Coming off a stretch in which they were 1-4-2 in their previous seven games, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s season was getting perilously close to spiraling into an abyss. Facing the prospect of a fourth consecutive loss, the Lightning (23-24-6) knew they if they were going to salvage something of their season, it would have to start on Saturday against the Anaheim Ducks (28-16-10). Even though it came down to a shootout, the Bolts showed that for one night, they weren’t going to go away quietly.
Brian Boyle scored the winning goal in the fourth round of the shootout, Alex Killorn and Jonathan Drouin each had a goal, and Ben Bishop only needed to make 14 saves as the Lightning beat the Ducks 3-2 at Amalie Arena to end a three-game losing streak. Nikita Kucherov notched a pair of assists and had a key goal in the shootout that prolonged the affair. Despite the victory, the Lightning remain in last place in the Eastern Conference with 52 points. The Buffalo Sabres have the same number of points as the Bolts, but Buffalo has two games in hand. The Lightning outshot the Ducks by a commanding margin of 37-16, and had the ice tilted in their favor for much of the night. Ryan Getzlaf and Brandon Montour tallied the goals for the Ducks, Ryan Kesler had two assists, while backup goaltender Jonathan Bernier turned aside 35 shots while taking the loss.
The opening period was a chippy, intense affair, which seemed unusual considering how little the Ducks and Lightning play each other. It was highlighted by an intense fight between JT Brown and Joseph Cramarossa that saw each of them land several solid punches before Brown drew a roar from the crowd with a DDT-style takedown that would’ve made Jake “The Snake” Roberts proud. Late in the period, Braydon Coburn and Corey Perry got into it with each player taking minor penalties after Coburn took exception to Perry’s hit on Kucherov. In between, Montour scored his first career NHL goal at the 8:14 mark, putting the Ducks up 1-0. The play happened when a Coburn turnover ended up on the stick Jakob Silfverberg, who had a chance in front and then ended up getting the puck back behind the net. He then dished the puck to Montour, who was trailing the play and rushed up from the blue line to rip a one-timer past Bishop. Bolts head coach Jon Cooper challenged it as offside, but the officials upheld the call. Just 1:34 after the Ducks took the lead, Drouin tied it up as Kucherov and Tyler Johnson cycled the puck in the Ducks zone before it ended up on Drouin’s stick. Drouin got past a Ducks’ defender, skated into the slot and fired a shot past Bernier for his 15th goal of the season. It was an exclamation point on an exceptional period for Drouin, who hit a crossbar early on and also had an excellent chance off a great pass from Brayden Point, only to be denied by Bernier.
The second period might have been one of the most statistically dominating defensive periods for the Lightning all season, as they outshot the Ducks 15-4 and didn’t even allow a shot on goal until there was 1:33 left on the clock. Tampa Bay had much more sustained pressure in the Anaheim zone, and it led to the Ducks taking penalties. Killorn would make them pay at the 9:04 mark on a power play, as Kucherov fed him in the left circle from behind the net. Killorn proceeded to blast a laser beam of a shot over the glove of Bernier, going bar down in the far side corner for his 16th goal of the season, putting Tampa Bay up 2-1. Killorn nearly had a shorthanded goal a few minutes later when he and Johnson came barreling down the ice on a 2-on-1, but Killorn’s shot was smothered by Bernier. Tampa Bay had a great chance to extend their lead to when they went on a four-minute power play thanks to Shea Theodore catching Cedric Paquette with a high stick. The most intense sequence of that man-advantage was when Drouin’s slap shot was stopped by Bernier, leaving a big, juicy rebound in front for Vlad Namestnikov. His rebound shot was also denied by Bernier, leaving another rebound to Bernier’s left that was corralled by Kucherov. Kucherov’s shot was then blocked by Hampus Lindholm, which was followed by Kucherov taking a cross checking penalty that negated the power play heading into the third period. Tampa Bay held a 22-13 lead in shots going into the second intermission.
The Lightning continued to control play in the third period until Getzlaf tied it up at the 4:02 mark as he got around Andrej Sustr on a rush down the right wing and beat Bishop to make it 2-2, as Kevin Bieksa and Kesler picked up the assists. Despite giving up the goal, Tampa Bay continued to play with plenty of jump in their step, but were unable to take the lead despite outshooting the Ducks 10-3 in the third period. In overtime, the Bolts continued to dominate play, as they had all five of the shots in the 3-on-3 period. Among them were great chances for Kucherov on a breakaway, Killorn as he fell down attempting a one-timer, and a Drouin shot that was broken up at the last second.
During the shootout, Point and Silfverberg exchanged goals in the first round, while Drouin was denied and Getzlaf scored in the second. In the third round, Kucherov scored and Rakell was denied to extend it to the fourth round, where Boyle notched what would turn out to be the shootout winner when he beat Bernier through his five-hold. With a chance to keep the shootout going, Perry struck iron on his attempt, and the Lightning came away as winners on this night.
Tampa Bay closes out their four-game homestand on Tuesday night when they host the Los Angeles Kings. Puck drops at 7:30 pm.
MY THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1st Star: Nikita Kucherov – Assisted on both Lightning goals and scored a crucial goal in the third round of the shootout, giving Bishop one more chance to make a save and keep the skills competition going. Finished with 10 shot attempts, six of them on goal.
2nd Star: Jonathan Bernier – Finished with 35 saves, keeping the Ducks in a game in which they were largely dominated by the Lightning. His back-to-back saves on Kucherov and Namestnikov on a four-minute power play kept the Lightning from extending their lead late in the second period.
3rd Star: Jonathan Drouin – Scored a goal off a tremendous individual effort and could have had a hat trick in the first period if not for hitting a crossbar and getting robbed by Bernier. Attempted 15 shots, six of which ended up on net. He was a threat every time he touched the puck tonight.
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