The Tampa Bay Lightning had been going through a difficult stretch. But Tuesday night, in front of their home crowd, the Bolts came through with an impressive victory to end their 5-game losing streak. Nikita Kucherov scored two goals. Andrei Vasilevskiy was strong in net. The newly created third line played shut-down hockey. Aside from a few defensive lapses, the boys looked good all around. But did they truly turn a corner? Beating the Philadelphia Flyers last game was one thing. Tonight is a whole different test. Tonight, the Lightning face off against the team that currently sits atop the Western Conference, the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Would the Bolts continue to show signs of returning to form? Or would the Knights out-duel them tonight?
Quick Start, Quick Bolts Comeback
It didn’t take long for this one to get started. For the Knights at least. Keegan Kolesar blasted his 7th of the season past Andrei Vasilevskiy on Vegas’ first shot of the game just 27 seconds in. But the Bolts would fight back. Brayden Point hit the 40-goal milestone for the second time in his career 4 minutes later, as he tapped a loose puck past the Knights’ tradeline acquisition goalie Jonathan Quick. With the goal, Point became the 6th player in the league to hit 40 goals on the season. With the primary assist on the goal, Nikita Kucherov extended his home point streak to 23 games. The streak ties the 6th longest home point streak since the 1985-86 season. Only Wayne Gretzky (twice), Mario Lemieux (twice), and Brett Hull have had longer home point streaks during that span. The most recent 23-game streak was Joe Sakic’s in the 2000-2001 season- 22 years ago!
With an assist here, Nikita Kucherov now has points in 23 consecutive home games. 🤯
Yeah, pretty good. pic.twitter.com/hz3WRUMISz
— NHL (@NHL) March 10, 2023
The Bolts outchanced the Knights over the remainder of the period, outshooting them by a 10-4 margin. But the score remained tied as the teams headed to the dressing room.
Doing Everything but Scoring
It took almost 7 minutes into the second frame for the Golden Knights to register their first shot on net of the period. The Bolts had 8 by that point. It was starting to feel like one of those nights where nothing else was going to go in for the Lightning. The second period shot totals pretty much mirror those from the first. This time, the Bolts outshot their opponents 11-4 for a margin of 21-8 through two. But where it counted, the teams were still tied. With 22 seconds remaining in the second, Shea Theodore went to the box for a double minor for a high stick to Patrick Maroon. As the time ticked away in the period, Alex Pietrangelo tripped Nikita Kucherov. Steven Stamkos defended his teammates and was assessed a cross-checking penalty as his reward. As a result, the two teams would play the first two minutes of the third period at 4 on 4.
Bolts Need a Comeback after Short-handed Curse Continues
Although the Lightning were having a dominant game, one area seemed to be struggling. The power play. In their two previous power plays, the Lightning could barely get into the offensive zone. On both Lightning power plays, the Knights had better scoring chances than the Bolts.
And in the early stages of the third period, it came back to haunt them. On the power play, Mikhail Sergachev lost the puck in his own end and William Karlsson beat Vasilevskiy with a wrister. It was the 11th shortanded goal of the season given up by the Lightning. A few minutes later, the Knights got their first man advantage of the night. Unlike the Bolts, Vegas had little trouble getting set up and Chandler Stephenson made the most of the opportunity, scoring his 13th of the season to put the Knights up 3-1.
The Late Bolts Comeback is Real!
With just under three minutes remaining in regulation, Coach Jon Cooper pulled Vasilevskiy for the extra attacker. Nikita Kucherov scored his 26th of the season to pull the Bolts within a goal with just over two minutes remaining in regulation. The Bolts were definitely showing some fight! Could they tie this one up?
With 46 seconds remaining in regulation, Chandler Stephenson took a penalty for a high stick to Sergachev. With a 2-man advantage thanks to the power play and Vasilevskiy being pulled, Brayden Point scored his 41st goal of the season, tying his career high and more importantly, tying the game at 3-3 with just 27 seconds left in regulation.
The two teams headed to overtime and although the Bolts dominated, Quick stopped them at every turn. In the end, Alec Martinez scored the OT winner for the Knights.
After the game, Cooper lauded his team’s effort saying that he liked every aspect of their game tonight and they certainly deserved to come out with points! They may not have gotten two points but the Bolts’ comeback showed their resilience and gave them points in 20 of their last 21 home games.
1- Brayden Point- 40th and 41st goals of the season, including the tying marker in the final minute.
2- Jonathan Quick- Kept his team in the game all night long
3- Nikita Kucherov- 1 goal, 2 assists
The 4-game homestand continues with a game Saturday night at 7pm against the Chicago Blackhawks.
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