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Kucherov Leads Lightning Offense in Payback Game

Photo: Alex Walworth, The Scrum Sports

The Tampa Bay Lightning return to the friendly confines of Amalie Arena tonight after a frustrating road trip. The Bolts won just two of their five games out west and are coming off a 4-2 loss to the Calgary Flames Saturday night. Their opponent tonight- the St. Louis Blues. Last time these two faced off, St. Louis netminder Jordan Binnington slammed the door on the Bolts as he pitched a shutout stopping all 30 shots that came his way to win it 5-0 in St. Louis. Would Binnington stay hot against the Lightning or would home ice spur the Bolts to find their scoring touch?

Getting Off to a Quick Start

The Lightning have, no doubt, played some inconsistent hockey this season. But first periods have been a relative strength. They started this one off early. It took them just 2:23 to accomplish what they had been unable to accomplish for an entire game in St. Louis. Beat Jordan Binnington. Mikey Eyssimont batted in his fifth of the season to open the scoring. The play was reviewed as some replays seemed to show a hand batting it in. After an exhaustive review from every possible angle, the call on the ice was confirmed. Good goal. Bolts lead 1-0.

And so it would remain for much of the period. With under three minutes remaining in the period, Tyler Motte tucked in his second of the season to double the Lightning lead to 2-0.

Then, with the period winding down, the league leader in points made his mark on the game. Nikita Kucherov scored with 14 seconds remaining in the frame to send the Lightning to the dressing room with a 3-0 lead.

Fighting that Achilles Heel

While the first period of games has been a strength for the Bolts, the second period has been an Achilles heel. On the recent five-game road trip, the Lightning were outscored by an embarrassing 12-0 total. So, how would they fare tonight? The home crowd would not have to wait long to find out! Just a minute and a half in, Nikita Kucherov picked up right where he’d left off to end the first period. He notched his second of the game and 22nd of the season to put his team up 4-0.

The Lightning were short a defenseman this period. Mikhail Sergachev hobbled off the ice after blocking a shot in the first and did not come back out for the second. As big a loss as that was, it did give some of the other defensemen an opportunity to shine. Hayden Fleury took full advantage of his opportunity to score his first of the season and increase the lead to 5-0.

And with that, Jordan Binnington, who had shut out the Bolts 5-0 just over a month ago, got the hook with his team trailing 5-0 this time. This was, indeed, a payback game for the Bolts!

Joel Hofer came in to replace him. In contrast, Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy remained stellar in net making some huge saves to maintain his shutout through two periods.

Let’s Finish It!

Barring a massive collapse, the Bolts were poised to return to their winning ways at home. They would have to do it without Mikhail Sergachev as it was confirmed that he was out for the game with a lower body injury.

The teams would exchange power play goals in this frame. Nick Paul reached the double digit mark in goals as he tapped in a Steven Stamkos shot for his 10th of the season on the power play at 7:53.

But, at 15:55, Justin Faulk ended Vasilevskiy’s bid for a shutout as he notched his first of the season on the power play.

And that would do it for the scoring. Bolts win it by a final score of 6-1.

Three Stars

1- Nikita Kucherov- 2 goals

2- Andrei Vasilevskiy- stopped 29 of 30 shots

3- Haydn Fleury- 1 goal, 1 assist, helped his team after Sergachev injury in his 22:32 of ice time

Up Next

The 2023 Stanley Cup winning Vegas Golden Knights make their annual trip to Amalie on Thursday, December 21st. Game time is 7pm.

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