The Tampa Bay Lightning prevented the upset by rallying back in the closing stages of the game to win 4-3 in overtime over the Anaheim Ducks.
The Ducks were a depleted team from multiple trades that sent veterans out of their organization at the trade deadline, so it was good to see the Bolts not succumb to the lesser team.
Let’s breakdown how it happened.
1. Anaheim Tips Leads to Vasilevskiy Being Pulled
It is not often that Lightning fans see Andrei Vasilevskiy pulled from a hockey game, but tonight was one of those nights. Three unanswered goals by Anaheim in the second period, all off redirected shots, and head coach Jon Cooper made the decision to replace Vasy with Brian Elliott in net. This was the first time Vasy has been pulled since March 13, 2018, in a game against Ottawa.
While it is hard to fault goalies for tipped goals that result from the team in front of them not tying up players in front of the net, the move to replace Vasy was intended as a wakeup call to the team by Cooper. Consider it a success as the Lightning held the Ducks scoreless the rest of the game.
2. Small Line Changes After Shutout to Dallas
After the Lightning’s shutout loss to the Stars Tuesday night, Cooper made a small adjustment switching Nick Paul and Ondrej Palat in the lineup. While neither player got on the scoresheet tonight, we’ll have to see if these lines are given another chance as the Lightning try to get their forward lines in order heading into the playoffs.
3. Better Late Than Never
Scoring the game-tying goal with 13 seconds left in the third period is not the ideal way to begin a comeback effort, but Nikita Kucherov’s goal was welcomed nonetheless as the Bolts had been scoreless since late in the first.
Alex Killorn could not catch a break tonight with offsides leading to two goals of his being called back – one in regulation and one in overtime – but he would come good in the end by doing most of the work in setting up Anthony Cirelli for the game-winning goal.
4. Elliott Solid in Vasilevskiy’s Absence
Brian Elliott had himself a solid night in relief of Vasilevskiy, stopping all 13 shots he faced in 29:39 of ice-time. With 8 games remaining in the regular season, it is possible we could see a 50/50 split between Elliott and Vasy to close out the season.
Following Elliott’s shutout win against Buffalo, coaching staff had stated Elliott would likely start 4 of the remaining 10 games. With only 8 games remaining, and no starts for Elliott since, Elliott will look to cap off his best season statistically since 2016 in strong form.
5. Clinched Playoff Spot
The Lightning will officially be part of the 2022 Playoffs. Even though it had been more of a question of when they would clinch than if they would, they officially clinched when the Islanders fell to the Penguins tonight (before their game ended).
With eight games left this season they will now compete for seeding positions. As for now the Lightning hold the #3 seed in the Atlantic Division and are set to face the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round.
The Lightning will next faceoff against the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday at 7:00PM ET.