The Tampa Bay Lightning fell 3-1 to the St. Louis Blues in what turned out to be a rather spirited contest.
An emotional welcome home salute from the Blues faithful for Lightning forward Pat Maroon from was just beginning of a fast-paced game as the Tampa Bay Lightning and the St. Louis Blues on Monday night. The Blues, who are the defending Stanley Cup Champions, are off to a strong start as they find themselves leading the Western Conference a quarter of the way through the season.
The game got off to a hot start as the Lightning and the Blues traded chances during the opening minutes. Most notably, Pat Maroon had several chances to give the Lightning a lead with a very memorable goal in his home town, just barely failing to convert.
After a lackluster power play performance by Tampa, the Blues began to take control of the game. Their strong forecheck proved difficult for the Lightning to handle as they forced multiple turnovers. However, strong play from Andrei Vasileskiy and several big-time blocks kept the game scoreless.
Led by great forechecking and heavy-hitting from the fourth line of Pat Maroon – Cedric Paquette – Yanni Gourde the Lightning were able to push back and generate multiple scoring chances of their own. After several high energy shifts, Anthony Cirelli opened the scoring off a great feed from Alex Killorn. Cirelli, who was left wide open in front of the Blues’ goal, snuck a shot through the five-hole of Blues’ goaltender Jordan Binnington. The goal was a team effort and came Hedman won a battle for the puck against the boards and fed it Killorn who worked the puck down the boards before passing it to a wide open Cirelli.
The lead would prove difficult to defend as the Blues responded with multiple scoring chances of their own. They would end the period on a power play after Victor Hedman was called for interference in front of his own net. However, the Lightning would end the period with their lead intact.
The start of the second would prove troublesome for the Lightning. Starting a man down the Lightning successfully killed the penalty, but then had to survive several minutes of intense pressure from the Blues who were keen to tie the game. However, after a few minutes, the Lightning was able to settle down the game and generate several scoring chances of their own.
The calm would not last for long as the Blues’ quickly began to tilt the ice back in their favor. The next few minutes would see the Lightning barely hang on to the lead as the Blues fired shot after shot on Vasy. Until David Perron tapped home a rebound on a shot by Colton Parayko was stopped by Vasilevskiy with 2:48 remaining in the period.
The situation would only worsen for the Lightning after star forward Nikita Kucherov would leave the game after hitting the ice hard on a blindside hit from Brayden Schenn. Kucherov immediately went down the tunnel to the locker room and looked to be in considerable pain.
The Lightning would go a man down in the ensuing scrum after Eric Cernak took an extra roughing minor for instigating an altercation with Brayden Schenn in response to his hit on Kucherov. However, the Lightning was able to successfully kill off the penalty with the help of several great saves from Andrei Vasilevskiy, who played well in the loss. The period would end in a 1-1 tie with the Lightning being outshot 18-4.
If Tampa Bay fans want one positive note to take away from this game, it should be that the play of Vasilevksiy who stopped 31 of 33 shots. Vasilevskiy appeared back on track after a shaky start to the season that had some fans questioning if he could sustain his elite level of play after winning his first Vezina trophy last season.
To the dismay of the Lightning fans everywhere, the third period would provide more of the same. Despite a back and forth start to the period, the Blues would gain the upper hand and dominate the ice for the better part of the first 10 minutes.
Oskar Sundqvist would give the Blues their first lead of the game at 13:44 with a beautiful wrist shot that beat Vasilevskiy over the right shoulder. The Lightning would have more success generating offense as the Blues lifted their forecheck to focus on maintaining the lead.
Still being led by the fourth line, the Lightning pushed for the final ten minutes of the game to tie the game. With 8:40 left in the game, Pat Maroon was once again robbed by Jordan Binnington as he came close to tying the game with a backhanded attempt from right on the doorstep. The Lightning would not come any closer to tying the game for the rest of the night.
After a few unsuccessful shifts, the Blues were able to gain the upper hand and sustained offensive pressure for a few minutes until the Lightning were able to regain control of the puck with just over 5 minutes to play.
Despite sustained offensive zone pressure, the Bolts were unable to have much success offensively. They registered just one shot in the final 5 minutes. A wrist shot from Tyler Johnson that was easily handled by Binnington. The Blues would put the game out of reach when Jaden Schwartz converted an empty-net goal after a turn over on the blue line by Victor Hedman.
The Lightning has now dropped two games in a row and appears to be back in their early-season funk. This loss stings a little more after the Lightning went on a 3 game winning streak, which included a 9-3 romping of the New York Rangers, and gave Tampa Bays fans hope of a return to form from last season.
The Bolts continue to be heavily outshot by their opponents. Tonight it was a 34-18 advantage for the Blues. Who dominated most of the second and third periods. If not for Vasilevskiy’s great play, the score could have been more lopsided. The problem extends from the top down as Stamkos, Point, and Kucherov (albeit in only 11 minutes of play) all failed to record a shot on goal all night.
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The trio, who combined for 318 points last season only has 50 points combined this season. On pace for nearly 100 fewer points than they recorded last season. However, they will have another chance to turn the corner as the Lightning take the ice in Chicago against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night.