Heading into a tough four-game Western Canadian road trip, the Tampa bay Lightning were prepared to face some of the league’s best. That was the case Sunday night when the Bolts tangled with the Winnipeg Jets. In a game featuring two of the NHL’s quickest squads, fans may have been expecting a frantic, end-to-end game, and surely an entertaining one. Though the pace took a while to pick up, they certainly got the latter.
Good goaltending, better special teams
After a feeling-out process in the opening few minutes, the speed of both teams became apparent, and the chances started piling up. Tyler Johnson’s line with Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov were quick to pucks from the opening face-off, and Kucherov found Johnson wide open in front of the net, but he was shut down by Connor Hellebuyck. Just moments later, Dustin Byfuglien had all kinds of room to fire a one-timer from the slot, but was robbed by the right pad of Andrei Vasilevskiy.
The Lightning got the first power play of the game, and were shut down for the majority of the two minutes by stingy penalty killing. But with just eight seconds left, the Bolts caught Winnipeg on a change, and two passes later, it was in the back of their net. Vasilevskiy found Ondej Palat on a cross-ice pass to the Winnipeg blue line and he sprung Alex Killorn, who went forehand-backhand on a partial breakaway to make it 1-0 Lightning.
With just 2:04 remaining in the period, Ryan Callahan put a puck over the glass in the Lightning end, giving the Jets a chance to show off their power play. Tampa Bay nearly escaped, but with just 17 seconds left in the frame, a terrific shot-pass from Tyler Myers led to Mathieu Perreault tying up the game. It was 1-1 at the end of one, with both teams connecting on their lone power play chances.
In the first few minutes of the second, the pace of the game reached a new echelon, and both goalies made some fantastic stops. Vasilevskiy continued to make show-stopping saves, but two shifts of pressure finally buckled him. He made his second fantastic pad save in as many minutes on Brandon Tanev, but the puck dribbled behind him and Tanev poked it home to give Winnipeg a 2-1 lead.
A quick way to quiet the home crowd as a road team is bury a goal of your own while the opposition’s is still being announced over the PA. That’s exactly what the Lightning did, when Steven Stamkos blasted a one-timer home just 37 seconds later.
Pressure and pucks on net
For the next couple minutes after the tying goal, it was all Tampa Bay. They created pressure by using their cycle to generate some lengthy stays in the Winnipeg zone. Despite a solid twenty-plus minutes, Hellebuyck had struggled to control his rebounds. Anthony Cirelli’s line continued a strong game, with Cirelli wristing one from the right wing, and Hellebuyck barely making a stop on the rebound. Just minutes later, Mikhail Sergachev’s point blast was blocked in front, and Johnson pulled it out of a crowd of bodies and slid it through Hellebuyck to make it 3-2 Lightning.
Winnipeg’s last-minute malice
For the second period in a row, the Bolts gave up a goal in the last minute of the frame, when Nikolaj Ehlers tied the game up at three. This one came with just 41 seconds left in the period.
When Tampa Bay got its second power play of the night in the third, they made it clear early they were intent on making the Jets pay for a too-many-men penalty. Right off the face-off, Kucherov rifled one off the crossbar. He wasn’t done yet, as less than a minute into the advantage, Kucherov got the Lightning the lead back. Stamkos made a nifty give-and-go with Point before feeding Kucherov at the right circle. The one-timer just snuck between Hellebuyck and the post.
With the Lightning leading 4-3, Ehlers had a goal and an assist, and Mark Scheifele had a helper. The pair combined to tie the game up when Scheifele’s one-timer narrowly missed, and Ehlers took a lively carom off the end boards and put it behind Vasilevskiy.
The game would need overtime, and it was Scheifele who ended it. Patrik Laine made a cut to the middle on Victor Hedman and was poke-checked by Vasilevskiy, but it landed right on the tape of Scheifele who emphatically buried it for a 5-4 Jets win. He and Ehlers both had three points. Despite seeing their eight-game winning streak come to an end, the Lightning got a point in their ninth straight contest.
Our Three Stars Of the Game
1st Star: Mark Scheifele – A force in the offensive zone all night, 1G, 2A
2nd Star: Nikolaj Ehlers – Ehlers’ speed gave the Lightning fits all night. 2G, including the game tying tally in the third.
3rd Star: Anton Stralman- After missing the last 17 games, (upper body) Stralman was sound defensively and joined the rush for two quality looks.
Tampa Bay will play the second game of their four-game swing through Western Canada on Tuesday night in Vancouver at 10PM ET.
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