5 Takeaways from the Lightning’s Win in Vegas

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

In an NHL week that has been anything but normal, it was nice to just have a hockey game to watch again. The Tampa Bay Lightning were back in action for the first time since Thursday in what was the only game on the NHL’s slate Tuesday night. With the NHL announcing postponements of over 50 games this week, this game had the eyes of everybody around the league watching two of the top teams and it did not disappoint.

Just hours before puck drop, we learned that Jon Cooper would not be behind the Lightning bench after entering the league’s COVID protocol. The Lightning have been able to avoid COVID the entire season until now. Derek LaLonde took over the coaching duties in a game in which the Lightning once again just found a way to win. Playing far from the best, they just find a way. That’s all there is to it.

Let’s break down this wild one.

1. Fortier Gets His First

Gabriel Fortier was a late add to the Lightning lineup, replacing Boris Katchouk. Fortier opened the scoring in the first period with a wicked wrister for his first goal in the NHL. Fortier was picked out by Mikhail Sergachev who made a strong, composed play on the puck to find an open Fortier with time and space to shoot from the left circle. The goal was also Fortier’s first point in his eighth game in the show. Our very own Stephen Parrino called that Fortier would score the game’s opening goal on twitter as part of the Lightning’s #Lightningstrikes contest and was selected as the winner. He had to call an audible at the line with news of Fortier’s insertion into the lineup.

2. Wave after Wave

Tampa Bay spent much of the first period in their own zone, with Vegas dominating much of the possession and chances. If the opening period wasn’t enough, Vegas brought it even more in the second. Especially after going up 2-1, the Knights continued to bring wave after wave of pressure and chances and the Lightning were scrambling and completely disjointed. The pressure came to a breaking point on Vegas’ third goal to make it 3-1 as Victor Hedman was turned completely inside-out for a highlight reel goal for Nicholas Roy. Andrei Vasilevskiy was visibly frustrated after the goal as the Lightning were completely under siege with little resistance.

3. Back from the Dead

After going down 3-1, Tampa Bay looked all out of sorts and were being dominated by Vegas in all aspects of the game. The momentum shifted late in the final three minutes of the second period. Former Golden Knight expansion draftee, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare converted on a Corey Perry feed to cut the lead in half. 43 seconds later, Anthony Cirelli tied the game with a back hand shot. The two quick goals came completely against the run of play and were huge to go into the third period tied after not having their best play in the second.

4. Powerplay Comes up Big

In recent weeks the Lightning powerplay has fallen in the overall league ranks. They miss Nikita Kucherov of course, but Brayden Point as well. The powerplay has struggled with gaining zone entries and having that threat in the middle of the offensive zone. Still, the Lightning were able to come up with a powerplay goal in the third period after being unsuccessful in their first opportunity. Steven Stamkos scored his patented left circle one-timer for what would be the game winning goal on the powerplay to go ahead 4-3. The tally moved Stamkos into sole possession of the Lightning’s all time game winning goal record.

5. Vasilevskiy Does it Again

It might be a broken record, but Andrei Vasilevskiy stole the show and won this game for Tampa Bay. While down 3-1, Vasi made some huge stops to keep the deficit at two while the Knights were pushing hard. He even left the game for a few minutes after taking a shot up high and potentially losing a tooth. Vasilevskiy was absolutely money down the stretch as well with the Lightning ahead in the third period. He made 13 saves in the third and made 38 saves on 41 shots on the night as the Lightning head into the Christmas break atop the NHL.