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Perry hits milestone as Lightning beat Oilers following eight-day hiatus

Photo courtesy of Kent Glisson

Over the years, the Tampa Bay Lightning have displayed a knack for not only being able to develop their prospects and integrate them into the lineup, but also the ability to make the right free agent signings at bargain prices without missing a beat. Following his arrival in Tampa this past summer, Corey Perry has fit in seamlessly on the Lightning’s fourth line. Following an eight-day hiatus after Tampa Bay’s last game, Perry hit a milestone with what turned out to be an important goal in Wednesday’s contest against the Edmonton Oilers.

Late in the second period, Perry tallied the 400th goal of his NHL career. Fortunately for Tampa Bay, it turned out to be the game-winner, as the Lightning (33-11-6, 72 points) held off a late rally by the Oilers (28-20-3, 59 points) before coming away with a 5-3 victory at Amalie Arena. Overall, it wasn’t a poor effort by the Lightning, but this also wasn’t one of their best showings, as they seemed a step slow and a bit sluggish at times. The difference in this game turned out to be the goaltending, as the Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 27 of 30 shots, making some key saves along the way. On the other end, Edmonton’s Mike Smith turned aside 18 of 22 shots, but appeared shaky at times.

In addition to Perry’s milestone goal, Tampa Bay got goals from Pat Maroon, Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, and Nikita Kucherov. For the first time in his career, Oilers superstar Connor McDavid notched a point in Amalie Arena, scoring twice for the Oilers in just his fourth appearance in Tampa. Zach Hyman also added a goal as well, and despite the Oilers creating chances and playing faster for much of the night, it wasn’t enough for them, as they haven’t won in Amalie Arena since 2009.

Shaking off the cobwebs after a long hiatus

Over the course of the game’s first 10 minutes, the Lightning didn’t look out-of-sorts, but there were times when it looked like they were playing for the first time in eight days. Some sloppy puck management and slow reactions to the puck led to a couple of quality chances for the Oilers, but both teams failed to generate many shots during the first half of the period.

Things began to change with 8:03 left on the clock, as Maroon and Anthony Cirelli teamed up on a rush, with Maroon cutting to the net after taking a pass from Cirelli, backhanding a shot on net. Smith made the save, but the rebound popped in front of the crease. At first glance, it looked like Cirelli poked the rebound home with some traffic in front, but upon further review, the replays showed the puck bounced in off the skate of Devin Shore, giving Maroon his ninth of the year and putting the Bolts up 1-0.

The pace of the game picked up considerably after that, with Edmonton controlling the edge in shots on goal, leading to a power play chance that the Oilers converted to tie the game. McDavid notched his 27th of the season with 1:50 to go, ripping a shot past Vasilevskiy with the help of a screen from Hyman. However, Stamkos potted his 24th of the season with 14.4 seconds left on the clock, turning around with the puck at the left faceoff and zipping a shot past Smith for a 2-1 Lightning lead at the intermission. The shot appeared to have gone off an Oilers stick and snuck past Smith high to the short side.

Extending the lead as Perry notches career goal #400

The run of play in the second period turned out very similar to how the first period unfolded. Edmonton got the better of the five-on-five chances early on, but the Lightning began picking things up as the period continued. Shots on goal from the Lightning were in short supply, but when they did occur, they seemed to end up in the net. On their best shift of the period up to that point, the Lightning’s top line maintained pressure in the offensive zone, with Point drawing a penalty. Kucherov ended up with the puck, wheeling around, before slipping the puck in front to Point, who slipped it past Smith while Vasilevskiy was on the bench due to a delayed penalty on Edmonton.

A 3-1 Tampa Bay lead soon extended to 4-1 during a Lightning power play that Perry drew after nearly scoring. That power play wasn’t always pretty, as the Oilers’ Ryan Nugent-Hopkins created a pair of excellent shorthanded scoring chances, but with five seconds left on the man-advantage, Perry finished what he started. Maroon found Mikhail Sergachev in front, and his shot deflected off the shaft of Perry’s stick as he was screening Smith. Perry’s 14th of the season appeared to put the Lightning in the driver’s seat. However, the Oilers got one back, as Hyman took advantage of a bad line change by the Bolts, scoring on a breakaway to cut the Tampa Bay lead to 4-2 going into the second intermission.

Edmonton refuses to go away, but Tampa Bay holds on

The Oilers continued to chip away during the course of the third period, controlling more of the action and keeping the Lightning on their heels. McDavid took a pass from Hyman off a rush, waited patiently for Ryan McDonagh’s stick to move before firing a hard shot past Vasilevskiy for his second of the night at the 9:39 mark, cutting Tampa Bay’s lead to 4-3.

Over the course of the final 10 minutes, the Oilers continued to press the issue, looking to tie the game. Leon Draisaitl came very close, ripping a shot off the post after Edmonton pulled Smith for an extra attacker. Kucherov pounced on a turnover and scored a late empty-netter to put the game out of reach, but not after the Oilers put a scare into the Bolts.

Tampa Bay returns to action Saturday night when they travel to Nashville to take on the Predators in this season’s Stadium Series game, the Lightning’s very first appearance in an outdoor contest. Puck drop will be at 7:30 ET on TNT at Nissan Stadium, home of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.

Three Stars of the Game

1st Star: Corey Perry – Scored the 400th goal of his NHL career, which turned out to be the game-winner.

2nd Star: Connor McDavid – Scored a pair of goals, his 27th and 28th of the season.

3rd Star: Mikhail Sergachev – Two assists and a plus-one, including the primary assist on Perry’s goal.

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