Holding a lead. That was the key piece to work on following the Tampa Bay Lightning’s two-game stretch against the Nashville Predators. They succeeded, holding on to two multiple-goal margins against Detroit.
Meanwhile in their earlier two wins against Nashville, the Bolts let Nashville claw back into things, icing a three-goal win with an empty netter, and barely hanging on for a 4-3 win in the two games respectively. Defensive consistency was something to watch for heading into tonight.
Nashville sets the tone
Early on, Nashville was able to generate the first few shot on goal and create some danger around Curtis McElhinney, who was making his first start of the season. He looked sharp in the first for a goaltender who hadn’t played in 11 months. Despite only facing six shots, he was solid when called upon.
Breaking the ice
After a fantastic shift from the Yanni Gourde line, during which Barclay Goodrow generated the first Lightning shot of the game, a nice piece of work from Alex Killorn along the left wall created a shot for Anthony Cirelli, who roofed it from a sharp angle to make it 1-0 Bolts. A quick release that fooled Pekka Rinne, but definitely one the Preds net-minder would like back.
Power play prowess
Later in the frame, the Bolts would be gifted the game’s first man-advantage. While they were unable to cash in, they created a barrage of chances and really picked up the pace. Even after the power play expired, Tampa Bay was firing away and generating danger, concluded by a Mikhail Sergachev blast.
They would continue to make it an easy first period back for McElhinney, racking up 17 shots in the process.
Early in the second, Yanni Gourde read a neutral zone pass perfectly and jumped onto the attack, wiring one that Rinne got a piece of. A dangerous look and one of many shots the Preds tender would see through the first couple of stanzas.
Neutral zone lockdown
The Bolts most impressive aspect en route to a 27-12 shot advantage after forty minutes was their play between the blue-lines. Nashville had no room to work moving through the middle of the ice and Tampa Bay was really hustling on either side of the puck.
Continuing the special teams danger
The Bolts had a power play that connected in the dwindling moments but was dangerous throughout mid way through the second. They got their best chance early when Ondrej Palat’s one-timer was stopped by a sprawling Rinne.
Later, on a long rebound, Cirelli found the top part of the net again from a near-identical spot as his first goal.
Nashville power play creates life
Dante Fabbro finally got the Nashville on the board on their fifth power play of the night. After some furious pressure, finally Fabbro was able to powder one by McElhinney from a distance with a moving screen in front.
From there on in, it was mostly Nashville controlling the pace of the game. They seriously gained some life from the man-advantage marker and increased their shot total to 24 to end the game. 15 shots in the third period and some dangerous looks.
That being said, the play that drew the Tampa penalty was one of their only sequences of sustained pressure to that point in the game.
Polishing it off
While the Predators did have some life and chances in the latter half of the third, this was a banner defensive performance from the Lightning on the whole. Empty-netters from Blake Coleman and Steven Stamkos eased the rising tension and capped off a great night for the Bolts. McElhinney picked up his first win of the season.
Our three stars of the game
- Anthony Cirelli: 2 goals and dangerous from the get-go.
- Pekka Rinne: Rinne had some fabulous stops and a solid game to keep his team in it.
- Steven Stamkos: Stamkos showed some heat dropping the mitts and added the second insurance marker, skating the game to safety and hitting the empty net.
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