Following Thursday’s 4-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Tampa Bay Lightning entered Saturday night in search of their 6th consecutive victory. Despite the recent winning trend, this has been a rough week for the Lightning. Both Ryan McDonagh and Jan Rutta suffered injuries in consecutive games, leaving the defensive unit searching for depth. With the Islanders coming into town, the Bolts looked to Braydon Coburn and Luke Schenn to fill the void. This was the third and final meeting between Tampa Bay and New York of the 2019-2020 season. The Islanders won the first two matchups this season.
Early on, Tampa Bay put Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov to the test. For the majority of the opening period, the Lightning played a very clean and fast brand of hockey. Passes were on target and turnovers limited to a minimum. One of the few turnovers the Lightning committed nearly turned into disaster. A rusty Luke Schenn had an errant pass in the Lightning zone find the stick of Anthony Beauvillier. Beauvillier appeared to have a clear path to the net but opted instead to make a pass, allowing the Lightning to recover in the zone.
With the game still scoreless and 42 seconds left in the first period, the Islanders appeared to draw first blood. Matthew Barzal got behind the Bolts defense and rang a shot top shelf behind Andrei Vasilevskiy. However, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper challenged the play for offside. A very quick review determined that Cooper was correct. The goal was negated and the score remained deadlocked at zero after 20 minutes of play.
Point starts off second period with a bang
It took the Lightning only 14 seconds of clock time in the second period to break the scoreless tie. Nikita Kucherov delivered a perfectly placed pass onto the stick of a streaking Brayden Point. Point raced into the New York zone on a breakaway and buried a slap shot to put the Bolts up 1-0.
Another 20-goal season (at least) for Brayden Point. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/pP7kRPWh2j
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) February 9, 2020
Throughout the remainder of the second period, the Lightning struggled a bit with puck possession and getting out of their own zone, after a fairly clean first period.
New York’s best scoring chance of the second came on a Matthew Barzal breakaway chance. After a scoring chance of his own at the other end of the ice, Anthony Cirelli raced down to the opposite end to make a play on the puck at the last second, disrupting any chance Barzal would have had. When asked about Cirelli’s play in his post game press conference, Jon Cooper said “His play is just a never give up attitude. Barzal is a quick player and we saw that in the all-star game. For him to track him down from behind and make that play without taking a penalty, the guys on the bench really appreciated that.”
This game was completely penalty free for the first 38:42. Finally, with 1:18 remaining in the second period, Ryan Pulock was sent to the penalty box for delay of game. Tampa Bay was not able to cash in with the man advantage during a power play that extended into the third period. With that unsuccessful power play, the Lightning are now 3 for their last 37 with the man advantage.
Verhaeghe gives Tampa Bay some needed insurance
Up 1-0 with 13 and a half minutes to go, Carter Verhaeghe skated uncontested in front of Varlamov and converted a backhand attempt into the net. Verhaeghe’s 7th goal of the season gave Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead. It also provided an insurance goal they did not yet know they needed.
Momentum and puck possession for the first half of period three were completely in the Lightning’s favor. It appeared the Bolts were on cruise control and just waiting on the clock to read zeroes. That all changed when Nikita Kucherov was sent to the box for holding at 10:17 of the period. Derick Brassard got the Islanders on the scoreboard with just a few second left on the power play. It was an overall well played penalty kill for the Lightning but the end result cut their lead back to one goal.
Brassard’s goal created a furious shift in momentum to the Islanders side. Tampa Bay found it increasingly difficult to make passes and exit their own zone in the game’s closing minutes. Vasilevskiy held strong and made the saves he needed to make during that flurry and Steven Stamkos added an empty net goal with 1:02 left to seal a 3-1 Lightning victory.
Final notes on tonight’s game
With his win tonight, Andrei Vasilevskiy has extended his franchise record of starts without a regulation loss to 18 games. During that stretch, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner is 16-0-2. Another streak continued in this game as well. Steven Stamkos’ empty net goal extended his points streak to 10 games. Overall, the Tampa Bay Lightning have won 6 games in a row and sit at 75 points. That is good for second place in the Atlantic Division, 5 points behind the Boston Bruins.
Three Stars of the game
- Brayden Point (1 G, 1 A)
- Anthony Cirelli (He gets this spot on sheer effort)
- Carter Verhaeghe (Game winning goal)
The Lightning hit the road for a clash with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday, 2/10.
For post game comments from players and coach Jon Cooper, check out our YouTube channel.
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