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Crashing The Net: Bolts Face Test Before Holidays

The Tampa Bay Lightning (15-14-3) have gone 2-4-2 in the month of December and are desperate to not dip under .500 on the season. This week, they host a divisional foe in the Detroit Red Wings (14-14-2), followed by the St. Louis Blues (17-11-4) before taking a trip to visit the Washington Capitals (19-8-3) during the holidays. Will the Lightning get that Red Rider BB gun they’ve always wanted or will they shoot their eye out? Let’s take a look ahead with Crashing The Net!

Last Week:

The Lightning started off last week’s Western Canadian trip against the Calgary Flames (16-15-2) on Wednesday night. Tampa Bay started off the game playing the same old song and dance by letting up a goal to Calgary’s Troy Brouwer (7G, 8A) just 3:06 into the first. Rather than give up to the same frustration that has worn them down this season, the Bolts bounced back with two scores from forward Brian Boyle (6G, 3A) three minutes apart. In the second period, Tampa Bay’s defense decided to take the reins for a while as both Braydon Coburn (1G, 4A) and Andrej Sutsr (1G, 4A) captured their first goals of the season to give the Lightning a 4-1 leading going into the final twenty minutes. In the third, the onslaught continued with an Alex Killorn (10G, 5A) shorthanded goal just 37 seconds in. Up 5-1 with under 19 minutes left in the game, the Lightning were feeling pretty good about themselves. They could feel that tension one gets in a highly contested game ease off their back. They began to sit back and try to coast this one to the finish line. Unfortunately for them, you cannot do that in hockey, and Calgary showed them why with two quick goals 21 seconds apart from T.J. Brodie (2G, 7A) and Micheal Ferland (5G, 6A) to get this one within two. Wide-eyed from their ice water bath, the Lightning held together and, with a Killorn empty-netter, were able to hang on and win the game 6-3.

Friday night the Bolts faced the Vancouver Canucks (13-16-3) seeking revenge for the embarrassment given to them at home the week before. They would start off on a solid note as they didn’t give up any goals in the first period and instead scored first themselves with a Victor Hedman (6G, 19A) snap shot at 6:31. The second period would be all Vancouver as they dominated play similar to the week before and were not only able to tie the game, but take the lead as well with goals from Brandon Sutter (9G, 9A) and Luca Sbisa (1G, 7A). Down 2-1 to start the third, The Lightning came out with much needed intensity and it paid off. On the power play, newly-recalled forward Cory Conacher (1G, 1A) would score his first NHL goal since 2014 to even the game. You might remember Conacher as he was the very player who Tampa Bay traded in order to get star goaltender Ben Bishop (9W, 2.82 GAA, .906 Sv%) back in 2013. With plenty of the third period still on the table, it would come down to which team wanted it more or rather who received the lucky bounce first. In this case, it would be the Canucks as a truly unlucky bounce off Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (6W, 2.49 GAA, .921 Sv%) led to a Bo Horvat (9G, 11A) power play goal which gave Vancouver a 3-2 lead. The Bolts would not be able to bounce back in this one, and eventually gave up an empty net goal to seal the deal 4-2.

To end the Canadian swing, Tampa Bay trekked up to Edmonton to take on the Oilers (17-12-5). The first period consisted of both teams feeling one another out with neither team dominant. However, the second period was when the fireworks were ignited as Edmonton forward Milan Lucic (9G, 14A) scored on the power play to draw first blood. It wouldn’t be until the final minutes of the second for Tampa Bay to answer back with a Jonathan Drouin (7G, 8A) power play goal to tie the game 1-1. The third showed much of the same chemistry as the second as both teams would once again trade goals. Lightning forward Tyler Johnson scored at the 2:35 mark to give the Bolts their first lead of the game. Tampa Bay’s penalty kill would do them in minutes later as Oiler forward Leon Draisaitl (14G, 16A) tied the game at two and before we knew it, we had overtime. It would take the shootout to decide this one and Edmonton’s young captain, Connor McDavid, would do what he does best and win this one for his club. The Lightning would escape Canada with three out of six points and come home to prepare for a short home stand.

Standout Moment of The Week: The

Lightning Statistics From Last Week:

Games Played: 3
Wins: 1
Loses: 2 (1 in SO)
Points: 3 out of 6
Goals For: 10
Goals Allowed: 10
Power Play: 3/11 = 27.2%
Penalty Kill: 7/12 = 58.3%

Upcoming Games:

Detroit Red Wings (14-14-2)
Where: Amalie Arena, Florida
When: Tuesday, December 20th – 7:30PM
Where to Watch: SunS, FSDT, TVA

The Lightning start off their week against a division rival in the Detroit Red Wings. This year, the Lightning have bested Detroit twice already, but there are still three more games left in their season series. These two teams are very similar in their style of play and always put on a show for the home faithful. One other thing they currently share is their struggles. Both teams have had a December best forgotten. This is a time for both groups to look themselves in the mirror and, with a win against a foe in the same boat, get their respective clubs back on track.

The Bolts’ penalty kill has disappointed recently, but lucky for them, the Red Wings’ power play is 29th in the NHL so now is the time to turn that tide. Look for them to use this opportunity to regain some of that lost confidence. Detroit, having just snapped a four-game losing skid last Saturday night, are just one point behind Tampa Bay and only five points out of an Atlantic playoff spot. They can do this behind their leading scorer Henrik Zetterberg (6G, 15A). Zetterberg has a knack for getting the puck in lucrative places on the ice. The Lightning need to have their eyes peeled on situations like that because it has sunk them several times already this season.

St. Louis Blues (17-11-4)
Where: Amalie Arena, Florida
When: Thursday, December 22nd – 7:30PM
Where to Watch: SunS, FSMW

Tampa Bay has a date with the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night and, from what we saw last time these teams faced, it should be a fun one. This game will be the second and final time these teams meet this season. Back on December 1st, the Blues stifled a late rally to beat the Bolts by a score of 5-4. This time the Lightning need to not let the explosive scoring of the Blues bury them in a hole so early. One way to do this is not give St. Louis the man advantage, as they are 7th in the NHL on the power play. The Lightning learned this lesson firsthand back in early December as they were burned with three power play scores.

One of those goals came from St. Louis star Vladimir Tarasenko (16G, 22A) who has been a thorn in Tampa Bay’s side every time they face these tough adversaries from the west. The home team will need to bottle this genie up, as he has a talent for finding scoring chances anywhere on the ice. Now is a time for the Bolts to do just that as the Blues’ are on a recent slump that has seen them lose six of their last ten contests. With a bit of grit and momentum, the Lightning aim to even the series and close out the home stand on a solid note.

Washington Capitals (19-8-3)
Where: Verizon Center, Washington
When: Friday, December 23rd – 7:00PM
Where to Watch: Fox Sun Sports, CSMA

The Bolts take a quick road trip before the holidays with a visit to Washington to take on the Capitals. Washington has been on a tear recently having won six in a row before they suffered a 2-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens (20-7-4) on Saturday night. This surge highlights the ability of goaltender Braden Holtby (14W, 2.08 GAA, .925 Sv%), who has brought his club within the top three in goals allowed. The last time these two clubs faced off, the Lightning came out victorious with a 2-1 shootout win. For them to claim another victory over the red hot Capitals, they will need to continue that grinding style of play that they utilized so well the last contest.

While the Capitals can most definitely prevent goals, they can also score them. For this, they look to forward Nicklas Backstrom (9G, 18A) who leads the team in points. Backstrom, along with his supporting cast, have provided the offense needed for Washington to become so successful of late. They’ve done this by countless means, but the most effective has been their power play, which has seen a significant increase in production throughout the month. Look for the Bolts to bring the intensity as they are desperately in need of a win before the new year.

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