Over the course of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s six-game winning streak, they’ve gotten some weird bounces, shown flashes of dominance, rallied from deficits, and shown a disturbing trend of being unable to hold leads for very long.
Thankfully for the Lightning, Brian Boyle came to the rescue in the third period.
Boyle’s shorthanded goal with 12:18 remaining in the third period turned out to be the game-winner, breaking a 4-4 tie after the Lightning had blown a 4-2 lead in the early stages of the final period, giving Tampa Bay (25-17-4) a 6-4 victory over the Edmonton Oilers (19-24-5) at Amalie Arena. The win extended the Lightning’s winning streak to six games, leaving them tied with the Detroit Red Wings for second place in the Atlantic Division with 54 points, just three behind the Florida Panthers for first place.
The sequence that led to Boyle’s ninth goal of the season started during an Edmonton power play, when JT Brown blocked a shot, leading to Braydon Coburn clearing the Lightning’s zone. As Boyle chased the puck into the Oilers’ zone, Edmonton goalie Anders Nilsson also came out to play it. However, Boyle was able to beat Nilsson to the puck and lift it into a wide open net to put the Lightning ahead for good. Boyle was quick to give his teammates credit.
“Great block, Brownie sells out, blocks the shot. Starts right there,” said Boyle. “Cobie (Coburn) has a lot of poise, I saw he had full control, so I kinda took off.”
Even though the Lightning had regained the lead, they weren’t out of the woods yet, as Edmonton continued to press the action, forcing Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who turned aside 22 out of 26 shots, to make several quality saves. One of them came on a shot from in-close by the Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl, who found himself open after a loose puck bounced by the Bolts’ Valtteri Filppula. Much like the first period, the Lightning were getting careless in their own zone and in the neutral zone, committing some unforced turnovers that led to the Oilers getting some good looks and several odd-man rushes. Early in the third period, with the Lightning up 4-2, Edmonton had a couple of 2-on-1’s that either resulted in a goal or led to a goal. A bad line change by Tampa Bay allowed Taylor Hall and Draisaitl to go the other way on a 2-on-1, which saw Hall feed a perfect saucer pass over to Draisaitl, who fired it past Vasilevskiy for his 10th goal of the year and cut the Bolts’ deficit to 4-3 at the 2:10 mark. Soon after, another 2-on-1 was thwarted by Andrej Sustr. Unfortunately for the Lightning, Edmonton’s Iiro Pakarinen picked up the loose puck near the far-side boards and floated a shot on net that beat Vasilevskiy high and to the short side to tie the game 4-4 just 2:19 after their previous goal. It was the third time in this game that the Lightning had blown a lead, as they let a pair of one-goal leads slip away in the opening period.
The first period actually saw the Lightning get off to a good start, as Nikita Nesterov picked up his third goal of the season to put the Bolts up 1-0 just 3:57 into the game. Nesterov crept up into the right circle, and Alex Killorn hit him with an excellent pass that he one-timed past Anders Nilsson. Sustr earned the secondary assist. The lead didn’t last long, however, as the Lighting started to get sloppy and passive in their own zone, something that would be a theme in the opening period. Edmonton knotted the game up 1-1 at the 5:25 mark when a Steven Stamkos turnover led to a shot by Pakarinen that was stopped by Vasilevskiy, who left a rebound for Zack Kassian. Kassian was wide open in front and scored his first goal of the season. Even though Tampa Bay was outshot by a margin of 11-10 in the opening period, it didn’t feel like the Bolts had that many shots and they certainly didn’t have a lot of great chances. Nikita Kucherov would convert one of those few chances with 3:03 left in the period, finishing off an impressive sequence that began with Killorn doing some work behind the Edmonton net that helped keep the puck in the zone. Killorn got the puck to Tyler Johnson, who fed it to Kucherov in the left circle. Kucherov then skated across the slot, and patiently waited for Nilsson to commit before going to his backhand and scoring his 19th goal of the year to put the Bolts up 2-1. Unfortunately for the Lightning, that lead would also be short-lived as well, as Mark Letestu scored a shorthanded goal with 33.3 seconds left. Killorn banked it off the glass and it got past Anton Stralman, followed by Letestu getting a step on Tyler Johnson and finding himself on a breakaway, where he slipped one past Vasilevskiy to tie the game 2-2 going into the first intermission.
Tampa Bay’s play picked up considerably in the second period, as Ondrej Palat found Stamkos in front of the Oilers’ net with a nice pass, but Nilsson made the save with his right leg. Erik Condra was stopped on a 2-on-1, while Johnson had a shot go off Nilsson and bounce past Victor Hedman just before the Lightning defenseman to put the rebound home. Edmonton’s Benoit Pouliot, a former Lightning forward, got a breakaway shortly after, but shot the puck high. Tampa Bay regained the lead at the 6:09 mark when Vlad Namestnikov took a pass from Stamkos and drove to the net, attracting the attention of a few Oilers players. As he was falling down, he was able to nudge the puck into the slot, where Ondrej Palat pounced on it and rifled it home for his fourth goal of the season and a 3-2 lead. Both teams picked had a few more quality chances before Namestnikov gave the Lightning a 4-2 lead with 2:48 remaining in the second period off one of the stranger goals you’ll see. Following an Edmonton turnover in the neutral zone, Stamkos led a rush with him dropped the puck to Palat once he got into the Oilers’ zone. Palat skated into the left circle and took a shot that hit Nilsson and popped up into the air behind him. Before it could hit the ice, Namestnikov reached from behind the net and deflected the puck in just after it dropped below the crossbar. After a video review, the officials determined that Namestnikov did not hit the puck above the crossbar, awarding him his 10th goal of the season and giving the Bolts the two-goal lead they would give up in the third period. But it wasn’t until Killorn’s empty-net goal with 26.7 seconds remaining that finally gave the Lightning some breathing room.
Lightning head coach Jon Cooper was happy with the way the Lightning’s depth came through tonight.
“It seems like everyone’s contributing the way they should. It’s just nice that we’re finally scoring some goals,” said Cooper. “You get six, it shouldn’t be that close, but we almost needed every one of them tonight.”
The Lightning finish off their four-game homestand when they host the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night at 7:30. While the Lightning have won six in a row, the Blackhawks are the hottest team in hockey, as they’ll enter Thursday’s contest on a franchise-record 12-game winning streak.
THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1st Star – Ondrej Palat: Scored once and chipped in on an assist that was nearly his second goal of the game if not tipped in by Vlad Namestnikov.
2nd Star – Alex Killorn: Chipped in a pair of assists, one of them on a gorgeous pass to Nikita Nesterov, the other one due to his great work behind the Edmonton net. Tacked on an empty-net goal
3rd Star – Zack Kassian: The Oilers winger scored his first goal of the season in the opening period and had a secondary assist that sprung Taylor Hall and Leon Draisaitl for a 2-on-1 that led to the goal that cut the Lightning’s lead to 4-3 early in the third period.
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