This Stanley Cup defense season has certainly seen its ups and downs so far. Still, the reigning champion Tampa Bay Lightning (29-13-2, 60 points) find themselves right in the thick of things in the 2020-2021 playoff race. Following a tough loss to the rival Florida Panthers on Saturday night, Tampa Bay entered Monday night’s contest just 2 points behind the first place Carolina Hurricanes (29-10-4, 62 points) who were in town for an important back to back at Amalie Arena.
Penalty kill passes early test and Killorn lights the lamp
After an early 4 on 4 situation, the Tampa Bay penalty killers were put to the test against the league’s top ranked power play. A successful kill with minimal chances created a momentum swing in the Lightning’s favor. At 14:42, Tampa Bay struck first off the stick of Alex Killorn. Controlling the puck at the blue line, Tyler Johnson took advantage of 2 Carolina defenseman pursuing him at once. This left Alex Killorn streaking wide open into the offensive zone. Johnson made a heads up pass and fed Killorn on a breakaway and Killorn cashed in with a backhand goal past Peter Mrazek. Yanni Gourde was denied a breakaway of his own minutes later, and Tampa Bay took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
Johnny ➡️ Killer for this beauty on a breakaway! pic.twitter.com/scAyMTBWZo
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) April 19, 2021
Both power plays strike in the second
The Lightning power play went to work early in the second period. Vincent Trocheck took a holding penalty at 1:26. With Brayden Point positioned in front of Peter Mrazek, Ondrej Palat fired a pass that Point redirected into the net to put Tampa Bay up 2-0. Point’s team leading 19th goal of the season also marked his 300th career point.
Midway through the period, Carolina answered with a power play goal of their own. Erik Cernak was penalized for interference at 9:53. It didn’t take long for the most efficient power play in the league to convert. Just 10 seconds into the opportunity, Andrei Svechnikov fired a wrist shot from the left circle. The shot found the back of the net to cut the Tampa Bay lead to 2-1.
The Hurricanes wasted no time getting their offense going in the third period. Brady Skjei converted a wrister from the slot at the 1:08 mark to tie things up at 2. Momentum and zone time favored Carolina in the early going of the third period but Andrei Vasilevskiy stood tall throughout to deny the division leaders from taking a lead in this game.
Killorn vs Gardiner
Tempers were flaring throughout this game in a playoff type atmosphere. After all, it was a battle of two teams jockeying to win a tightly contested division. The hostility reached a climax a little over 8 minutes into the third period. Alex Killorn found himself in a massive neutral zone collision with Martin Necas. In defense of his teammate, Jake Gardiner decided to seek out Killorn to drop the gloves. It was a decision he would soon regret, as Killorn easily pummeled Gardiner to the ice. Killorn ended his momentum changing moment by pumping up the crowd of 3,800 as he skated to the penalty box.
Never seen Alex Killorn this fired up, but we like it!
— Bally Sports Sun: Lightning (@BallyLightning) April 20, 2021
For the remainder of the third period, the Lightning had their fair share of scoring opportunities and plenty of zone time. But, with both goalies denying a go ahead goal, this battle needed overtime to determine a winner.
A fitting day for a Gordie Howe hat trick
As overtime began, Vasilevskiy was tested early on a chance by Jordan Staal. As he did many times throughout this game, Vasilevskiy answered the call and kept Carolina off the scoreboard. Then, halfway through overtime, Killorn found Yanni Gourde open in front of Mrazek. After an initial save, Gourde buried his own rebound to deliver the Lightning a huge, much needed victory. Killorn is not known for his fights, but on a night where Gordie Howe was passed by the Sharks’ Patrick Marleau in all time games played, Killorn’s performance was a fitting salute to the former NHL ironman.
With the Panthers winning earlier in the night and the Hurricanes picking up a point in this game, the Lightning remain in third place in the Central division with 62 points. Carolina and Florida sit at 63 points each in what is an intense 3 team race to the finish.
Tampa Bay and Carolina wrap up their season series in the second half of a back to back tomorrow night at Amalie Arena.
3 stars of the game
- Alex Killorn (Gordie Howe hat trick)
- Andrei Vasilevskiy (25/27 saves)
- Brayden Point (1G)
- Panthers clinch home ice, blank Bolts in regular season finale May 10, 2021
- Lightning serve up defensive nightmare in drubbing at hands of Stars May 7, 2021
- Point and Killorn lead Lightning past Stars, now tied for second in Central May 5, 2021
- Third line and solid defense propel Lightning to win over Detroit May 2, 2021
- Lightning Can’t Finish in Shootout Loss in Detroit May 1, 2021
- Bolts continue dominance over Stars with 3-0 victory April 29, 2021
- Playoff-bound Bolts score up a storm to beat Hawks April 27, 2021
- Hedman’s heroics lift Lightning to crucial win over Jackets April 25, 2021
- D-Corps matches Columbus’ effort in much needed Lightning win. April 22, 2021
- Tyler Johnson: Grab Some Bench April 21, 2021