The Tampa Bay Lightning overcame quite a few obstacles to end their road trip on a high note and bring home a much-needed two points against the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Tampa Bay Lightning kicked off their two-game road trip on Tuesday night with a 3-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues. Tonight, the Lightning made their way to the United Center to finish things off against captain Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks.
It took a little bit for the Lightning to find their groove and really get going tonight, but once they did, it was full steam ahead. At 15:00 in the first period, the Lightning would find themselves on the Power Play as Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith made his way to the sin bin for Interference against Brayden Point.
The Bolts would make the most of their opportunity as Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev would pick up his first goal of the season to give the Bolts the early lead. The assists on the Sergachev goal would go to forwards Yanni Gourde and Pat Maroon.
The Lightning would end the first period of play on the Penalty Kill as defenseman Erik Cernak would get called to the box for two minutes for Interference. This means the Lightning would start the second period on the Penalty Kill, at least for the first minute and 15 seconds.
The Bolts and Blackhawks were pretty evenly matched in terms of Shots on Goal in the first period. The Lightning just edged out the Blackhawks 14-12 in the first 20 minutes of play. One place the Lightning would dominate is the Faceoff Circle. The Bolts would go 65-35 in the Faceoff Circle in the first 20 minutes.
It was about the halfway point in the second period when Lightning fans would start to show some serious concern. Lightning captain Steven Stamkos had not been seen on the ice since the end of the first period. The captain was on the bench, but hadn’t been utilized in any capacity.
Notably, Stamkos did miss the morning skate before Tuesday’s game against the St. Louis Blues. There has been no official word regarding any sort of injury, but there’s definitely something going on here.
Around the 15-minute mark in the second period, Lightning forward Anthony Cirelli would find himself with a couple of quality scoring chances, but he would ultimately be turned away by Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford. Cirelli has scored goals in each of the last two games he’s played.
Much like the first period of play, the Lightning would spend much of the final minutes of the second period on the Penalty Kill. This one can be attributed to Jan Rutta, who was sent to the box for two minutes for Slashing. The good news is, the Lightning was able to kill the penalty and return to full strength.
When the buzzer would sound to end the second period of play, the Lightning would continue to lead the Blackhawks 1-0. Once again, the Lightning would ever-so-slightly edge out the Hawks in terms of Shots on Goal. The Lightning would outshoot the Blackhawks 10-8 in the second for a two-period total of 24-20.
In a stark contrast to the first period, the Lightning and Blackhawks would be all tied up in the Faceoff Circle. As any Lightning fan knows, winning battles in the Faceoff Circle is essential to the success of any team. The Lightning would need to tighten up a bit in the third if they wanted to keep momentum on their side.
The opening minutes of the third period would certainly be interesting. Just under three minutes into the period and Blackhawks forward David Kampf would drill Lightning forward Mathieu Joseph into the boards from behind. Needless to say, the Lightning would take exception to this and went right after Kampf.
The Lightning would find themselves with another opportunity with the man advantage as Kampf was sent to the sin bin for two minutes for Boarding. Regrettably, the Lightning would find themselves unable to capitalize on their opportunity and the Blackhawks would return to full strength unscathed.
The Tampa Bay Lightning found themselves in a bit of trouble around the halfway point in the third period. A turnover in the defensive zone made Lightning netminder Curtis McElhinney work extra hard to keep the puck out of the net. McElhinney’s luck would hold, but not for long.
At 8:27 in the third, the Blackhawks would tie things up with a goal from defenseman Brent Seabrook. For Seabrook, this was his third goal of the season. The assists would go to Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews.
The good news here is the Lightning was exactly ready to allow something like this to go unanswered. Just over a minute after the Seabrook goal, the Lightning would respond with a goal from forward Anthony Cirelli. The assists on the goal would go to defenseman Victor Hedman and forward Alex Killorn. This would be the third-straight game in which Cirelli would register a goal.
Surprisingly, the Lightning wasn’t done there. A little under three minutes after the goal from Cirelli, the Bolts would extend their lead to two with a goal from Brayden Point. For Pointer, this was his fifth goal of the season. The lone assist on Point’s goal would go to forward Ondrej Palat.
The Blackhawks may have been down, but they were far from out at this point. The Hawks would once again make this a one-goal game with a goal from Dylan Strome. The Hawks were all in at this point, pulling Corey Crawford in an effort to get an extra skater on the ice.
Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, this move would turn out to bite them in the end. After some really strong puck work from Anthony Cirelli, Cedric Paquette would hit the empty net to pick up his second goal of the season. This would force Crawford back between the pipes for the Blackhawks.
When the final buzzer would sound, the Lightning would finish off their road trip on the right foot by bringing home a much-needed two points in a 4-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. The Lightning played what could be easily argued as one of their best games of the season, and all without Nikita Kucherov and (at least for two periods) without Steven Stamkos.
Nikita Kucherov was forced to miss tonight’s game after taking a massive hit from Brayden Schenn in the second period against the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night. Steven Stamkos did play in the first period, but was very notably missed for the remainder of the game. Many people questioned what exactly was going on here, as Stammer remained on the bench for the final two periods, despite not taking a single shift.
Curtis McElhinney had a tremendous outing tonight, stopping 32 of 34 shots on goal, giving him a Save Percentage of .941. This was the veteran netminder’s sixth start of the season, and after picking up his third-straight victory tonight, holds a 3-1-2 record.
After tonight’s victory over the Blackhawks, the Lightning will make their way home to take on the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night. This will be the first of three games the Lightning will play at home. After the Ducks, the Bolts will take on the Buffalo Sabres and a rematch with the St. Louis Blues, respectively.
Following the game, Tampa Bay Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper said Steven Stamkos suffered a lower-body injury. According to Cooper, Stamkos had the option to leave the game but chose to remain on the bench to cheer on his teammates. When asked if this had anything to do with Stamkos missing the morning skate on Tuesday, Cooper made it clear the two were unrelated and something happened in the first period.
Regrettably, Cooper would not elaborate beyond that. It is unclear at this point whether or not Steven Stamkos will miss any time due to this injury. Hopefully, more information will come to light once the team makes their way home and the team can get a clear idea what is really going on.
All in all, the Lightning played a solid game and were rewarded in the end. The win was all that much sweeter considering the team did it without the team’s two leading point scorers. Here’s hoping the Lightning will get either Kucherov or Stamkos, or both, back in the lineup Saturday night against the Ducks.