Heading into the month of February, it was completely fair to say...
Another Comeback Win, As Bolts Prevail 3-2
It’s not exactly the way the Tampa Bay Lightning drew it up, but in the end, another comeback led to their second victory this season.
Valtteri Filppula scored the go-ahead goal 5:43 into the third period, his second in as many games, as the Lightning rallied for another comeback from a 2-0 deficit in a 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils at Amalie Arena. It marked the fifth straight time that the Bolts have beaten the Devils, but it certainly didn’t come easy, with both teams finding scoring chances easy to come by as each team had 34 shots on goal. Alex Killorn notched his second goal of the season, while Steven Stamkos found the back of the net for the first time. Rookie Brayden Point also notched the first point of his NHL career with an assist on Filppula’s goal while finishing in a tie with Stamkos with a game-high five shots. Andrei Vasilevskiy ended the night with 32 saves, a few of them of the sensational variety, in picking up the win. His Devils counterpart, Cory Schneider, stopped 31 shots, some of them on some glorious chances for the Lightning.
After the game, Stamkos talked about his team’s ability to bounce back in the face of adversity, but also said the Lightning need to work on starting games off more quickly and not needing to make a comeback every time.
“It’s a good quality to have when you do get in that situation,” said Stamkos. “We have to start games a little better. It’s maybe a matter of being overconfident, we know what we’re capable of when we’re playing the right way. We can’t wait to get down to give us a kick in the pants to get going. We’ll make some adjustments.”
He wasn’t kidding about the bad start, as Kyle Palmieri wasted little time putting the Devils up 1-0. John Moore’s laser shot from the left point was tipped by Vasilevskiy high to the glove side just 52 seconds into the game. The Lightning had a couple of chances to clear the zone before that goal, and were unable to do so, which would become a theme in the opening 20 minutes. Turnovers in both the neutral and defensive zones plagued the Lightning, who nearly fell behind 2-0 when New Jersey found themselves on a 2-on-1. Beau Bennett ended the rush when he took a pass in the slot and redirected a shot on net that Vasilevskiy kicked aside with his left leg at the last second. It was a huge save that Stamkos couldn’t help but joke about afterwards.
“That one save that he made, my groin’s sore just watching that replay,” quipped Stamkos.
Vasilevskiy would also make another save off a shot from the low slot following another turnover, as the Devils had the Bolts scrambling early on. Jonathan Drouin was the only Lightning player generating scoring chances in the opening half of the period. Travis Zajac would extend New Jersey’s lead to 2-0 following a neutral zone turnover by the Bolts, as his shot deflected off the stick of Anton Stralman and through the five-hole at the 4:26 mark. P.A. Parenteau would earn the lone assist. Tampa Bay didn’t have much extended time in the New Jersey zone until about halfway through the period, when the fourth line of Cedric Paquette, Brian Boyle, and JT Brown had a couple good looks at the net. The Lightning got a power play with 7:05 left when Mike Cammalleri cross-checked Steven Stamkos. That man advantage seemed to wake up the Bolts, as they had four quality shots on net that all got turned aside by Schneider. Even when the Lightning power play hasn’t scored, they’ve looked very good so far this season. The shots were 13-13 as the Devils held their 2-0 lead in the intermission.
Much like Thursday night’s season opener against Detroit, the Lightning found their stride in the second period, as they outshot the Devils 6-0 through the first six minutes, highlighted by two one-timers from in close by Vlad Namestnikov and Point that were denied by Schneider. Tampa Bay held a dramatic edge in puck possession and scoring chances created, and it all paid off at the 7:53 mark. Jonathan Drouin got the puck and stick-handled through a pair of Devils players in the neutral zone, crossing the blue line and drawing more Devils to him in the high slot. Drouin then dished it to Ondrej Palat in the left circle, who immediately found Stamkos streaking towards the goal. The Lightning captain capped off the dazzling highlight-reel play by redirecting Palat’s pass into the back of the net to cut the Devils’ lead to 2-1. Just 2:14 later, the Lightning tied up the game on Killorn’s second goal of the season.
Tyler Johnson found Nikita Kucherov skating down the left wing with a pass, and Kucherov wheeled his way towards the goal, firing a shot from the right circle that was blocked. However, the puck bounced to Killorn in the slot, and he rifled a laser of a wrist shot past Schneider to make it 2-2. New Jersey would begin to find their stride, as P.A. Parenteau had a quality chance from the right circle denied by Vasilevskiy, while Taylor Hall and Zajac also had good scoring opportunities as well. With 6:28 left, Stamkos took a penalty for holding the stick, and New Jersey continued to put the pressure on, as Parenteau and Devante Smith-Pelly had shots denied by Vasilevskiy, with Smith-Pelly’s chance coming from a rebound right in front of the net. Before the power play ended, Andy Greene put the Devils up 3-2 when his shot from the left circle hit Palat and found its way into the back of the net. But Lightning head coach Jon Cooper believed the play was offside, and used his coach’s challenge to dispute the play. After video review, the officials agreed with him and overturned the goal. The Lightning would kill off the penalty and nearly took the lead themselves, but Namestnikov’s breakaway chance was knocked away by Schneider, as the two teams went into the intermission tied 2-2. Tampa Bay held the edge in shots, 25-22
Only 14 seconds into the third period, Smith-Pelly was whistled for delay of game, giving the Lightning another power play and the fans their second video review of the night. Kucherov took a shot from a sharp angle that hit Schneider in the chest and dropped down to the ice, bouncing between his legs and fluttering along the goal line. Devils defenseman Ben Lovejoy reached in and swiped the puck away, but it looked like it might have crossed the line. After review, the officials determined that the puck had not crossed the line, and the overhead shot showed the puck did not appear to go completely over the line, although it was extremely close. The teams would spend the next few minutes spending some lengthy time in each others zone without any quality chances.
That would change at the 5:43 mark when Jason Garrison’s point shot was deflected by Filppula into the net as the Lightning forward was being knocked down, giving the Bolts their first lead of the night, while also giving Point his first point in the NHL with the assist. Filppula remarked about the help he got on the goal.
“I think the guy cross-checking me in the back helped me out, that’s why it hit my stick,” said Filppula.
Cooper also had plenty of good things to say about Point after the game.
“He made this team for a reason. We have total confidence in him that he can play in this league,” said Cooper. “He just continues to impress.”
On the shift after Filppula gave the Bolts the lead, New Jersey started to swarm a bit, but Vasilevskiy was up to the task. Just over the halfway mark of the period, Filppula had a golden opportunity for his second of the night as Namestnikov skated down the right wing, had an open shot, but dished it at the last second to Filppula on the back post. Filppula had an open net, but redirected it just wide. From that point on, the Devils put the pressure on, as they were aided by a power play chance with 5:21 left that saw Mike Cammalleri and Palmieri both rip big one-timers from each circle that Vasilevskiy was able to gobble up. The Lightning nearly scored shorthanded when Stamkos found Palat in the slot, but that one-timer chance was stonewalled by Schneider. New Jersey pulled Schneider with 1:10 left, but was unable to put one final puck past Vasilevskiy despite having a few more good looks at the net, giving the Lightning their second victory of the season.
Tampa Bay will return to the ice for the third game of their season-opening four-game homestand when they host the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, October 18th at 7:30 pm when they honor former Lightning great Vinny Lecavalier.
MY THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1st Star: Valtteri Filppula – Scored the game-winning goal, the second time he has found the back of the net in as many games. Also helped generate several quality chances.
2nd Star: Steven Stamkos – Notched his first goal of the season and the first goal of the game, jump-starting the Lightning’s comeback effort. Also finished tied with Point for a game-high five shots on goal.
3rd Star: Andrei Vasilevskiy – A couple of goals off unlucky deflections wasn’t the start he was looking for, but when the Lightning needed big saves from Vasilevskiy, he delivered, finishing with 32 saves on 34 shots.