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Disciplined Lightning Get Back To Winning

Photo credit: Alex Walworth Scrum Sports

The just completed three game road trip saw the Tampa Bay Lightning drop two of the three games. This uninspired play saw the Lightning remain stagnant in the standings and resulted in their coach Jon Cooper calling them out. Saying his team was undisciplined taking too many penalties. Would coming home to Amalie Arena tonight against the worst team in the conference change their fortunes? Can they win their eighth consecutive home game? Only if a disciplined Lightning team shows up. 

Right From The Jump

Once the puck was dropped on this game, the Lightning looked much different than their last game in Winnipeg. In that game, we saw a plethora of penalties and uncharacteristically lackadaisical play from the Lightning. As this game played out, it was evident this was not the same team we saw last week on the road. The passes were crisp. All four lines were playing fast and smart. Before the game was even two minutes old, the Lightning’s top line went to work. 

After Nikita Kcherov stole a pass in his defensive zone, he zipped the puck up to Brandon Hagel who immediately entered the Columbus zone. Hagel laid the puck off to Erik Cernak who fed Kucherov right in front of the Blue Jackets net. Kucherov slipped the puck past goalie Elvis Merzlikins to open the game’s scoring.  

Building On the Lead

After that initial goal, the Lightning took it to the Blue Jackets. Granted the visitors came to town limping with a few of their top players out with injuries. Boone Jenner, Jakub Voracek and Zach Werenski not suiting up tonight. Playing in their stead were some young players who had absolutely nothing to lose. 

Before the period was halfway over, the Lightning put another goal on the board. On a power play, the Lightning were buzzing in the Blue Jackets zone. Kucherov had a couple of one timers and Steven Stamkos added another. Give the Columbus penalty kill defenders credit, as they took two of those three one time blasts on the shins. Kucherov looked like he was going to take another shot but slap passed the puck to Nick Paul. As the puck hit his stick, Paul tucked it in Merzlikins five hole. The disciplined Lightning were now up 2-0. Would Columbus be able to respond? 

Playing with The Lead

During the recent road trip, one of the things we saw that the team wanted to change was how they played with the lead. At times, the Lightning start to turtle especially on defense and at times they have paid the price. Sure, the Blue Jackets are at the bottom of the Eastern Conference but that’s exactly why they could be dangerous. The Lightning having dominated the first period seemed to lay back a bit in the second. Columbus was getting some zone time and doing their best to limit the Lightning’s time in their zone. Just after the seven minute mark of the period, Gavin Bayreuther sniped a rocket past Andrei Vasilevskiy to cut the lead in half. Now, the Blue Jackets are one good shot from tying the game. 

Looking at the visitors bench, one saw confidence building in the Blue Jackets. While thoughts of the road trip and the undisciplined play must have been on the Lightning player’s minds. Then the 4th line went to work. Pierre Edouard Bellemare stole a Columbus pass in the neutral zone. Leading the rush toward the Blue Jackets zone, he flipped the puck to Vlad Namestnikov. Splitting the Columbus defensemen, Namestnikov did the old forehand backhand okey doke to Merzlikins. The result? A 3-1 lead for the Lightning. The discipline was back. 

Will the Disciplined Lightning Close this Game Out? 

This game is there for the taking. These two points for the win aren’t going to make or break the Lightning season but they are there. These are exactly the types of games that playoff contenders win. At home. Coming off the less than impressive road trip. Against the worst team in the conference who are missing most of their star players. So what happens? You guessed it. For the second time in the game, the Lightning’s two goal lead was cut in half by the Blue Jackets. On the forecheck in the Lightning zone, Patrik Laine executed a nice stick lift on Mikhail Sergachev. Laine then backhanded the puck to an empty slot. Beating everyone to the puck was Tim Berni. He whizzed the puck past Vasilevskiy to bring Columbus closer, now down only 3-2. Where was the needed discipline? 

Just when it looked like the Lightning might snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, the power play took over. After playing catch with three back and forth passes with Victor Hedman, Kucherov blasted a shot past Merzlikins. Just like that, the Lightning got their two goal lead back. But they weren’t done.  

Yes, The Disciplined Lightning Closed Out this Win. 

No question the Lightning power play was on fire tonight. The last thing the Blue Jackets wanted to do was give the Lightning power play another opportunity. Fortunately for the Lightning, they continued to take the game to the Blue Jackets. Sure enough another Columbus penalty resulted in yet another Tampa power play goal. This time it was Brayden Point on a feed from Kucherov and just like that, it was 5-2 Lightning. 

A little over a minute after the Point goal, Ross Colton trailing the play found a rebound off Merzlikins pad and shot it right past him for a 6-2 Lightning lead. Now all the Lightning had to do is close this game out.  After a Lightning giveaway in the neutral zone, Columbus scored their third and final goal. Kirill Marchenko had his initial shot blocked but stayed with it and roofed the puck past Vasilevskiy. This made it 6-3 where the game ended.  

Three Stars 

  1. Nikita Kucherov – 2 goals, 2 assists was the best player on the ice tonight
  2. Nick Paul – 1 goal, 1 assist
  3. Lightning Power Play – 3 goals in 4 power play chances 

What’s Next 

Thursday at 7:00 pm the Vancouver Canucks come to Amalie to face the Tampa Bay Lightning

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