After losing captain Steven Stamkos during Thursday night’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Tampa Bay Lightning saw their other stars step up in Saturday’s 6-2 win in Tampa.
As I was driving to Amalie Arena before the game I said there was one thing the Tampa Bay Lightning desperately needed: (1) Their other stars in Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Andrei Vasilevskiy had to step up. (2) The Lightning needed their star power back after losing their captain Steven Stamkos in Thursday’s 4-2 win against Chicago.
Before yesterday’s game, Point only had 3 points in all of November. For this reason, the Lightning’s top center was due for a big game, and that he had. He notched two goals to match Nikita Kucherov’s goal and assist. To add a cherry on top, Saturday’s win added Andrei Vasilevskiy into the record books as he became the Lightning’s all-time win leader, passing Ben Bishop.
Before the game, it was reported by Lightning head coach Jon Cooper that the team’s captain and point leader, Steven Stamkos was out. In better news, after missing one game, Nikita Kucherov was on the ice for morning skate. Stamkos’ absence also made way for forward Cory Conacher to stay in the lineup for another game, tacking on 12:01 minutes worth of ice time.
The Anaheim Ducks quickly jumped out of the gate with a 11-5 shot advantage in the first period . However, the Lightning did have good chances. At the 15:26 mark of the first period, Brayden Point took an excellent shot all alone in the middle of the slot.
The play started with a messy pass by Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm that was intercepted by Nikita Kucherov, who then dished a quick pass that set up the great scoring chance for Point. Even though it didn’t go in, it was a confidence boost for Point and Kucherov, who started off the game flying all around the ice.
Finally though, with 3:52 left in the first, Cory Conacher stayed onside to control an errant puck that was loose in the offensive zone. Conacher then passed it to Jan Rutta who put a hard, high shot on net that Ducks goalie Ryan Miller batted down with his blocker. Unfortunately for Miller, the puck immediately went off of Lightning center Brayden Point’s back, who then quickly cleaned up the loose puck to put the Lightning up ahead 1-0.
This was short-lived though for the Lightning, who quickly gave up a shorthanded goal with 2:00 left in the first. The shorthanded goal was an unfortunate bounce from a Nikita Kucherov backwards pass. Kucherov’s pass bounced off a referee’s skate and directly to Derek Grant who scored on a shot top-shelf which would even the score at 1-1 to close out the first period.
In the second period the Lightning got off to a hot start thanks to a Nikita Kucherov goal at the 5:28 mark. The goal wouldn’t be possible without the excellent skating and retrieval skills of Anthony Cirelli.
Next, the Ducks responded with a goal from Rickard Rakell with 12:03 left in the second. This came right as time expired on a Ducks power play that the Lightning did an excellent job killing off. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 6 shots and the Lightning penalty kill unit blocked two more, but the Ducks offensive pressure was too much.
However, with their next Power Play opportunity, the Lightning showed off some of their own offensive prowess. Vasilevskiy notched himself an assist, adding to his special night, as he passed a puck behind the net to Victor Hedman. Hedman kept his eyes up the ice and delivered a great pass to Brayden Point who took matters into his own hands.
Point rushed in on goal and sneaked the puck under Ryan Miller’s arm, giving the Bolts a 3-2 lead. About two minutes later, Mikhail Sergachev took a shot from the point that was re-directed by Cedric Paquette and finally deposited into the net by a smooth-faced Pat Maroon off a rebound.
The third period started with an excellent save made by Andrei Vasilevskiy. Four minutes into the period, Devin Shore got behind the Lightning defense and Vasilesvkiy calmly turned down a backhand shot on a breakaway. Vasilevskiy continued his excellence and made three more solid saves on a Ducks power play.
The Ducks wouldn’t be as lucky, as the Lightning scored on their next power play at the 6:20 mark of the third period. This came from the tough play of the Lightning in Anaheim’s zone on the boards. Eventually, the Lightning would free up the puck and Victor Hedman slid it over to Nikita Kucherov. Kucherov proceeded to shoot a bomb from above the face-off circle that was knocked down and swiped home by Anthony Cirelli to give the Lightning a 5-2 lead.
The Lightning’s special night continued when Ondrej Palat tucked in his 100th NHL goal on the Bolts’ third and final power play, leading the Lightning to a 6-2 win.
Amalie Arena was the host of two special accomplishments and everything seemed to go right for the Lightning. The Lightning continued to play with more effort and controlled play in front of the net for most of the night.
With the Lightning’s perfect 3 for 3 power play performance, they moved into first place for the league’s best Power Play unit. The Lightning’s three Power Play Goals pushed them to an impressive 33.3% Power Play Percentage.
On the other side of their special teams play, they continued to improve their penalty kill by blanking the Ducks on three Power Play chances. This improved the Lightning to 19th in the league with an 80% penalty kill percentage.
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Most importantly the Lightning’s stars stepped up with their captain missing. The Bolts look to add two more points and continue to rise in the standings, as they take on the Buffalo Sabres Monday night. Puck drop will be at 7 pm as the Lightning host Hockey Fights Cancer Night at Amalie Arena.