Monday night marked the return of Tampa Bay Lightning hockey after an 11 day break. The team resumed action after the all star break with a road contest against the Dallas Stars. The Bolts and Stars last met on December 19th in a sloppy game that saw Tampa Bay relinquish a 3-1 lead in a tough 4-3 overtime defeat. Monday’s game featured a matchup of old vs. new, as Andrei Vasilevskiy battled former Lightning netminder Ben Bishop, who was in goal for the Stars. Vasilevskiy looked for his franchise tying 11th straight win.
Penalties mar opening period
Early on, neither team could create much of a scoring chance or get into a rhythm offensively. However, the Lightning penalty kill was called upon early and often in the first period. Coming into Monday, Tampa Bay ranked 4th in the NHL in penalty killing. Cedric Paquette went to the box a little over 6 minutes into the game for tripping. As they have done time and time again recently, the Bolts answered the bell.
Following a successful kill on their first opportunity, Tampa Bay wound up shorthanded again just 4 minutes later. This time, Tyler Johnson took a penalty for tripping. And again, the Stars got nothing going with the man advantage. The Bolts weren’t without their own power plays, benefiting from 2 Dallas penalties in the opening 20 minutes. All in all, both teams held strong on the penalty kill early on resulting in a scoreless tie after the first period.
Stamkos strikes first in second period goalie duel
Zeroes remained on the scoreboard throughout the first half of the second period. Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy stood tall in their respective nets and were called upon to make saves amidst revolving waves of pressure. Finally, at 13:41 of the period, Nikita Kucherov fired a point shot from just inside the blue line. The shot was tipped in front of the net by Steven Stamkos and found its way in to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead. Kucherov initially received credit for the goal, but officials changed the scoring to give Stamkos the goal after a review.
The lead did not last long, however. Just 4 minutes after Stamkos broke the tie, Denis Gurianov got the Stars on the board. Gurianov slipped past a flat footed Erik Cernak on a pass from Tyler Seguin and rushed in on Vasilevskiy virtually uncontested. His shot found the back of the net to tie the score at 1-1.
Sloppy passing and defensive breakdowns haunt Lightning
Vasilevskiy continued his strong performance throughout the third period, but the play in front of him entered a drastic turn for the worse. Sloppy passing and defensive play lead to multiple breakaway chances for Dallas. As a result, Jamie Benn converted a backhand shot past the outstretched left pad of Andrei Vasilevskiy to give the Stars their first lead of the game at 9:06. Shortly after, Vasilevskiy needed to come up big on another breakaway. A lackluster pass in their own zone led to a clean breakaway attempt for Mattias Janmark. A crucial save by Vasilevskiy kept the game at 2-1.
Needing a tying goal with just over 2 minutes left in regulation, Vasilevskiy was pulled for an extra attacker. With 1:26 left on the clock, Stamkos buried a one timer from his usual left circle “office.” Stamkos received a setup from Victor Hedman in a vintage Tampa Bay power play goal (Though not technically a power play). Stamkos’ second goal of the night tied the game at 2-2 and guaranteed the Bolts 1 point after a rough third period.
Defensive zone turnover results in OT winner for Dallas
With as sloppy as the third period was for the Lightning, the game ended in predictable fashion. Brayden Point looked for Victor Hedman on a pass for a rush out of the defensive zone. The pass was swatted down and kept in the zone by Jamie Benn. Benn then chipped the pass in front of Point and beat Vasilevskiy on his right pad side for the overtime winner.
The Lightning did not play well in this first game back from the all star break. They deserve credit for battling back in the third period and stealing a point when it seemed like their sloppy play would do them in. The Stars have been playing very well and appear poised for a run in the Western Conference. It would have been easy to pack it in after Benn’s go ahead goal in the third period. But the Bolts handled the adversity they faced and at least earned something from this game.
The Lightning travel to Los Angeles Wednesday night for a 10:00 pm puck drop with the Kings. It will be the first sporting event held at the Staples Center since the tragic death of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant.
3 stars of the game
- Jamie Benn (2 goals, game winner in OT)
- Andrei Vasilevskiy (32 saves)
- Steven Stamkos (2 goals)
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