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Measuring Stick Game for Lightning Comes Up Huge

Photo credit: Alex Walworth Scrum Sports

The Tampa Bay Lightning play host to the Boston Bruins. The big, bad Bruins are the best team in the league up to now. They lead the league in points (28) and have the fewest losses (1) in the NHL. Safe to say, this team from Beantown is playing on all cylinders. The Lightning on the other hand, have been up and down in the early season. Had a three game losing streak a week ago but now are sitting on a two game winning streak. Throughout any NHL season there are tests and challenges for every team. Tonight is a huge divisional test for the Lightning. How will they measure up to the best team so far this season? The fact that there is virtually no love lost between these two teams makes this game much more interesting.  

For the Bruins, Jeremy Swayman is between the pipes. He’s bringing with him a save percentage of .946 and a goals against average of 1.63. Tops in the league. If anyone is wondering how the Bruins are beating all comers, it’s the goaltending, led by Swayman. For the Lightning, Jonas Johansson will be in net. Anthony Cirelli returns to the lineup after missing Saturday’s game against Edmonton.

Here We Go

Right from the opening puck drop, the Lightning were playing as determined as we’ve seen them all season. They were flying up and down the ice. The first four shots registered in this game belonged to Tampa. If nothing else, the Lightning were determined to pepper Swayman with shots. 

Just past the 6:30 mark, the Lightning struck first. Tyler Motte was coming in all alone on Swayman. Though he did have a Boston defender draped over him like a cheap suit, Motte was able to get a shot in on Swayman. Despite the weak Motte shot, Swayman had trouble controlling the rebound and Tanner Jeannot trailing the play, lifted the puck over Swayman for the first goal of the game.

Three minutes after Jeannot’s goal, Pavel Zacha tied the game at one on a pass from David Pasternak. Right where we started – a tie game. The period ended with the same tie but the play was fast and furious. What could we expect in the second period?

Second Verse, Same As The First? 

In the first five minutes of the middle frame, Tampa was whistled for one penalty and Boston committed two penalties. This led to a short power play for Boston, then a short power play for Tampa and an even shorter 5 on 3 power play for the Lightning. It also led to some very good penalty killing for both teams. Coming into the game, these two teams were in the top 10 in the league in killing off penalties. Boston at #1 and Tampa at #8. 

The rest of the period was as fast as two teams can play. First, Boston is all over the Tampa zone putting pressure on the Lightning to break the tie. Then Tampa was taking it to them. Both goalies made some key saves and with four minutes to go, the game was still knotted at one. 

In the waning minutes of the period, no less than four Bruins took a hard run at Mikey Eyssimont. Ultimately, it led to offsetting penalties, neither of which were assessed against Eyssimont. Eventually, even Pastrnak who was the recipient of a good, hard hit by Eyssimont, was called for a roughing penalty. 

On the ensuing power play, Mikhail Sergachev blasted a shot from the high point. On the way towards the net, it appeared that both Brayden Point and Nick Paul got a stick on the puck. Paul was credited with the goal and the Lightning were up 2-1 as the period ended.

Time For Lightning to Measure Up

Heading into the final regulation period, the looming question is can the Lightning close out this one goal game against the best team in the league? If tonight was a measuring stick, the Lightning have given themselves the best opportunity to give the Bruins only their second loss of the season. 

After missing most of the second half of the second period, Nikita Kucherov played his first shift and didn’t seem the worse for wear. In the first few minutes, the Lightning were dominating zone time but they couldn’t solve Swayman. Wouldn’t you know it? Despite the domination on display by the Lightning, the Bruins scored the next goal. Pastrnak rifled a shot that Johansson only heard as it whizzed by his ear. New ball game now, all tied at two. But wait! There’s more. A minute later, the Lightning were premature in heading out of their zone. Premature, because of the four guys out of their zone, none had the puck. 

Sure enough, with a 2 on 1, Boston’s John Beecher put the puck past Johansson giving the Bruins a 3-2 lead with about 12 minutes left in the period. The Lightning need to find an answer. Find it they did. Less than a minute after the Bruins took the lead, the Lightning tied the game at three. Austin Watson scored his first goal as a member of the Lightning and it couldn’t come at a better time. 

The Finale 

Just as the game headed down to the final four minutes, the Bruins took the lead. Charlie Coyle scores to give Boston the 4-3 lead. The Lightning were awarded a power play chance with 2:20 left on the clock. With the extra man, Lightning Coach Jon Cooper pulled Johansson to give Tampa a 6-4 man advantage. You do these things when you’re facing the number one penalty killing team in the NHL. Steven Stamkos got a nice look as did Victor Hedman. Swayman was up to the challenge on each shot. Then Kucherov from his office and Point and Paul in front of the net. Finally, with 4.8 seconds left, Stamkos ties the game at four. Boys and girls, we’re heading to overtime. 

Overtime hasn’t been good to either team so far this season. Combined they are 1-6 though the Lightning own the worst of that at 0-4. One overtime trend they changed was actually winning the faceoff. Then they won another faceoff. Who is this team? Then they changed their overtime record trend as Brandon Hagel goes in on Swayman all alone and scores the game winning goal. Hedman made a precision pass to Hagel. At least for this one game, at least for tonight the Lightning measured up to the team with the best record in the league. 

Three Stars

  1. Steven Stamkos – 1 goal and 1 assist. Goal came with less than 5 seconds in regulation
  2. Brandon Hagel – 1 goal and 1 assist including the game winning goal
  3. Victor Hedman –  Assist on the GWG and the play of the game with his keep before Stamos’ tying goal.

What’s Next

Wednesday night at Amalie Arena, the Winnipeg Jets come into town. Puck drops at 7:00. 

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