Raise your hand if you have heard this one before: the Tampa Bay Lightning just found a way to win again. The shorthanded Lightning outlasted the LA Kings for a hard-fought 6-4 victory to start out the California swing.
Because of a pileup of injuries on the back end and salary cap constraints, Tampa Bay was forced to skate two men short in the game and were limited to just four defensemen. Despite the extremely weird scenario, the Lightning were able to persevere and somehow come away with another gutsy win.
1. Team Effort on Defense.
All four-defenseman played over 25 minutes on the night and combined for five total points in the game. They did a remarkable job of managing their shifts and playing as a collective unit. When three of your defensemen are Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh and Mikhail Sergachev, the Lightning will always have a shot. They won’t want to make a regular habit out of dressing just four defensemen, but this was a performance to remember by this group.
2. Hedman’s Big Night
In a night where the defense group shined, Hedman shined the brightest. He took over the game and was a monster. Hedman recorded over 32 minutes of ice time and was present in all ends of the ice. He opened the scoring in the first period with a rare breakaway goal and scored his second of the game in the third period for what would be the game winning goal. On both goals, Hedman found himself with plenty of time and space and just picked his spots with his wrist shot. Hedman also recorded an assist on Nikita Kucherov’s second period powerplay goal after knocking the puck out of mid-air to hold it in the zone.
3. Opening up in the Second Period
After the first period, the shots on goal were just four shots each. Not much time was spent in the offensive zones at either end. Things opened up significantly in the middle period as five total goals were scored. Both teams surrendered a short-handed goal and answered with a goal on the same powerplay. Tampa Bay become visibly frustrated in the period with the officiating and the style of play from Los Angeles, but the Lightning were able to keep their composure and continued to respond when they were knocked down.
4. Settling Down in the Third
After a wild second period, the Lightning asserted their will in the third. Tampa Bay recorded three unanswered goals in the period and did a solid job of limiting the dangerous chances for LA. A big factor in settling things down was staying out of the box as the Lightning did not commit a single penalty in the final period. This was especially important to help keep the defenseman as fresh as possible by not having to log strenuous penalty kill minutes.
5. Joseph Bumps the Slump
Mathieu Joseph had been held without a point in his last nine games and had not scored a goal since his overtime winner against Los Angeles at home on December 14th. Joseph played a huge role in the victory with a two-point night. Joseph had a brilliant assist on Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s shorthanded goal in the second period. He then scored the back breaking goal late in the third period on a one-time shot from a very difficult angle on a great pass from McDonagh. Joseph had a wide-open net but showed great finishing ability to cap off the play from the challenging angle.