On the heels of their first regulation loss since November 27, the Tampa Bay Lightning returned home from a three-game California road trip seeking to bounce back and begin a new point streak. Their 5-2 setback in San Jose on Saturday night ended a 16-game point streak (15-0-1), the second-longest in franchise history. In addition to the team’s point streak, a pair of Bolts sought to begin new scoring streaks of their own.
Nikita Kucherov saw his 12-game point streak and seven-game multi-point streak end in San Jose, while Brayden Point’s eight-game point streak also got snapped by the Sharks. The Columbus Blue Jackets sought to end their three-game road trip on a high note, as they had gone 7-2-0 in their previous nine games.
By the end of the night, the Lightning found themselves back on track thanks to some timely offense and a handful of big saves by Andrei Vasilevskiy. Point notched a pair of goals and an assist, Kucherov tallied a goal and an assist, while Vasilevskiy turned aside all 31 shots he faced as the Lightning (33-8-2, 68 points) blanked the Blue Jackets (24-15-3, 51 points) 4-0 at Amalie Arena. The victory marked only the second shutout for the Lightning this season, as they last blanked an opponent on October 24 in a 1-0 win at Colorado. The clean sheet also occurred on the same day that the NHL named Vasilevskiy to the All-Star Game after Montreal goalie Carey Price elected to sit that weekend’s festivities out.
Kucherov’s two points gave him an NHL-leading 71 this season in 43 games, making him the fastest player to reach 70 points since Jaromir Jagr in 1999-00. Point extended his team lead in the goal department to 26. For the Blue Jackets, the loss ended their road trip with a 1-1-1 record.
A blistering pace and a pair of goals highlight the Bolts’ excellent first period
Both the Bolts and Jackets maintained a very energetic and fluid pace to the first 20 minutes, as there were very few whistles. In fact, there was a stretch of over six-and-a-half minutes without any stoppages in play. While Columbus only trailed 12-7 in shots on goal, the Lightning held them to very few Grade A opportunities.
On the other hand, Tampa Bay kept up the pressure in the offensive zone, as all four lines created quality looks at Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. Steven Stamkos was outstanding in helping to create a pair of 2-on-1’s. He intercepted a pass in the neutral zone and fed Alex Killorn on one of those odd-man rushes while also keeping it himself on the other. However, Bobrovsky came up big on both attempts.
In addition, Anthony Cirelli redirected a backdoor pass from Yanni Gourde late in the period that just missed the net, while Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov also found themselves open, only to see the puck bounce away before they could convert. Tyler Johnson found himself foiled on another 2-on-1 when Zach Werenski poked the puck away at the last moment. Despite the close calls, the Lightning got on board with a pair of goals just 44 seconds apart. Mikhail Sergachev made a gorgeous move at the blue line before carrying the puck down the wing and towards the net. He fed it to Mathieu Joseph in front, who scored his 11th goal to make it 1-0 Tampa Bay at 15:55. Sergachev was easily one of the Lightning’s top players this night, as his first goal of the season in San Jose on Saturday took a lot of pressure off of him.
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Point tallied his 25th goal when Kucherov’s centering pass bounced off his skate and into the back of the net for a 2-0 lead. Point crashed the net moments before, as the puck bounced off him and just wide of the net, where Kucherov retrieved it before notching the primary assist.
Despite tilting the shot counter in their favor in the, Columbus didn’t create a lot of high-quality chances.
However, when they did generate good looks, Vasilevskiy was there to shut the door. Most notable were a pair of saves he made on his fellow countryman, Artemi Panarin. Panarin unleashed a pair of wicked one timers from the left circle at different points of the period, only to be denied by Vasilevskiy. Columbus generated 16 shots in the second period compared to the Lightning’s three, but most of Vasilevskiy’s saves were fairly routine plays. The Jackets’ offensive zone time was plentiful, but the high-quality chances were not as much so. Panarin was Columbus’s best player up to this point of the game, attempting five total shots and putting three on net.
Although they spent much of the middle 20 minutes on the wrong end of the puck possession ledger, the Lightning still found a way to create a couple of chances on their own. However, they went long stretches without much in the way of opportunities. Stamkos nearly redirected a setup from Ondrej Palat on a 3-on-1, but it went wide, while Bobrovsky denied Alex Killorn on a shorthanded rush down the left wing. Other than that, the offensive chances were pretty much non-existent for Tampa Bay in the second period.
Although Columbus controlled play early in the third, Kucherov and Point provided the Bolts with breathing room.
For the first five minutes of the final period, the Jackets had Tampa Bay back on their heels, creating a few solid opportunities and looking for the goal that would get them back in this game.
That goal never came to fruition for them.
Forcing a turnover in the neutral zone, Point sent the puck to Johnson, where he led a 2-on-1 with Kucherov. Drawing Blue Jackets to him, Johnson slipped the puck over to Kucherov, who buried it past Bobrovsky, who had no chance. Just like that, the Lightning had some breathing room in the form of Kucherov’s 21st of the season at 6:05. Point ended the night with an exclamation point of his own, collecting a pass from Sergachev in the neutral zone and powering his way to the net before slipping it through Bobrovsky’s legs for a 4-0 Lightning lead at 8:53. That goal ended Bobrovsky’s night, as he was pulled for Joonas Korpisalo after allowing four goals on 19 shots. Tampa Bay then clamped down defensively, allowing Vasilevskiy to preserve the shutout and handing the Lightning a bounce-back victory after suffering a rare loss.
The Lightning return to action on Thursday night when they host the Carolina Hurricanes. Puck drops at 7:30 pm.
-The final shot total was 31-22 in favor of Columbus.
-Vasilevskiy’s shutout was the 14th of his career. He is now just 14 saves away from tying Daren Puppa for the second-most saves by a goalie in franchise history. Puppa had 4,959 saves while in a Lightning uniform, while Ben Bishop holds the top spot with 5,728.
-Playing in his 662nd career game in a Bolts uniform, Victor Hedman tied Pavel Kubina for the most games played by a defenseman in team history.
-Tampa Bay is now 11-0-0 against Metropolitan Division teams.
-The Lightning now own a 10-point lead over the Calgary Flames for the best record in the NHL. The Bolts are 18-2-1 over their last 21 games.
-Ryan Callahan sat out this game due to an upper body injury and is day-to-day. Erik Cernak was a healthy scratch.
Three Stars of the Game
1st Star: Brayden Point – Scored two goals, bumping his team-leading total to 26, while also adding an assist.
2nd Star: Andrei Vasilevskiy – Stopped 31 shots for his second shutout of the season and the 14th of his career.
3rd Star: Mikhail Sergachev – Tallied two assists, three shots on goal, and was a plus-2 in a tremendous all-around effort.
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