The Tampa Bay Lightning (14-11-2) come off yet another disappointing week and have seen their position in the Atlantic Division continue to drop. Thankfully, they were granted some much needed rest as this week is a short one with two games at home against the Vancouver Canucks (11-13-2) and Pittsburgh Penguins (16-7-3). The Lightning look at this as a reset against two formidable foes and, with morale-boosting wins, can get their mediocre season back on track. Let’s take a look at the road ahead with Crashing The Net!
Last Week: Tampa Bay opened last week with a visit to the new and improved Columbus Blue Jackets (15-5-4), and the Jackets did not play the role of kind host. The Lightning looked completely out of place in this one from the opening buzzer to the ending horn that brought a merciful end to the game. Columbus continued their dominant style of play from the last time these two teams met and opened scoring at 5:30 into the first with a goal from Blue Jacket forward William Karlsson (4G, 5A). It wouldn’t get better for Tampa Bay from there, as Columbus collected two more tallies in the second from Alexander Wennberg (6G, 16A) and Josh Anderson (7G, 3A) to give the Blue Jackets a 3-0 lead to end the second. Down by three, the Lightning still had plenty of hockey left to make this one interesting. That however, would not be the case for Tampa Bay, as Columbus slipped the dagger between their ribs and virtually put the game out of reach at 1:57 with a score from Scott Hartnell (5G, 10A) and then again soon after by Sam Gagner (10G, 7A). The Lightning would lose this clunker by a score of 5-1 with Valtteri Filppula (5G, 11A) providing the blemish on Sergei Bobrovsky’s (14W, 2.03GAA, .930SV%) 26-save performance.
Two days later, the Lighting went back on the road to face the St. Louis Blues (15-7-4) in the hopes of putting they’re decimation by Columbus behind them. That wish would not be granted as St. Louis forward Vladimir Tarasenko (13G, 14A) jumped on them early and made it 1-0 just 1:39 into the game. The surge would not be stifled there as Tarasenko again made the Bolts pay, this time on the power play minutes later. It was quickly becoming “that” type of game all over again. However, this time the Lightning did something they failed to do two nights ago, they answered back with a goal by Cedric Paquette (3G, 4A) a little over a minute later. Down by just a goal, Tampa Bay had some of their swagger back. They skated faster, their passes were crisper, and they had that competitive edge Lightning fans are so used to seeing. Everything was looking up and then another penalty bit them in the foot as St. Louis defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (6G, 13A) coverted on the man advantage and the Blues took a 3-1 lead into the second.
The Lightning would continue to put the fork in the electrical socket with a too many men penalty a minute into the second. Needless to say, the Blues were able to craft another goal on the opportunity as Shattenkirk once again beat Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (6W, 2.24 GAA, .930 SV%) causing him to be pulled in favor of Ben Bishop (8W, 2.74 GAA, .910 SV%) at 1:44. Bishop showed flashes of his previous self, making several key saves to keep the Lightning afloat. His fruits would pay off as finally Tampa Bay struck again to lower the deficit to two goals. The third period of the game was quite a doozy as Lightning star Nikita Kucherov (13G, 16A) brought the game within one at 1:41 on the power play. Unfortunately for the Bolts, Tarasenko would not be tamed and netted his third goal of the net minutes later, which would prove to be the game winning goal as St. Louis took this one 5-4.
Having already lost the first two games of the week and facing struggles of a gigantic proportion, there was nowhere else for the Lightning to go against the Washington Capitals (14-7-3) on Saturday night but up. They played, in my opinion, their most solid game of the season against a team that has plagued them in the past. The game consisted of each time trying to figure out the other, with the Lighting’s Kucherov solving the equation first with a power play goal in the second. This achievement would be met a period later by Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom (7G, 14A) to tie the game at one. The game eventually went into overtime and then had to be decided in a shootout, which the Bolts took to beat the Capitals 2-1 and end their four-game losing streak.
To cap off the week, the Lightning visited the Carolina Hurricanes (10-10-6) in the team’s first meeting of the season. Tampa Bay would continue their defensively-focused style of game after it proved useful in the much-needed win against Washington. However, this would be the same game the Hurricanes decided to perform as well. Both teams played into a stalemate with both Bishop and Hurricane’s goaltender Cam Ward (8W, 2.22 GAA, .920 SV%) playing fantastic for their respective clubs. The final buzzer blew and the game was scoreless heading into overtime. This one was decided at 1:26 into extra minutes as Carolina’s Phillip Di Giuseppe (1G, 1A) scored his first of the season. There would be some controversy to the ending however, as Bishop was bumped by prior to the shot. Unfortunately for the Lightning, the officials would rule against it and the Canes held on to their 1-0 win.
Standout Moment of The Week: The standout moment of the week for me was the Lightning’s 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals on Saturday night. Not only did this snap a four game losing streak, but was one of the best efforts by the Bolts this season. It also proved that they could play defensively and help out their net minders in order to obtain a win. This victory was also against a team that has proved very difficult for the Lighting in the past. Regardless of the outcome to Sunday night’s game against the Hurricanes, this is a great moment for Tampa Bay to build upon.
Lightning Statistics From Last Week:
Games Played: 4
Wins: 1 (in SO)
Loses: 3 (1 in OT)
Points: 3 out of 8
Goals For: 7
Goals Allowed: 12
Power Play: 2/14 = 14.2%
Penalty Kill: 11/15 = 73.3%
Vancouver Canucks (11-13-2)
Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa, FL
When: Thursday, December 8th – 7:30PM
Where to Watch: Fox Sun Sports, RSNV
The Lightning start off the short week at home against the Vancouver Canucks for the first meeting of a two-game season series. This matchup could potentially be a welcome for the Lightning as the Canucks have gone 3-8-1 away from home this season, the second-worst road record in the NHL. In this tilt, scoring the first goal will be crucial since both teams have a solid record when drawing first blood, Tampa Bay at 10-1-0 and Vancouver sporting a 4-2-1 record in that situation. The Lightning have played the Canucks well in the last few years as they have a 5-1-0 record against them since 2014.
Something to always watch out for in Vancouver is the Sedin Twins. Daniel (8G, 9A) and Henrik Sedin (7G, 10A) have been using their twin magic in excess as of late as they have scored a combined nine points in their last four games and lead the Canucks in scoring. In their struggles, Vancouver has fallen to the bottom in most categories except for their penalty kill, which is 9th in the NHL. If the Lightning can keep honest to their game, Tampa Bay has a great chance to get in the win column Thursday night.
Pittsburgh Penguins (16-7-3)
Where: Amalie Arena, Florida
When: Saturday, December 10th – 7:00PM
Where to Watch: Fox Sun Sports, ROOT
The dreaded Pittsburgh Penguins invade Amalie Arena on Saturday night as the defending 2015-16 Stanley Cup Champions face the Lightning in their first meeting since the 2015-16 Eastern Conference Final earlier this year. The Penguins have not slowed down since, as they are the current leaders in the Metropolitan Division with 35 points. They come into Florida on a three-game win streak thirsty to improve it to four as they will face the Florida Panthers (12-11-4) before meeting up with Tampa Bay. They are also fresh off an 8-5 drubbing of the Ottawa Senators (16-9-2) on Monday night. Unfortunately for the Lighting, Pittsburgh will arrive with a lot of momentum.
When a team is third in scoring in the entire NHL, there are a lot of players to watch out for, but the most significant are stars Evgeni Malkin (10G, 18A) and Sidney Crosby (17G, 10A). Crosby is tied for the most goals in the NHL and Malkin is seventh in assists. This makes them a highly effective one-two punch. The Lightning will need to handle the pressure that’s sure to come from the Penguins. That, and capitalizing on the few opportunities Pittsburgh reluctantly gives up will be Tampa Bay’s key to success in this one.
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