If there’s one thing the Tampa Bay Lightning have proven this season, it’s that hockey is very unpredictable. They started the campaign slumping, their Vezina-winning goaltender looking rather beatable, their high-octane offense sputtering. Now, entering a matchup with the Vegas Golden Knights, the Bolts had won eleven in a row. Points would be at a premium, in a back-and-forth affair that showcased the game’s up’s and down’s almost as much as Tampa Bay’s seesaw stretch.
This contest featured two fresh faces, one on each team. On the Tampa Bay side, Blake Coleman was brought in on Sunday from New Jersey. Alec Martinez was acquired just a day before the game by Vegas, from the Los Angeles Kings.
In the very early-going of this tilt, Anthony Cirelli found himself wide open on a breakaway. He burst in on Marc-Andre Fleury and elevated the puck. Cirelli was able to beat the goaltender, but not the crossbar. Nonetheless, a great early chance to set the tone for the Bolts.
Lately, it seems every Tampa Bay player who has been going through a scoring dry spell breaks through. Lightning fans all remember Yanni Gourde’s triumphant return to the scoresheet. After scoring for the first time in months, the next game, more Lightning joined the fun. Patrick Maroon and Cedric Paquette each ended double-digit game goal droughts as well.
On this night, it was Kevin Shattenkirk getting the monkey off his back. Alex Killorn, who was spectacular in the franchise-best 11th straight win, against the Colorado Avalanche, started the play. He made a nifty behind the back pass cross-ice for Shattenkirk, who threw it back to the middle of the pad on the rush from the right wing. He was looking for Cirelli yet again, but the puck caromed off the skate of Nick Holden and into the net, gifting Tampa Bay a 1-0 advantage. The tally was Shattenkirk’s first time finding twine in 21 games.
Fresh faces impactful
Coleman didn’t take long to make a good first impression in a Tampa Bay uniform. He had two quality looks in the opening frame, one after impressively picking off an airborne pass. However, it was one of Vegas’ newest weapons who outdid him, tying the game.
Martinez made an equally immediate mark on the contest, scoring in his first period as a Golden Knight. A Cody Eakin blast from the slot gave Andrei Vasilevskiy fits, and the long rebound landed right on the tape of Martinez. He was able to slide it through an outstretched, on-the-move Vasilevskiy to tie the game. The Lightning held a 12-11 shot advantage, but no lead after twenty minutes.
In the first five minutes of the middle stanza, Tampa Bay controlled play and generated some good opportunities. They had a 5-1 shot advantage, and saw power play time in that segment. Their best chance came on a Steven Stamkos one-timer on the man-advantage, which was turned aside by the blocker of Fleury.
Then, on one of the first legitimate Vegas chances of the frame, Nate Schmidt made a nifty play coming into the Tampa Bay zone. He spun around and whipped the puck to Reilly Smith. He hit Paul Stastny on the stick in front of the net to make it 2-1 Knights.
New hundred, same Stamkos
In Monday’s game in Colorado, Stamkos skated in his 800th game, and scored. It seems already like goal-scoring will be a theme in the fresh 100 games for “Stammer,” as he decided to add another in game number 801.
Fittingly, Stamkos blasted this one home from his office, at the left face-off circle. He received a touch-pass from Victor Hedman, and wired it past Fleury to tie the game. It hit Nick Holden on its way into the net.
Cap on the power play 🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/5c0oTHVA30
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) February 21, 2020
It was the first time the Lightning were able to capitalize on the power play in this game, on three opportunities, though not for a lack of chances.
Right after the Bolts had tied the game on the man-advantage, the Knights got the lead back, just 1:01 later. Mark Stone grabbed a pass in the middle of the ice and made a sweet move, dangling away from Vasilevskiy and putting it home. The Bolts, for a change, were trailing after two periods of play, with Vegas up 3-2. One of the fresh faces yet again chipped in, with Martinez picking up the apple.
Right off the face-off to begin the final twenty, Braydon Coburn was indecisive with the puck, and was stripped across his own blue-line by Ryan Reaves, who made no mistake. He ripped it past Vasilevskiy, but it was one the Russian goalie would like to have back. The Golden Knights extended their lead to 4-2. Unfortunately for the Lightning, they weren’t done yet, and the nightmare start to the third was just beginning for Coburn.
Next, Coburn took a penalty, holding against William Carrier. In just 47 seconds, the Knights extended their lead to three goals, as Max Pacioretty absolutely blistered it by Vasilevskiy, only 37 ticks after the Reaves marker. Just like that, Vegas had a three-goal, 5-2 lead.
The Lightning would get one back, yet again off the stick of the red-hot captain, and had several chances with an empty net, but fell to the Golden Knights by a 5-3 final. The fresh faces on either side were evident, with Martinez having the better debut, but Coleman factoring in as well. The Bolts will be back in action Saturday night in the desert, taking on the Arizona Coyotes.
Our three stars of the game
- Mark Stone: Stone had not just a goal, but a filthy one at that, and added an assist in a productive night.
- Steven Stamkos: Stamkos continued his scoring streak, burying two goals in the defeat.
- Alec Martinez: A fine debut for Martinez in grey and gold, notching a goal and an assist.
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