As the injury bug has descended on the Tampa Bay Lightning in the last couple of weeks, the team has needed more help from its depth players and for some of the youth on the team to step up in order to keep up in the Atlantic Division race, especially with the division rival Detroit Red Wings coming into town. With Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat, and Ryan Callahan still sidelined, it was Jonathan Drouin, Brayden Point, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and Brian Boyle who came to the rescue for the Lightning at Amalie Arena on Tuesday night.
Vasilevskiy made 22 saves in relief of an injured Ben Bishop, Drouin tallied a goal and an assist, Point also notched a goal and a helper, while Boyle and Vlad Namestnikov scored the other two goals in leading the Lightning (16-14-3) to a 4-1 win over the Red Wings (14-15-4), their third victory over Detroit in as many meetings this season. Drouin now has nine points in his last eight games, including five goals in the last six games he’s played in. Victor Hedman also picked up an assist, the 200th of his NHL career. Vasilevskiy was 10.5 seconds away from a shutout before the Wings tallied an otherwise meaningless goal. Tampa Bay’s special teams also came up big in this game, as the power play went 2-for-6 and the much-maligned penalty killing unit didn’t allow a single power play goal on five opportunities. This game also saw the NHL debut of forward Tanner Richard, who acquitted himself well on a line with Cedric Paquette and J.T. Brown.
Tampa Bay came out flying in the opening period, outshooting the Wings 13-7 and dominating play, which has been the opposite of their usual slow starts this season. Boyle put the Bolts up 1-0 when Drouin had the puck in the corner, made some room, and found Anton Stralman at the point. Stralman’s shot was deflected by Boyle into the net past Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, giving Boyle his seventh goal of the year. Bishop started the game in net for the Lightning, but had to leave at the 12:14 mark of the period when he stretched out his right leg to make a save and stayed down on the ice for a few moments, a stretch of time that included a breakaway chance for Alex Killorn. Bishop left the ice under his own power, but appeared to be in a lot of pain and did not return, paving the way for Vasilevskiy to enter the game cold. The rivalry between the teams picked up late in the period when Brown was called for roughing Detroit’s Andreas Athanasiou, leading to the two dropping the gloves and tacking on five-minute majors as well. Brown landed several solid rights during the bout.
In the second period, the Lightning continued to control the game like they did in the first, generating quality shots and maintaining possession, as it was clear who the superior team was on this night. Just 5:39 into the period, the Red Wings also lost their starting goaltender, as Howard was hurt during a scramble in the crease as the Lightning’s Erik Condra tried to jam a loose puck into the net following a shot off a rush by Tyler Johnson. As Condra was in the crease, Wings defenseman Nick Jensen tried to push Condra out of the way and ended up falling onto Howard as Howard was bending backward. Howard had to be helped off the ice by teammates and did not return, as Petr Mrazek entered the game in relief. Ironically, Jensen was also the same player whose shot Bishop stopped when he was injured.
At the 7:07 mark of the second period, Xavier Ouellet was called for tripping Drouin after the Lightning winger nearly danced through all five Red Wings on the ice and scored, putting the Bolts on the power play. Just 27 seconds later, Luke Glendening was sent to the penalty box for slashing, giving the Bolts a two-man advantage. Following a faceoff win by Johnson, Alex Killorn got the puck back to Drouin, who patiently waited, skated towards the left circle, and zipped a shot past Mrazek for his eighth goal of the season, which happened just seven seconds into the 5-on-3. The Lightning were up 2-0 and they had a little bit of breathing room. But they weren’t done yet.
Detroit’s Drew Miller took a slashing penalty at the 16:14 mark of the second period, and Point would cash in on the power play to make it 3-0. Hedman would dish the puck over to the left circle, where Johnson one-timed it on net. Following a save by Mrazek, Point was at the side of the net to put the rebound home from a tough angle. Plagued by shots that had been connecting with goalposts and crossbar recently, Point finally hit the back of the net for his third goal of the season. With 32.6 seconds left in the period, Point would collect an assist following a great save by Vasilevskiy. Point would get the puck and dish it to Killorn, who led a 2-on-1. Killorn then feathered a perfect pass over to Namestnikov, who finished it off with his fourth of the season to make it 4-0.
Despite holding a comfortable lead, the Lighting didn’t let up the rest of the way, as their only blemish came with 10.5 seconds left on Anthony Mantha’s goal after a shot squeezed through Vasilevskiy and sat in the crease for a moment before Mantha knocked it home. But by then, it was too little, too late for the Wings, as Tampa Bay pulled within two points of the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division. It was also the eighth time this season the Lighting scored multiple power play goals in a game, but the first such contest since November 17th.
The Lightning will return to action on Thursday night when they host the St. Louis Blues at 7:30 pm. We’ll have more information on Bishop’s injury as it becomes available.
MY THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1st Star: Jonathan Drouin – Now has nine points in his last eight games and was unstoppable tonight, creating multiple scoring chances and nearly tallying a goal in which he skated through all five Red Wings players on the ice. Finished with a goal and an assist.
2nd Star: Brayden Point – Had a goal and an assist, and his line with Killorn and Namestnikov was unstoppable.
3rd Star: Brian Boyle – Gave the Lightning the all-important first goal of the game, his third in the span of four games. Continues to be a force in front of the net and his line with Drouin and Valtteri Filppula has been tough for the opposition to contain lately.
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