For the second time this season Tampa Bay held Pittsburgh’s best off of the score-sheet.
The Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins met for the second time in 10 days on Saturday night. Back on October 12, the Penguins scored four goals – zero by Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Tonight the duo was held scoreless again. In fact, for most of the game, the entire Pittsburgh roster was shutout. Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos continued to set the stat sheets ablaze as the front-line duo propelled Tampa Bay to the 7-1 victory.
Just 1:36 into the game, Kucherov extended his points-streak to nine games. Set up by a cross-checking penalty to Crosby, his ninth goal of the season was a power-play score. The goal gave him sole possession of ninth all-time on the Lightning power-play goals (33) list.
As has been the case so far this season, Stamkos kept pace.
Although he hasn’t been scoring as many goals as many would expect, Stamkos entered tonight’s contest tops in the NHL (14) in points. After Crosby, again, put his team in a difficult situation by picking up a 10-minute game misconduct penalty. The Lightning were unable to score. Moments later Kris Letang picked up a slashing call that led to the Bolts’ second power-play strike – this time it was Stamkos.
It seems like these two keep trying to impress each other in the early going. Just as Kucherov’s goal lofted him into ninth, Stamkos became the clubs’ all-time leader in such goals by picking up his 113th since entering the league.
The Turning Point
Andrei Vasilevskiy made seven saves in the first period but none were bigger than the one he made with under :30 seconds to go. After robbing the Penguins of their first goal with a brilliant pad-save, Tampa Bay was able to push the puck the other way setting up Yanni Gourde for his first goal of the season.
Look at the game clock and you can see just how close this was…
— Kris Dunn (@KRSDunn) October 21, 2017
Instead of a possible 2-1 game, the Lightning went to the first break with a three-goal lead.
“The key to the game was the Vasilevskiy save with :20 left and then we go down and score with, what was it, 0.2. There it is. So it’s 2-1 going into the room or 3-0. I thought that was a big part of the game,” Jon Cooper said of the closing moments of the first period. “We’re in the room are chests are out, and they’re in the room rattled because 3-0 looks a lot worse than 2-0. It feels a lot worse too.”
But Wait There’s More
Just thirty seconds into the second period, Brayden Point picked up his fourth goal of the season. Cooper recognized that this was going to be a test to his clubs’ poise.
“Are we a mature enough group to keep playing the way we’re playing. Or are we gonna turn this into a track meet and let it be chance-for-chance. You can’t do that with Pittsburgh,” Cooper told his team during the first break.
Two more goals in the period gave the Lightning a 6-0 lead after two periods of play. Anton Stralman recorded his first of the season and 1:14 later Kucherov picked up his 10th. Once again Stamkos was the set-up man.
Stamkos Looks Better Than Ever
With nine games in the books, the Lightning captain is on pace for 162 points. That would give him one more than Penguins great Mario Lemieux had during the ’95-’96 season.
In fact, there are only two players to score over 150 points in a season that aren’t named Gretzkey or Lemieux. And they’re gonna get a front-row seat at Stamkos all season long. Steve Yzerman (155 in ’88-’89) and Phil Esposito (152 in ’70-’71) rank 14th and 15th on the all-time list, respectively.
Ohh So Close
Entering the third, the biggest question was whether Vasilevskiy was going to be able to keep the shutout intact. Mikhail Sergachev gave Tampa Bay a seven-goal advantage with just-under 10 minutes to play.
And with less than four minutes to play it looked promising for Vasilevskiy, until Gourde was called for “‘closing his hand on the puck'” setting up a Jake Guentzel power-play goal at the 18:18 mark.
- The seven goals are the most the Lightning have scored so far this season
- With a goal and an assist, Brayden Point now has 50 points in his career
- As a rookie, Sergachev has scored points in three-straight games
Stars of the Game:
1st Star: Steven Stamkos
2nd Star: Andrei Vasilevskiy
3rd Star: Nikita Kucherov
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