The Tampa Bay Lightning and Ottawa Senators came into tonight with very similar missions; win or at least get a point in order keep pace with the teams they are chasing. Tampa came into tonight riding a season high seven game winning streak, and continuing to battle the Florida Panthers for the Atlantic division crown and a second overall seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Ottawa on the other hand found themselves chasing the Pittsburgh Penguins’, who have the eighth and final playoff spot which the Senators were hoping to get back into contention for. The Lightning and Senators both like to play an aggressive free-flowing offensive style so the game would likely be decided by which team’s goalie and defenders could keep slow the other down. Tampa came into tonight holding the season series advantage at two games to one, but all three games have were blowouts so the team that could start the fastest might ensure they got the points in the standings they both desperately need.
The 1st period started with each club looking to not allow the other to get the early goal; and were content with dumping the puck into their opponent’s zone to prevent turnovers in the neutral zone trying to carry it in. Tampa defenseman Anton Stralman looked to change all that when he shot a beautiful shot from the slot past Ottawa goalie Andrew Hammond to give the Lightning an early 1-0 lead. The Ottawa Senators would use their coach’s challenge that Hammon got bumped by Tampa winger Erik Condra after being checked by Ottawa defender Dion Phaneuf, as the puck went into the net. After a few minutes of review, the league replay officials in Toronto would agree with the Senators that Hammond had been interfered with and disallow the goal reversing the call on the ice and keeping the game scoreless. The disallowed goal appeared to deflate the Lightning offense as Ottawa would control the puck in the Tampa defensive zone for most of the 1st after the goal reversal. Tampa goaltender Ben Bishop was under siege from Ottawa offensive juggernaut winger Mike Hoffman who had four shots on goal during the period. Late in 1st the game’s pace began to finally pick up as Tampa winger Ryan Callahan nearly broke the scoreless tie with a terrific pass to Jason Garrison who was all alone streaking to the net; Garrison would look to pass to Ondrej Palat for a tip in goal but Hammonds was able to break it up before it could get to Palat, ending the scoring chance. Ryan Callahan would take a penalty on the same shift for holding Dion Phaneuf and the Senators would get the first power play of the game late in the 1st period. The Senators would waste little time as they would send several shots on Bishop trying to score before the period expired. Fortunately for Tampa the horn and Ben Bishop would save the Lightning from the Senators aggressive power play and send the teams to the locker room tied 0-0 after one period. Ottawa would hold the shots on goal advantage 10-9 after the 1st period.
The 2nd period would start with the Lightning playing a man down as the Ryan Callahan penalty would carry over from the 1st period. The Senators aggressive power play in the 1st would not carry over as the Lightning special teams unit would easily kill the rest of the penalty. The penalty kill looked to invigorate the Lightning offense as JT Brown would feed Cedric Paquette as he entered the Ottawa zone; Paquette would fire a shot on Hammond, causing a rebound he was able to bury into the Ottawa net giving Tampa the first lead of the game at 1-0 early in the 2nd period. Two shifts after the initial goal, Ryan Callahan would give up a bad unforced turnover to Mika Zibanejad in front of the Lightning net but Ben Bishop would stop the close range shot to protect the one goal lead. The Lightning would get their first chance on the power play when Senators center Scott Gomez was sent to the box for hooking. Tampa’s road power play woes would continue though as they were unable to generate much offense with the man advantage as the Senators special teams unit would kill the penalty without much trouble. Midway through the 2nd period the game began to get more physical as the Senators began to get frustrated with their inability to get on the scoreboard, and took out their frustrations on Tampa players JT Brown and Victor Hedman. Things finally boiled over when Senators defenseman Chris Neil would send Hedman to the ice with a big but clean hit; Lightning players Erik Condra and Brian Boyle took issue with Neil’s hit and attempted to get a piece of him before all three players tumbled to the ice. The refs would sort out the pile and send all three players to the penalty box but would award Ottawa the power play due to the multiple Tampa players involved going after Neil. Once again the Tampa special teams unit would bend but not break, as they would kill off the second Ottawa power play of the night. The special teams unit would quickly be called upon again only a few minutes later as Anton Stralman would be penalized for holding late in the 2nd period, giving Ottawa their third power play of the game. Cedric Pacquette would the Lightning special teams unit killing nearly a full 20 seconds of the power play himself with excellent puck possession, and Tampa would successfully kill their third penalty of the night an maintaining their 1-0 lead. The Ottawa Senators looked to be resigned to the fact of going into the 3rd period down one goal until Tampa center Tyler Johnson skated into the Senators zone beating his defender and forcing Hammond to collide with his own defender as he warpped the puck around the net. Johnson would feed Ondrej Palat who took advantage of Hammond being sprawled on the ice with his own player and fired a quick shot into the Senators net giving the Lightning a 2-0 lead late in the 2nd period. The Lightning would take their two goal lead into the 2nd intermission despite the Senators maintain their shots on goal advantage 21-20 through two periods.
The 3rd period began with the Ottawa Senators looking to finally solve Ben Bishop and the Lightning defense as they would draw their fourth power play of the night only a minute into the period after Jason Garrison got called for holding. The subsequent Ottawa power play would see them hit Ben Bishop in his chest, his mask, and then hit his far post but were unable to get it into the back of the net keeping the deficit at two goals as the Lightning would kill the man advantage for the fourth time on the night. The momentum of the power play would carry over for Ottawa as Marc Methot would finally beat Ben Bishop with a snapping wrist shot for a goal, cutting the Lightning lead to 2-1 midway through the 3rd period. Someone forgot to tell the Tampa Bay Lightning their penalty kill ended early in the period as the Senators continued to dominate the Tampa zone peppering Ben Bishop with shot after shot for a couple of minutes at a time midway through the 3rd period. Ben Bishop would continue to carry the Lightning closer to the finish line as he refused to allow the constant Ottawa pressure tie the game after stopping another Mika Zibanejad shot near the front of his net. It appeared as if the Senators were on the cusp of tying the game again late in the 3rd period until a bad Ottawa turnover in their own zone ended up in front of Tampa sniper Nikita Kucherov who would bury the puck past Hammond giving the Bolts a commanding 3-1 lead with a little over three minutes left in the game. The goal seemed to deflate the Senators and Steven Stamkos would make sure there would be no late game heroics as he scored a length of the ice empty netter securing the Bolts a 4-1 victory in Ottawa. The Senators would finish with a 34-29 shots on goal advantage.
The Lightning would improve to 37-22-4, with 80 pts and taking back a share of the Atlantic division lead with the Florida Panthers. The Senators would fall to 30-27-7, with 67 pts on the year and delivering a devastating blow to their dwindling playoff hopes.
The Lightning will return home on Saturday March 5th, to face the Carolina Hurricanes. The game can be seen locally on SUN sports with a 7:00 pm puck drop.
THREE STARS OF THE GAME
- Ben Bishop – Bishop did every single thing the Lightning needed to escape Ottawa in a game at times that looked like the Senators were dominating the play on the ice. Ben Bishop would stop 33 of the 34 shots he faced but it wasn’t just the sheer volume of shots he faced but the effectiveness of those shots. Several times the Senators had the puck directly in front of his crease but Bishop never folded no matter the pressure. When Bishop plays like this Tampa can beat any team in the league even if the rest of the team isn’t playing their best hockey.
- Cedric Paquette– Paquette opened the scoring with the first goal of the game on a play that saw him out hustle all the other players on the ice. The Lightning were struggling to keep Ottawa from taking the early lead and Paquette’s effort and ability to finish off a rebound he created was a big reason Tampa was able to win tonight.
- Nikita Kucherov– Kucherov put the dagger in to seal the game for the Lightning giving them a two goal lead late with his lone goal in the game. He did not have much impact through the first couple of periods but when he got his opportunity he did not waste it.
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