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Bolts crash the party in jam-packed Stadium Series victory over host Nashville

Stadium Series is one of the yearly traditions that brings hockey outside of the arena. For Tampa it would be their first outdoor experience. As for Nashville, it would be their second game outdoors. The atmosphere was great, weather was kind to the ice, and the product on ice delivered on all cylinders. Regardless of the outcome, both teams would leave knowing they gave the fans a game that would be hard to remember. What felt like a playoff game ended up becoming one of the more memorable games of the season.

 

Chippy start

To start off, Tampa received the first power play of the game after a questionable hit by Ryan Johansen. Johansen was called for an illegal check to the head on Erik Cernak and left his feet to initiate contact. Given the nature of the game being played, Johansen was only given a minor and Cernak went to the locker room following the hit. He would then be checked for a possible concussion. Tampa was unable to score on the man advantage while minutes later Nashville received a power play. Mathieu Joseph was called for Hi-sticking and Nashville looked to open up the scoring. On the power play the Predators took advantage of a Lightning turnover and Tampa paid the price. Rookie Tanner Jeannot crashed the net and sent a rebound past Andrei Vasilevskiy to give Nashville the 1-0 lead. 9:55 in the period.

Dropping the gloves

Pat Maroon and Michael McCarron dropped the gloves. The hit on Cernak influenced the Bolts to retaliate in some way, and this would not be the only time the Bolts reminded Nashville of the hit. Juuse Saros stole the show for the remainder of the period silencing any puck that came his way. Before the period ended Matt Benning was called for interference giving the Lightning a power play that carried over into the second period.

Lightning strike back

Lightning wasted no time to even the score on the power play. Brayden Point fired the feed from Nikita Kucherov that brushed past Saros to tie the game 1-1. Moments after Pierre-Edouard Bellemare drops the gloves with Ryan Johansen resulting in both getting 5 minutes for fighting. Tampa making sure the hit on Cernak in the first did not go unnoticed. Afterwards, Jeannot is called for high-sticking giving the Bolts their third power play of the night. Once again, the Lightning capitalize on the man advantage. Nikita Kucherov sniped the puck past Saros to give Tampa the 2-1 lead. Frantic play continued as Nashville received a power play after Ryan McDonagh is called for roughing. Predators shot the puck at the net after the whistle blew which McDonagh did not take kindly. Bolts penalty kill gets the job done to keep the score 2-1.

Penalties keep piling up

It was a better penalty kill for the Lightning as they did a solid job preventing the Predators from having a chance at tying the game. Tampa kept the pressure going and after a swarm of penalties the tempo of the game calmed down. Late in the period Tampa received their 4th power play of the game. Tyler Myers was called for tripping and the Bolts power play searched for yet another goal. To end the period Saros stood tall and prevented Tampa from adding to their lead. However, Tampa would go into the 3rd period with 35 seconds left on the power play. The tremendous plays from Kucherov, Point, and Steven Stamkos was exactly what the Bolts needed to swing the game in their favor. Unfortunately, Cernak still did not return to the game leaving Tampa with 5 defensemen for the remainder of the game.

Special teams remain crucial

To start off, Nashville penalty kill tamed the Lightning unlike the start of the second period. Tampa continued the offensive pressure keeping the Preds defense hard at work. Despite still not having Cernak on the ice, Bolts defense did a solid job shutting down Nashville until the 3rd period. Predators were able to get the offense rolling a bit but could not answer Vasilevskiy. Alex Killorn nearly scored on a breakaway, but Saros was able to stop the tough angle shot with no rebound opportunity. With 13 minutes to go, Predators get a power play opportunity and hoped to find the equalizer. Joseph had a short-handed breakaway opportunity but was denied by Saros. Special teams became a major factor in the Stadium Series in favor of the away team.

Stamkos delivers

Despite having the better puck possession Nashville struggled to generate chances on offense. Instead, the Lightning again with their slick passing added to their lead. Killorn passed the puck to Cal Foote who then faked the shot to set up Stamkos with a perfect pass. Stamkos fired the puck and scored with ease to extend the lead 3-1. Soon after the goal Nashville went on the power play and this time found the goal they were desperate for. Philip Forsberg scored on the man advantage to cut the Bolts lead 3-2. Vasy had no chance on the shot as it was perfectly executed play by Mikael Granlund to Forsberg. The goal gave life to the Stadium Series crowd cheering on their home squad.

Securing the win

Nashville did a great job shutting down the Bolts offense which has kept them alive in this game. Knowing the Bolts are short-handed on defense the Preds tried to use that to their advantage. Nashville then pulled Saros with two minutes to go in hopes of forcing overtime. Heavy traffic formed in front of the Lightning net, but Vasy remained calm covering the puck to get the whistle and force a face-off. While Tampa did not score an empty net goal, Point blocked the final attempt by Nashville securing the 3-2 victory. A scrum occurred after the final whistle which gave the fans one last moment to cheer in an entertaining Stadium Series. Both teams kept the game full of life and it will be a moment the players and coaches will never forget.

 

Three stars of the game

1st Star: Steven Stamkos – 1 goal and 2 assists

2nd Star: Nikita Kucherov – 1 goal and 1 assist

3rd Star: Juuse Saros – Saved 30 of 33 shots faced

 

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