won today defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 7-4 at the TD Garden in Boston
The Tampa Bay Lightning has officially broken the 100 point threshold. According to Lightning Beat Writer Bryan Burns, this is the 5th time in franchise history the Lightning has accomplished this feat.
Now, the Lightning has two days off before they get down to business once again on Tuesday night when they take on the Ottawa Senators. Another Divisional opponent means the Lightning will have to be on their game unless they want to risk a shift in the standings heading into the home stretch.
It will be interesting to see how to Lightning goaltender situation plays out over the coming days. Peter Budaj’s conditioning stint with the Syracuse Crunch comes to an end tomorrow evening after the Crunch take on the Rochester Americans. The question becomes, which goalie should get the nod on Tuesday against the Sens?
The Bolts have a tough schedule ahead over the course of the remaining games in the homestand. If the Lightning plays the way they did in the first and second periods tonight on Saturday night against the Bruins, they are going to find themselves in a rather precarious position.
Here’s hoping the two days off and the non-matinee game on Tuesday will afford the Lightning the time they need to rest, recoup, and refocus their efforts. The Lightning definitely deserves credit for continually getting the job done, but they are going to have to kick things up a notch as the postseason looms in the distance.