Just two days after suffering their first loss of the season, Andrei Vasilevskiy made sure the Tampa Bay Lightning bounced back for their first road win of the season.
Vasilevskiy made 27 saves and four different players scored goals in a 4-1 Lightning victory over the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre. It was an excellent start to a crucial six-game road trip that started just two days after their season-opening homestand ended on a sour note in a 4-0 loss to Colorado on Thursday night. Valtteri Filppula and Vlad Namestnikov had a goal and an assist, Steven Stamkos chipped in a goal, while Alex Killorn tallied his team-high fourth goal of the season.
Although the Lightning’s ongoing drought of goalless first periods continued, it certainly wasn’t for a lack of trying, as the Bolts completely dominated the opening 20 minutes of this hockey game, outshooting the Senators 14-4 and outclassing them in every facet of the game. Tampa Bay spent long stretches of time in the Ottawa zone, forcing turnovers in all three zones of the ice and keeping the Sens on their heels. It was a shooting gallery highlighted by excellent chances for Cedric Paquette, Jonathan Drouin, and Stamkos, who got robbed on the doorstep by Sens goalie Craig Anderson in the final minute of the period. Tampa Bay’s blue liners were very active in helping them create scoring chances and get the puck up to their forwards. One of Ottawa’s best chances didn’t even result in a shot on goal, as JT Brown raced into the Lightning zone on the backcheck to break up a chance for the Sens’ Phil Varone. Vasilevskiy’s lone tough save in the first period occurred on an Ottawa rush, as Bobby Ryan took a pass in the left circle and rifled a wrist shot that Vasilevskiy snared with his glove with a couple minutes remaining before the intermission.
Tampa Bay would continue to control the flow of the game in the second period, as they went up 1-0 on Namestnikov’s power play goal 2:36 into the period. Tyler Johnson won the faceoff back to Anton Stralman, whose shot from the point was deflected by Ondrej Palat and then glanced off Namestnikov and into the net, marking the first time the Lightning have scored the opening goal of a game this season. The goal was originally given to Palat, but during the second intermission, it was officially changed to Namestnikov, giving him his first tally of the season. The Bolts continued to build off that momentum, as they continued to push the pace of the game, leading to another power play chance they would cash in to extend their lead. Stamkos would position himself low in the left circle while Nikita Kucherov began the play with a pass from the right half wall to Namestnikov in the right corner. Namestnikov feathered a beautiful pass to Stamkos, who was left wide open and one-timed the shot past Anderson to put the Lightning up 2-0 at the 6:45 mark. About halfway through the period, Tampa Bay held a 21-6 edge in shots and it looked like they had the game in control. But a pair of Ottawa power plays in the second half of the period were just what the Senators needed to get back into the game. Although they didn’t score on either of them, they had several excellent chances turned aside by Vasilevskiy, allowing the Sens to recapture momentum. Chris Neil put Ottawa on the board at the 15:27 mark with an unassisted goal, as his original shot from the slot was stopped by Vasilevskiy, who was unable to control the rebound. Jason Garrison inadvertently tapped the puck through Vasilevskiy’s legs, and after a scramble in the crease, Neil reached over and poked the loose puck into the net to cut Tampa Bay’s lead to 2-1. Ottawa continued to put on heavy pressure, including a shot by Erik Karlsson that rang off the post. After holding a 21-6 edge in shots, the Lightning saw that margin shrink to 22-20 in their favor at the second intermission, which couldn’t have come soon enough for them.
Tampa Bay nearly regained the two-goal edge in the opening thirty seconds of the third period, as Brayden Point found Killorn with a pass, and he immediately sent a one-touch feed over to Filppula, who was cutting to the net. However, the puck was slightly behind Filppula, whose shot was denied by Anderson. About a minute later, Chris Kelly nearly tied it up for Ottawa, as he one-timed a shot from the right circle off a feed from Jean-Gabriel Pageau that Vasilevskiy stopped, preserving the Lightning’s lead. Killorn would re-establish the two-goal lead for the Bolts with 11:58 left following a turnover by Ottawa in the neutral zone. Killorn and Andrej Sustr converged to force the turnover, with Garrison getting the puck and hitting Filppula with a breakout pass. Filppula dished it over to Killorn, whose wrist shot beat Anderson, giving the Lightning some breathing room. Filppula would put the cherry on top with a breakaway goal with 1:57 left, as Point force a turnover and picked up the lone assist. Tampa Bay finished with a 35-28 edge in shots on goal.
The Lightning continue their road trip on Tuesday night when they head to Toronto to take on the Maple Leafs beginning at 7:30 pm.
MY THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1st Star: Andrei Vasilevskiy – Finished with 27 saves and helped the Lightning weather a second period surge that nearly saw Ottawa tie the game 2-2. If the Senators had scored there, it might have been a different story, but his saves preserved Tampa Bay’s lead.
2nd Star: Vlad Namestnikov – Placed on a line with Stamkos and Kucherov, Namestnikov thrived, scoring the first goal of the game and chipping in with a gorgeous assist on Stamkos’s goal.
3rd Star: Alex Killorn – Scored the insurance goal in the third period, giving him a team-high four on the season. So far, he’s proving to be worth every penny of the raise the Lightning gave him in the offseason.