Down the stretch, for Yanni Gourde and the Tampa Bay Lightning, playing in tight, grind-it-out road games like Monday’s tilt in Columbus will bode well. After the game they relayed that they wanted to get used to playing to win 2-1 contests in preparation for playoff hockey. They also probably wanted Gourde to score, something that hadn’t happened since November 25.
The Bolts have become accustom to playing even games against the Pittsburgh Penguins of late, so it would be no surprise to see a low scoring, tightly contested tilt at PPG Paints Arena. It would be surprising, at this point, to see Gourde finally shed his demons.
Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay went head-to-head just six days before this game, and that was evident early on. Not only was the pace brisk, but the physical play was fierce on both sides.
Level playing field
Early in the contest, play was very even. Both teams created quality chances at each end of the ice. First, it was the Pens holding a 3-1 shot advantage and controlling the pace. Next, Tampa Bay generated multiple great looks at the net, most of them coming from one stick.
Tyler Johnson was everywhere in the first half of the opening period. Off the hop, he deflected a point shot dangerously on net. After scuffing a one-timer on an odd-man rush, Johnson created a third opportunity. He had his best period in recent memeory, but unfortunately for Johnson, neither he, nor his team were able to get on the board first
While Pittsburgh was welcoming new face Jason Zucker to the team just a day after acquiring him, it was a seasoned Lightning killer that got the Pens on the board. A rebound skipped to Evgeni Malkin on the power play, and he made no mistake, beating Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Power plays prevalent
After the Pens and Lightning traded chances early, the Bolts controlled the game for the majority of the opening frame. However, not only did the Penguins score on the power play, but Tampa Bay missed on their 24th consecutive man advantage opportunity. They were able to create some great chances, but never cashed in.
Even strength though, it was nearly all Lightning. They outshot the Pens 17-8 in period number one, but were down 1-0 headed to the locker room.
It was beginning to feel like the the Tampa Bay power play was never going to score on a power play. Enter: Mikhail Sergachev. His blast from the point had eyes and beat Matt Murray to knot the game at one. Sergachev’s ninth goal of the season was the first Lightning man advantage goal since January 16th.
S E R G Y 🚀 pic.twitter.com/2WNqyQT12V
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) February 12, 2020
It’s rare the entire building thinks a puck is in, but they’re wrong. That was the case with a Vasilevskiy save midway through the second. He was able to kick the puck up, off the bottom of the crossbar, and corral it, keeping it out of the net. It was one of his 11 saves in the stanza, a far cry from just the seven he made in the first,
Injuries piling up
The Lightning entered the road trip down two defensemen. They’d lost Jan Rutta and Ryan McDonagh to injuries. So, it was no help when the forwards began to fall like flies. With Steven Stamkos not travelling with the team for the two-game-set, Anthony Cirelli and Nikita Kucherov both left this game.
As mentioned, the hockey in the latter half of the season begins to feel more and more playoff-like. The third period was exactly that, with not an inch to move on either side, and neither team flinching whatsoever. After a late penalty kill from Tampa Bay, the game headed to overtime.
The Bolts barely touched the puck for two-plus minutes in the additional session. Pittsburgh was all over them early, creating numerous chances. Vasilevskiy made multiple saves to keep the game going.
Mikahail Sergachev turned the puck over and led a rush. Victor Hedman and Brayden Point, off the bench, combined to set up Gourde. That’s right, Gourde, who roofed the game-winner over Matt Murray. The entire bench exploded in support of Gourde and the win.
THIS MOMENT. 🙌 pic.twitter.com/Dxh4MrBRq8
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) February 12, 2020
The Bolts would win in overtime 2-1. The win is the Lightning’s eight straight, and puts them just a single point back of the Boston Bruins in the Atlantic Division. Tampa Bay will be back in action Thursday night at home against the Edmonton Oilers.
Our three stars of the game
- Yanni Gourde: 1 goal: Gourde finally got the monkey off his back with the game-winner in overtime.
- Mikhail Sergachev: 1 goal: Sergachev scored to tie the game, and started the rush on the game-winner.
- Evgeni Malkin: 1 goal: Malkin scored the Pens’ opening goal, and would’ve had a second if not for a rolling puck in front of an empty net.
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