The Tampa Bay Lightning have got to be feeling good about their performance thus far on this homestand. After a difficult stretch of five straight losses, settling back in at home appeared to be just what the doctor had ordered. The Bolts have outplayed their opponents in each of the previous three games. And they have a 2-0-1 record to show for it. They would have won both of their last two games with it ease had it not been for outstanding performances by the opposing goaltenders. The Lightning will have a tough week coming up, with two games in a row in New Jersey against a red-hot Devils team. They’d love to wrap up this homestand on a high note with a win over the Winnipeg Jets.
Homestand Finale Will Require Discipline
The last time the Bolts faced these Jets, it was a lack of discipline that cost them the game. Winnipeg scored the tying and go-ahead goals both on the power play. And not just a regular power play. a 5 on 3. Coach Jon Cooper had called out the lack of discipline after that game stating, “It’s a complete lack of discipline. It was embarrassing what we did.” Will we see a more disciplined Bolts team tonight?
A couple of surprises to start this game. A very pleasant surprise for Bolts fan was seeing the captain, Steven Stamkos, take the ice after leaving yesterday’s matchup in the first period with an injury. Another surprise was the starting netminder for the Jets. Connor Hellebuck was a busy man in Sunrise, Florida yesterday as he faced 48 shots and stopped 44 of them in a 5-4 overtime victory. All signs pointed to backup goalie David Rittich getting the nod in net for today’s tilt. But Coach Rick Bowness opted to give Hellebuyck the start again. Would we see signs of fatigue?
It looked good to start as the Lightning opened the scoring just a minute and 19 seconds in. Alex Killorn has had a hot stick of late! He tipped in his 20th of the season and fifth in the last 6 games.
Jets Strike Back
Any early signs of fatigue on Hellebuyck’s part faded quickly as this one went on. Winnipeg tied things up just over halfway through the frame on Nate Schmidt’s 7th of the season. The Bolts outshot the Jets 7-4 in the opening period but where it counted- on the scoreboard, we were all tied at 1.
We didn’t have to wait long into the second to see which team would break the tie. Ross Colton hooked Mason Appleton in front of the net to stop an excellent scoring chance. For his efforts, Colton got two minutes in the penalty box. But he served less than 30 seconds, as Nino Niederreiter notched his 21st of the season on the power play at the 1:01 mark.
But the Jets were not done yet! Just about 8 minutes later, Morgan Barron tallied his 7th of the season after Andrei Vasilevskiy had been knocked down and taken out of the play. The Lightning challenged for goaltender interference. Would the goal stand?
A Shorty in the Homestand Finale
The goal stood. Back to the power play for Winnipeg. And the Amalie Arena faithful were not happy. They voiced their displeasure with the call with familiar chants of “Refs, you suck!” And perhaps, the chanting inspired Anthony Cirelli, as he went in on a short-handed breakaway and scored to pull the Bolts within a goal.
Tony takes it up top for an absolute BEAUT 😍 pic.twitter.com/CS8Kx8LphT
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) March 13, 2023
Following that, it was the Jets who lost their discipline and gave the Lightning just over a minute on a 5 on 3. The Lightning had their chances, including Brayden Point hitting a post but they came up empty. They headed to the dressing room down 3-2, despite once again, leading in shots at 14-8.
Homestand Finale Hits a Wall (and several posts)
The Bolts gave it their all in the third period but could not find the back of the net. They did find the posts a couple of times, including Victor Hedman with about five seconds remaining in regulation. Jon Cooper said after the games that the boys definitely played well enough to win tonight, and did deserve to come out with a point. As was the case in the final three games of this homestand, the Bolts were facing a determined goalie who seemed to have luck on his side. The Lightning managed points the last two games but came up empty in the homestand finale tonight. Their process has definitely improved since their dismal road trip last week. They will hope to take this improved process on the upcoming trip to New Jersey.
1- Connor Hellebuyck- kept his team in the game
2- Anthony Cirelli- big short-handed goal
3- Alex Killorn- opening goal 1:19 into the game
The Lightning will head out to New Jersey to face the surging Devils in a rare scheduling occurrence- two-straight road games against the same team! Tuesday night’s game begins at 7pm.
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