Over the past few years, California has been a different kind of hotel for the Tampa Bay Lightning. They’d certainly been livin’ it up, losing just a handful of games in their past ten-plus contests. After a tough loss Monday in Dallas, the Bolts responded by dispatching the Los Angeles Kings Wednesday night. Up next, what a nice surprise: the lowly Anaheim Ducks were next on the docket.
In the early moments, Ondrej Palat was left wide open in front of the net. Anthony Cirelli made a typical Cirelli play, chipping the puck in deep, winning it, and sliding it in front to Palat. He made no mistake, burying his 13th of the season. Palat slid the puck under John Gibson in an instant, putting the Bolts in front 1-0.
A few minutes after the Lightning opened up a 1-0 lead, the Ducks tied the game on what seemed like a harmless shot. Rickard Rakell fanned on his original attempt, then, while contorting his body to face the front of the net, wired one past Andrei Vasilevskiy. In an instant, the Ducks had tied the game at one.
Pretty Point line passing
Not long afterwards, the Brayden Point line took to the ice and dominated. Point, Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos all touched the puck as they weaved their way through the neutral zone. It was Point who touched it last, sliding the disc across to Erik Cernak, who slid it past a sprawling Gibson from the right wing.
Seesaw first frame
The teams would continue to trade goals in the late-goings of the first. Mikhail Sergachev made a rare errant pass and turned the puck over out of the corner in his own end. Michael Del Zotto was Johnny on the spot. He threw one through traffic and the puck had eyes. It beat Vasilevskiy to tie the game once more at two.
Ferocious first chance
The Ducks had the first quality look of period number two just minutes in. Rakell nearly struck again, on a wild deflection. He was facing the boards and swung around once more, redirecting the puck. It beat Vasilevskiy, but not the post. The Lightning dodged an early bullet, and the game remained tied.
Lacklustre power play
The Bolts would have two man-advantage opportunities throughout the second, but you wouldn’t know if you checked the box score. Neither chance sustained much zone time, nor many solid chances. In fact, one of Tampa Bay’s best chances of the stanza came while shorthanded.
Cirelli burst through the neutral zone into a one-on-one with an Anaheim defender. He absolutely undressed him, with a wicked one-touch deke. He proceeded to test Gibson, who shut the door.
Cirelli strikes again
While Cirelli didn’t score the opening tally of the contest, it wouldn’t have happened without his dogged efforts. This time, he was the beneficiary of a Jan Rutta blast from the point, which deflected off his body into the net. While it wasn’t an oil painting for Cirelli, this goal was pure effort yet again. He crashed the front of the net, disturbed the vision of the net-minder, established body position, and was rewarded with the goal. It was 3-2 Tampa Bay late in the second.
Battening down the hatches
This season, Tampa Bay has been excellent protecting one-or-more goal leads. That was evident in a picture-perfect third period defensively Wednesday night in Los Angeles. Once again, the Bolts’ defensive-minded play was evident, protecting their newly acquired lead. Ryan McDonagh, who referenced the Lightning’s tight structure at the second intermission, and company, were fantastic in their own end of the ice, and carried the 3-2 margin into the locker room after a couple of periods.
On a night of spectacular individual efforts, it was no surprise Kucherov joined the fun. It was also a night of six-game point streaks, as Kucherov scored to extend his stretch to six. With the assist, Steven Stamkos did likewise. Kucherov flew through the defense, then ripped a perfect backhand over the shoulder of Gibson, who didn’t stand a chance.
Cirelli certainly deserved a ‘W’ for his efforts in this one. Luckily for him, the Bolts’ stingy defensive play continued throughout the third, and after Vasilevskiy shot his shot at the empty cage, and the Ducks got one back late, he could rejoice. Tampa Bay would hold on for a 4-3 victory. It was Vasilevskiy’s 150th win, in just his 246th game. The Lightning will be back on the ice up the coast of “Cali” Saturday night, attempting to take a bite out of the struggling San Jose Sharks.
Our three stars of the game
- Anthony Cirelli: Cirelli was his usual self: hard working, determined, and all over the scoresheet.
- Nikita Kucherov: Kucherov was involved in a pretty passing play on the second goal, and a prettier finish on the game-winner.
- Rickard Rakell: Rakell got the Ducks on the board, and nearly had a second, on a redirect off the pipe.
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