The Tampa Bay Lightning kicked off the 2019 NHL Global Series in Stockholm, Sweden on the right foot with a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres.
The Tampa Bay Lightning embarked on a special journey this afternoon. After a few days off, the Lightning made their way to the Ericsson Globe in Stockholm, Sweden to kick off a back-to-back weekend series against the Buffalo Sabres as part of the 2019 NHL Global Series.
Before the puck dropped this afternoon, the Lightning received some rather good news. It was announced that Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman would be making his return to the Lightning lineup in his native land. Needless to say, the Lightning’s defense received a bit of a boost ahead of the international action.
The Sabres made the Lightning work in the opening minutes of the game. Kicking off the action with a couple of excellent scoring chances, the Sabres seemed to control the pace of the game. Thankfully, Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy would be able to keep the puck out of the back of the net.
It may have taken a couple of minutes for the Tampa Bay Lightning to find their groove, but once things started to click the tide started to shift. Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov would pick up his fifth goal of the season to draw first blood for the Bolts. The assists on the Kucherov goal would go to forward Brayden Point and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.
Whereas the Sabres controlled the pace early on in the period, the Lightning would definitely control the pace in the latter part of the period. There were many times Sabres netminder Linus Ullmark would have to bail his team out of a sticky situation.
There was a scary situation towards the end of the first period. Nikita Kucherov would lay a hit on Sabres forward Vladimir Sobotka. Sobotka would be completely upended and come crashing down hard on the ice. Sobotka would remain on the ice for a bit before being attended to by trainers.
The Czech forward would eventually make his way back to his feet. It would take a little bit of help from his teammates, but he would make his way off the ice. While there was no penalty called on the play, there is a chance the NHL Department of Player Safety will take a look at this one. The hit was a bit late and rather low. Not a good look for someone with Kucherov’s skill.
Speaking of penalties, the Lightning would pick up the first Power Play of the game as Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin would make his way to the sin bin for Interference. The Lightning would capitalize on the man advantage with an absolute bomb from Victor Hedman, tipped by Alex Killorn to give the Bolts a 2-0 lead.
Just a few minutes later, the Lightning would find themselves on the receiving end of a Penalty Kill as defenseman Erik Cernak would make his way to the box for Interference. The Buffalo Sabres would have a couple of good scoring chances in the early part of the Power Play like the shot from forward Jeff Skinner. Thankfully, Vasy would make the stop and preserve the lead for the Bolts.
At the end of the first period, the Lightning would lead the Sabres 2-0. The Bolts outshot the Sabres 13-9 through the first 20 minutes of play. Another place the Lightning would hold the advantage was the faceoff circle. The Bolts controlled the faceoff circle 52-48 at the end of the first period.
The Lightning would kick off the second period on the Penalty Kill as the final 56 seconds of the penalty to Cernak would play out. The good news here is the Lightning would kill the penalty and return to full strength unscathed. Considering how much the Lightning has struggled with special teams this season, it’s nice to see them hold strong.
It wouldn’t be long before the Lightning would find themselves with the man advantage once again. Sabres defenseman Jeff McCabe would get whistled for Roughing against Brayden Point. An interesting choice of penalty calls considering the penalty looked like a high stick, but ultimately, the result is the same.
Both Hedman and Killorn would put some pressure on Ullmark towards the end of the Power Play, but Ullmark would make the stop and keep the puck out of the back of the net for the Sabres. The Lightning would come up empty this time and the Sabres would kill the penalty.
As the period started to wind down, things started to pick up for the Sabres. At 15:43 in the second, forward Sam Reinhart would beat Vasilevskiy and get the Sabres on the board. Initially, the goal was waved off by officials due to what looked like a high stick shot, but after a closer look the call on the ice was overturned and a good goal would be called. The assists would go to Rasmus Ristolainen and Jake McCabe.
Despite the surge by the Sabres in the final minutes of the second period, the Lightning made a lot of solid strides. The Bolts controlled the pace of the game for much of the second period. This could be largely attributed to the Lightning’s offensive possession in the second frame.
When the buzzer would sound to end the second period of play, the Lightning would lead the Sabres 2-1. Once again, the Lightning would outshoot the Sabres by a rather large margin. The Bolts outshot the Sabres 13-5 in the second period while increasing their dominance in the Faceoff Circle to 67-33 through two.
It seems as if the Reinhart goal in the second lit a bit of a flame under the skates of the Buffalo Sabres. The first five minutes of the third period was all about the Sabres. The Sabres would register four shots on goal while stonewalling the Bolts at zero. The Bolts would need to make a move in order to stop the momentum of the Sabres.
Things would escalate a bit around the five-minute mark in the third period. The Lightning would push to get the puck in the offensive zone when the two teams would come to blows. When things would shake out, the Lightning would end up with the Power Play. Rasmus Ristolainen would be whistled for Interference while Ondrej Palat and Jeff Skinner would pick up matching penalties for Roughing.
The Lightning would finally pick up the pace and bring the fight to the Sabres at 7:45 in the third when Yanni Gourde picked up his third goal of the season to increase the Lightning’s lead to two. The assists on the Gourde goal would go to Pat Maroon and Cedric Paquette.
Just when things started to look up for the Lightning, the Bolts hit a bit of a roadblock. Yanni Gourde, who just picked up a goal for the Bolts would get his stick up off the faceoff and get whistled for High Sticking. This would give the Sabres an opportunity to get that goal back in quick form.
The good news here is the Lightning’s penalty kill would hold up once again and Andrei Vasilevskiy would keep the Sabres out of the back of the net. Now, if the Lightning could hold onto this lead for just over 10 more minutes, the Bolts would be in pretty good shape.
Regrettably for the Lightning, the Buffalo Sabres had no intention of going away quietly. Just past the halfway point in the third period, Sam Reinhart would pick up his second goal of the night to make this a one-goal game once again. The assists would go to Henri Jokiharju and Victor Olofsson.
The Lightning would get an opportunity to redeem themselves and take the fight to the Sabres once again. At 14:12 in the third, Jack Eichel would get whistled for Tripping against Erik Cernak, giving the Lightning another opportunity with the man advantage.
The Bolts would give it their all on the Power Play, but Linus Ullmark would continue to come up big for the Sabres. Thanks to this, the Sabres would kill the penalty and return to full strength.
The Sabres would continue to fight for another goal, pulling Linus Ullmark in favor of getting another attacker on the ice, but ultimately it wouldn’t be enough to topple the Lightning. The Tampa Bay Lightning would pick up the victory by the score of 3-2, bringing home a much-needed two points.
The Lightning dominated play in many different ways. The first of which would be shots on goal. The Lightning tied the Sabres with eight shots apiece in the third, but the Bolts would outshoot the Sabres 34-22 through 60 minutes of play. The Bolts would also dominate the Faceoff Circle, beating out the Sabres a whopping 69-31 through three.
As refreshing as picking up the two points in tonight’s contest must be for the Bolts, the team doesn’t have a whole lot of time to revel in their well-fought victory. In less than 24 hours, the Lightning will once again take the ice at the Ericsson Globe in Stockholm to close out the NHL Global Series with another matchup against the Buffalo Sabres.
The Lightning kicked off their back-to-back weekend series on the right foot. Now, the Lightning needs to build on these successes and bring home another two points tomorrow.
There are a few outstanding questions heading into tomorrow’s game. The most glaring of these questions is whether or not Player Safety plans to take a closer look at Nikita Kucherov’s hit on Vladimir Sobotka. If supplemental discipline is handed down, the Lightning will be missing one of their most valuable offensive assets.
In any case, the Lightning picks up the victory over the Sabres tonight. The Lightning is finally starting to look like the team everyone in the Bolts Nation has come to know and love. Now, if the Lightning can just keep their feet on the gas and not fall back into old habits, that’d be great.