Over the course of the season’s first month, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s depth throughout their forward group has proven to be a huge problem for the opposition on a nightly basis. Being able to roll four lines is a luxury few NHL teams have. On Tuesday night at Amalie Arena against the Edmonton Oilers, a familiar script made its return, one that was common early last season.
That script? Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos working their magic and Andrei Vasilevskiy coming up with multiple big saves to keep the Lightning in it. At the end of the night, Edmonton had no answer for the Lightning’s biggest weapons.
Kucherov tallied a pair of goals and an assist, Stamkos notched a goal and two helpers, and Vasilevskiy 33 of 35 shots as the Lightning (11-3-1) downed the Oilers (8-6-1) by a 5-2 score, securing Tampa Bay’s third consecutive victory. Brayden Point and Yanni Gourde also notched a goal and an assist each. While Point’s line with Gourde and Tyler Johnson proved consistent and the bottom two lines came to play, it was the Bolts’ top trio of Stamkos, Kucherov, and J.T. Miller who did the most damage.
On the other side, Edmonton lost their second straight on a four-game trip, as this was the second of a back-to-back for them. The Oilers dropped a 4-2 decision in Washington on Monday night. Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen, giving starter Cam Talbot a rest, suffered his first loss of the season despite stopping 30 of 35 shots.
The big names came out firing in the first, helping the Lightning weather an Edmonton surge.
During the opening period’s first 10 minutes, the ice was heavily tilted in Tampa Bay’s favor. Their puck possession game was strong, their passes were crisp, and their forecheck caused problems for the Oilers. Stamkos tallied his fifth of the season and third in three games at 4:40 of the first. Following an Edmonton turnover, Stamkos and Kucherov worked their magic. Stamkos dished it to Kucherov, who returned the favor back to Stamkos. The Lightning captain wired one top shelf past Koskinen for a 1-0 Tampa Bay lead.
All four lines continued to roll and contribute solid chances, but the Oilers slowly turned the tide in their favor over the final 10 minutes of the period. Edmonton created some quality looks of their own, most notably from their top line of Ty Rattie, Connor McDavid, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. McDavid put a highlight-reel move to get past Anton Stralman, setting up Rattie with a perfect chance and an open net with Vasilevskiy out of position. However, the Lightning goaltender made a sensational save that’s the stop of the year for the Lightning so far:
DEAR FRIENDS, WE’VE GATHERED YOU HERE TODAY TO SHOW YOU…
— #BoltsFightCancer ???? (@TBLightning) November 7, 2018
At this rate, saves like that by Vasilevskiy don’t even surprise us anymore.
Edmonton would earn a few more quality chances, but Vasilevskiy continued to shut the door. Tampa Bay increased their lead to 2-0 thanks to Point’s line. Johnson used his speed to get behind the Oilers’ defense before setting up Gourde. Gourde’s shot hit traffic in front, but Point was parked in front of the net to put home the rebound with 25.1 seconds left in the period. It turned out to be a much-needed goal for slowing down Edmonton’s momentum after Vasilevskiy stole the show in the later stages of the opening 20 minutes.
A couple of close calls for both teams early in the second, followed by the Lightning adding to their lead with another late goal.
The Lightning dodged a bullet when a blast from the point by Darnell Nurse was stopped by Vasilevksiy, but bounced around and landed in the crease. Just as it was about to cross the goal line, Ryan McDonagh swept it out of harm’s way, continuing his trend of excellent defensive play. During an Oilers power play a few minutes later, Edmonton kept the puck in Tampa Bay’s zone for nearly the entire man-advantage. Vasilevskiy was nothing short of spectacular, stopping McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on a pair of Grade A chances. After the power play ended, Vasilevskiy made a couple more saves, drawing a very loud “Vasy, Vasy” chant from the Amalie Arena faithful.
Tampa Bay nearly made it a 3-0 lead following an incredible shift by Stamkos to keep the puck in Edmonton’s zone. Stamkos fed it to Miller, but his massive shot hit the point where the post and crossbar meet.
During a 4-on-4 almost entirely spent in Edmonton’s zone, the Oilers generated a chance off the rush. Ryan Strome carried it in before beating Vasilevskiy for his first goal and point of the season at 12:32.
The goal appeared to be just what the Oilers needed to get back in this game, but the Lightning quickly slammed that door shut.
Only 47 seconds after Strome’s goal, the Lightning restored their two-goal lead when Gourde deflected a McDonagh shot from the blue line past Koskinen for his seventh of the year.
Another 4-on-4 sequence late in the period saw Tampa Bay extend their lead to 4-1 when Kucherov collected a great setup from Stamkos and beat Koskinen top shelf to the short side for his sixth of the season with 1:01 left in the period. Vasilevskiy punctuated that period with another amazing save on Draisaitl from in close, the third time in this game in which he denied Draisaitl on a deflection. Whenever the Oilers began making a push in this game, the Lightning’s speed, skill, and forecheck pushed back, as the Oilers had no answer for Stamkos or Kucherov.
Draisaitl finally got one past Vasilevskiy, but Kucherov struck once again.
With 1:42 of carryover power play time from the second period, Draisaitl powered a shot past Vasilevskiy thanks to a brilliant backdoor setup from Rattie, closing the Lightning’s lead to 4-2 just 40 seconds into the third with his ninth of the year. Kucherov extended the score to 5-2 when he squeaked a shot past Koskinen that the Edmonton netminder would probably want back.
With the Lightning firmly in control, the Oilers’ Milan Lucic later took matters into his own hands. Mathieu Joseph had put a hit on Kris Russell, and a case could be made that a penalty should have been called. Lucic stalked Joseph and then drilled him to the ice before throwing sucker punches. The incident nearly started a line brawl between the two teams:
Milan Lucic tracks down Mathieu Joseph after he hit Kris Russell from behind and almost starts a line brawl pic.twitter.com/9x5CDQHsfG
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) November 7, 2018
Lucic picked up two for roughing, two for interference, and a 10-minute misconduct with 10:29 left on the clock, effectively ejecting him from the contest. The Lightning didn’t capitalize on the ensuing power play, but by this point, it didn’t matter.
The Lightning will return to action on Thursday night when they host the New York Islanders at 7:30 pm at Amalie Arena.
-Stamkos’s game-opening goal was the first time in six games the Lightning scored the first goal of the game. The last time they scored the first goal of a game was October 26 in Vegas
-Gourde now has goals in three consecutive games.
-Point has five multi-point games this season and since January 28, 2018, he leads the Lightning with 21 goals.
-With three points, Kucherov now has surpassed the 350-point plateau for his career.
-McDavid’s eight-game point streak came to an end.
Our Three Stars of the Game
1st Star: Andrei Vasilevskiy – Made 33 saves and kept the Lightning in it with some brilliant stops before he got the goal support he needed for some breathing room.
2nd Star: Nikita Kucherov – Scored two goals and added one assist, taking a team-high six shots on goal.
3rd Star: Steven Stamkos – Tallied one goal and two assists while finishing the night with five shots on goal.
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