Over the course of a three-game winning streak, the Tampa Bay Lightning used their speed and skill to overwhelm the opposition, particularly in the first period, scoring a combined 10 first period goals during that run. With a struggling Anaheim Ducks team making their only visit to Amalie Arena, the Lightning hoped to continue that run of success.
Unfortunately for them, the Ducks and backup goaltender Ryan Miller had other ideas.
Miller, a longtime former starting goalie in Buffalo, gave John Gibson the rare night off and proceeded to stop 34 of 35 Tampa Bay shots in a 3-1 Anaheim victory. The loss snapped the aforementioned three-game winning streak for the Lightning (17-7-1) in the fourth game of a five-game homestand and gave the Ducks (11-10-5) only their third win in their last seven games. They entered this game, the second of a five-game road trip, having lost in Nashville 5-2 two nights before.
Louis Domingue stopped 19 of 22 Anaheim shots, suffering his first loss of the season on home ice. Brayden Point continued his hot stretch, scoring the Lightning’s only goal while Nikita Kucherov extended his point streak to seven games.
Unlike the previous three games, when the Lightning got off to fast starts and dictated the pace of the game, they found themselves bogged down at times by the Ducks’ tight-checking style. Despite this, the Lightning had their share of chances, but found themselves unable to convert when they needed offense the most on this night.
Half of the first period proved typical of a game between two teams that don’t play each other much
There was a feeling-out process between Tampa Bay and Anaheim over the first 10 minutes of the game, as there were plenty of whistles and slow, choppy play with some neutral zone turnovers from each team. However, the second half of the period featured an uptick in speed and a few quality looks in each end of the ice. Erik Cernak, playing at a high level since being recalled from Syracuse, nearly potted his first career NHL goal. However, Miller came up with a solid save. Domingue conjured up a few quality stops of his own, including a rebound chance from Ondrej Kase in the slot.
The most exciting sequence of the period occurred when Domingue stopped Jacob Larsson, allowing the Lightning to counterattack in transition. Despite some pretty passing by the Bolts going the other way, Miller turned aside Ryan McDonagh’s shot at the end of the sequence.
The Lightning played into the Ducks’ hands in the second period, but woke up just before the intermission
The middle 20 minutes of this game saw the Lightning fall into the Ducks’ style of play, leading to some slow, plodding, sloppy hockey. While the Bolts generated a few quality chances, most notably a Steven Stamkos shot that hit the crossbar, they had issues building up speed in the neutral zone. In addition, they couldn’t maintain sustained pressure in Anaheim’s zone and their passing lacked crispness. This played right into Anaheim’s hands, as they are a heavier team possessing less speed than the Lightning. The Point line had a fantastic opportunity, but Kucherov made an extra pass when he should’ve shot, leading to the puck harmlessly deflecting on Miller. After the whistle, Kucherov broke his stick in frustration.
Anaheim finally broke the ice at the 12:04 mark following a broken play caused by the Ducks’ forecheck. Mikhail Sergachev took the puck behind his own net, but sensing the hit coming, he turned it over. Three Lightning players were caught down low and Adam Henrique’s work created a loose puck in front of Domingue. Josh Manson pinched down and pounced on the puck, roofing it past Domingue for his second of the year and a 1-0 Anaheim lead.
Eventually, the Lightning began exerting their skill and speed, as Point scored for the third straight game, notching his 18th of the season with 1:26 left in the period. McDonagh got the puck down low to Kucherov at the side of the net, where he fed it to a wide-open Point streaking down the slot. Point wired it past Miller, making it a 1-1 game heading into the third.
Eventually, missed opportunities and bad puck luck spelled doom for the Lightning on this night
In the span of 48 seconds in the third period, the Ducks completely shifted things in their favor with a pair of quick goals. With Anaheim on a power play, Pontus Aberg unleashed a long-distance shot that caromed off the glass behind the Lightning net. It took a fortuitous bounce for the Ducks, rebounding back in front of the Bolts’ net, where Nick Ritchie batted it out of the air and into the net for his second of the year at 4:51. On the very next shift, the Ducks worked the puck deep into the Lightning’s zone, with Marcus Pettersson’s shot hitting a crowd in front. However, Carter Rowney caught Sergachev and Domingue out of position before slipping a backhander into the net for a 3-1 lead on his second of the year. This game also marked Rowney’s return after missing 20 games due to an injury.
Despite falling behind, Tampa Bay still had a couple of Grade A chances, most notably one where Alex Killorn collected a loose puck all alone in front, only to see Miller stonewall his shot. During a 5-on-3 power play halfway through the period, Kucherov sent the puck towards the net, where J.T. Miller redirected it inches wide of a yawning cage. After that, the Lightning were unable to threaten again despite pulling Domingue for an extra attacker.
The Lightning conclude their homestand on Thursday night when they host the red-hot Buffalo Sabres, who have won 10 games in a row. Puck drops at 7:30 pm.
-Kucherov has two goals and 13 assists during his seven-game point streak.
-Point is now tied for second in the NHL in goals (18) with Alex Ovechkin.
-This game marked Domingue’s eighth consecutive start.
-This was just the second time in their last 16 meetings with the Ducks that they didn’t come away with at least one point (9-2-5).
-The Lightning had scored the game’s first goal in five straight games before tonight’s contest.
-Ryan Miller is now 23-10-0 in his career against Tampa Bay.
Three Stars of the Game
1st Star: Ryan Miller – Stopped 34 of 35 shots.
2nd Star: Nick Ritchie – Scored the game-winning goal in the third period.
3rd Star: Brayden Point – Scored his team-high 18th goal of the season.
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