The Tampa Bay Lightning’s All-Star break came to an end Wednesday night when they faced off against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Tampa Bay came out of the gate strong, but ultimately fell to Pittsburgh thanks to awful turnovers and miscues on defense. The Lightning played exactly like a team who just had the prior ten days off; sloppy. Heading into New York to face the Islanders, the Lightning looked to knock off all their rust that showed in Pittsburgh.
The New York Islanders are the surprise team of the 2018-2019 season. They finished last year with only 35 wins on the season, earning them last place in the Metropolitan Division. In stark contrast to last year, the Islanders now sit at the top spot in the Metro with 29 wins. Barry Trotz, coming off a Stanley Cup win behind the bench with the Capitals, has the Islanders playing smart and structured hockey. The last time the Lightning played the Islanders, the Bolts fell behind by three goals early and could not manage to climb back in it, ultimately losing 5-1.
Goaltenders Stand Tall, Part 1
From the start of the first period, the Lightning looked to have their wheels under them again after that rough game in Pittsburgh. Both the Lightning and the Islanders forced some quality chances, however goaltenders Thomas Greiss and Andrei Vasilevskiy stood tall with some great saves. Tampa Bay received the first power play of the game and despite some great looks, came up empty-handed. Their power play came to an early end when tempers got the best of Nikita Kucherov, who then took down an Islander skater and getting sent to the box.
The Lightning killed off the penalty brought on by Kucherov with about two minutes left in the first. The last two minutes saw a flurry of chances go both ways, but again, Greiss and Vasilevskiy did was what needed and kept the game scoreless.
Goaltenders Stand Tall, Part 2
The second period began with the referees talking to each coach, presumably telling them they were going to limit the extracurricular activity; they did not succeed. If ever a regular season game had a playoff tenacity in it, this game was it. New York and Tampa Bay exchanged hits as often as they exchanged scoring chances in the second. The Lightning did not get any power play opportunities in the second, but they did manage to kill off two penalties. Vasilevskiy made some huge saves and Greiss responded with big saves of his own.
The third period was largely dominated by the Lightning, who took a large lead in shots on goals and offensive zone time. Greiss just would not let anything get by him, and neither would Vasilevskiy for that matter. Ultimately, the game headed to overtime 0-0.
The 3-on-3 portion of the game was nothing less than incredible. Both teams had big-time chances that could’ve ended the game at any minute. The best chance for the Lightning came when Tyler Johnson turned a turnover into a 2-on-1, but the pass to Stamkos was broken up by a sprawling defenseman.
With less than two minutes left in overtime Kucherov cross-checked Nick Leddy, who did an excellent job selling it for the referees, drawing the call. Now on the penalty kill ,the Lightning had to survive over a minute to force the shootout. Vasilevskiy came up big again and in the most desperate moments of the game, the Lightning withstood the Islanders’ push and forced a shootout.
New York got the first attempt in the shootout and Vasilevskiy came way out of the net to pressure his man and it paid off. He forced him wide and the puck skittered by the goal harmlessly. Hedman was up first for the Lightning and he simply skated in and blew one right by Greiss. It was the first time the puck had found the net all night, and as it turns out the only one that was needed for the Lightning win. Vasilevskiy shut down the Islanders’ last two attempts and sealed the victory for Tampa Bay.
Our Three Stars of the Game
1st Star: Andrei Vasilevskiy – 36 saves, fourth shutout of the season
2nd Star: Thomas Greiss- 41 saves, third shutout of the season
3rd Star: Victor Hedman: Game-winner in the shootout
The Lightning will take on the New York Rangers Saturday night at Madison Square Garden at 8 pm EST.
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