Heading into Wednesday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche, many were expecting the Tampa Bay Lightning to end up in a high-scoring tilt. With some of the highest scoring offenses in the game facing each other, nobody would blame fans for predicting something in the neighborhood of a 6-5 score.
What fans actually got was a hard-fought game between two evenly-matched teams with only one goal scored in 60 minutes of play. This contest was a true nail-biter down to the dying seconds.
The Lightning dodge a bullet or three.
Initially, there was a lot of back-and-forth in the first period with neither team getting much offensive zone time. The Avalanche changed that when an early penalty on Steven Stamkos gave them their first chance on the power play. To say the Lightning got a few breaks on that first penalty kill would be a bit of an understatement. The Avalanche had two prime chances to score but but one shot went wide and the second ringed off the post.
The Lightning got their first chance on the power play not long after Colorado’s ended. The Lightning had some good looks with the man-advantage, but were unable to find the back of the net. The biggest play of the first period came right after the power play when Colorado forced a two-on-one, as Nathan MacKinnon fed Gabriel Landeskog, who beat Andrei Vasilevskiy for the game’s first goal. The one goal lead lasted only a few minutes as Jon Cooper challenged the goal for offsides and was successful, overturning the goal.
After catching a few big breaks, the Lightning seemed to find their footing. Matheiu Joseph was an inch away from his first career goal. Joseph used his speed to get by the defense and had only the goaltender to beat, but his shot rang off the pipe. The Triplets also created had some good chances at the end of the period, but nothing went in and the first miraculously ended with no score from either team.
Renewed focus in the second period.
There is no denying the Lightning struggled in the first period, but they came out ready to fight back in the second. Tampa Bay spent what seemed like the first ten minutes of the period in Colorado’s zone, staying aggressive and creating great chances. Point nearly opened the scoring with a great shot from the slot but was denied by a pad save by Semyon Varlamov. Ondrej Palat and Anthony Cirelli were next up with prime chances to score, but were again denied by solid defensive play from Colorado.
Colorado and Tampa Bay both got chances on the power play in the second period, but neither team could find the back of the net. Ryan McDonagh was huge up to this point, making an incredible defensive play in denying MacKinnon on a breakaway. Despite some tremendous chances from both teams, the game remained scoreless after two periods.
An ice-breaker in the third
The third period began much like the second period ended, as the Lightning came out firing on all cylinders, playing fast and loose. The Lightning forced Colorado back on their heels and the constant pressure forced a penalty against the Avalanche. With their third crack at the power play, the Lightning would finally convert for the game’s first goal. Dangling past a defender and faking a shot, Stamkos passed the puck to a wide open Nikita Kucherov, who promptly buried it in the net.
After establishing the first lead of the night, Tampa Bay was forced to play defense. Colorado, not happy with giving up that goal, fought hard in attempting to tie it up. Vasilevskiy was forced to make some incredible saves, and as usual, last year’s Vezina Trophy finalist was up to the challenge. Making some great late saves, he helped the Bolts hold on to the lead. Colorado had some late rushes with an extra attacker after emptying the net, but the Lightning held on for a 1-0 victory, moving to 6-1-1 on the year and 2-0-1 on their current road trip.
The Lightning head to Las Vegas to take on the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday Oct. 26 at 6:00 PM EST.
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