The Tampa Bay Lightning and Philadelphia Flyers entered tonight both in need of a win, but for different reasons. The Lightning were looking for a win to extend their franchise high winning streak to ten games along with continuing to hold on to their Atlantic division lead and a two seed in the Eastern Conference. The Flyers came in needing a win to keep their dwindling playoff hopes alive as they were four points out of the final playoff spot with only 16 games left to play. Both teams would come into tonight playing extremely well over the last two weeks utilizing scoring from multiple lines and effective goaltending. The teams also see each other again later this week, so the ability to get an early win against their Eastern conference foe would be critical in determining their fates in the playoff race.
The 1st period started poorly for the Lightning as defenseman John Garrison would get sent to the penalty box only a minute into the game for a holding penalty. Tampa’s penalty kill unit would do the job relatively easily however as they killed the Flyers power play without much threat to Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. Tampa’s fortunates would change quickly after the penalty kill as the Ondrej Palat would put a great shot past Flyer goalie Steve Mason giving him his fourth goal in the last three games, and more importantly the Lightning the early 1-0 lead. The good fortune would be short-lived however as the Lightning would take their second penalty of the game when Vladislav Namestnikov would get sent off for high-sticking as he tried to bat in a rebounding puck but hit a Flyer in the face instead of the puck. The Lightning penalty kill would continue to show why they are one of the best in the league, easily killing of Philadelphia’s second power play of the night without facing a shot. The game’s roller coaster 1st period would continue as the Flyers only two shift after their second power play ended would give the Bolts their first power play of the night after Claude Giroux would get called for hooking Ondrej Palat after Palat robbed him of the puck and was threatening to score. Unfortunately, the Lightning power play has been as bad as the Lightning penalty kill has been good; particularly on the road. The Tampa power play would only get about twenty seconds into their shift before taking Tampa’s third penalty of the night ending the power play before it could even begin. The team’s would return to even strength but the Flyers would benefit as Wayne Simmonds and Pierre Bellemare took a bad Matt Carle turnover which gave them a two on none in front of Vasilevskiy’s net, looking as if they would get an easy goal until the Lightning goalie would make his best save of the season as he completely swallowed up Bellemare’s shot as he anticipated the tic-tak-toe pass before Bellamare’s shot, keeping the Tampa’s 1-0 lead intact. The Lightning were unable to get many shots off in the first period and made matters worse taking their fourth penalty of the night towards the end of the 1st period as Nikita Nesterov got sent to the box for high-sticking. The penalty kill would again do their job through the first half of the power play as the 1st period would come to a close with the Lightning leading 1-0 despite spending most of the period playing a man down. The Flyers would hold the shots on goal advantage 9-3 after the 1st period.
The 2nd period would start with the Lightning playing a man down as the Nikita Nesterov penalty would carry over from the 1st period. The Flyers power play would put some pressure on Vasilevskiy but the Lightning special teams unit would again kill the rest of the penalty. The Lightning’s inability to get shots on net would continue as Vasilevskiy was under siege for most of the first half of the 2nd period despite both teams playing at even strength. Fortunately for the Bolts Andrei Vasilevskiy would continue play like a rock in the crease stopping shots from the point and any rebounds in front of his crease. The Lightning at times would appear to play in quick sand as the Flyers continued to dominate puck possession and shots on goal. Vasilevskiy would continue to make save after save midway through the 2nd period keeping the Lightning in front. Unfortunately the Bolts were unable to provide their goalie any relief and the Flyers would finally break through as rookie defenseman sensation Shayne Gostisbehere would put in a rebound to tie the game 1-1 late in the 2nd period. The Lightning would use their coaches challenge, claiming goaltender interference on the play. Replays would should Flyer center Gagner clearly interfering with Vasilevskiy but the refs would rule it was incidental due to a Lightning check in front of the crease, and the goal would stand. Late in the 2nd the Lightning would finally get their first extended puck possession in the Philadelphia end, and it would draw their second power play of the night as Radko Gudas would be sent to the penalty box for holding Alex Killorn. The Lightning power play could not score prior to the end of the second period but would have 1:02 remaining on the power play to start the 3rd period. The teams would head to the locker room tied 1-1, despite the Flyers completely dominated the Lightning in every facet during the 2nd period, and Philadelphia would maintain a 31 to 9 shots on goal advantage after two periods.
The 3rd period began with the maligned Tampa power play with 1:02 remaining on the Radko Gudas penalty that carried over from the 2nd period. The Lightning power play unit would continue their road struggles by failing to capitalize on the Philadelphia penalty as the game would remain tied 1-1 as the teams returned to even strength. The Flyers would continue to be camped out in the Tampa Bay Lightning defensive zone and Tampa defenseman Nikita Nesterov would make things more difficult for Tampa by sending a puck over the boards for a delay of game penalty. Tampa’s penalty kill could not kill off their fifth of the game as the Shayne Gostisbehere would score his second goal of the game off of a sharp pass from teammate Claude Giroux allowing Philadelphia to take their first lead of the game 2-1 midway through the 3rd period. It would continue to get worse for Tampa as a neutral zone turnover would turn into Philadelphia’s third goal of the night coming from Brayden Schenn after he deflected a puck off of Steven Stamkos’s skate and past Vasilevskiy to give the Flyers a 3-1 lead late in the 3rd period. The two goal lead would be short-lived however as Tampa center Vladislav Namestnikov on the first shift after the Schenn goal ,would blast a one timer past Steve Mason after Tyler Johnson fed him with a great pass for the Lightning’s second goal cutting the deficit back to 3-2 late in the 3rd period. The offensive jolt would be short-lived for Tampa as the Flyers would run the rest of the 3rd period down until Wayne Simmonds would score an easy empty netter to seal the Philadelphia victory at 4 to 2. The Flyers completely dominated the Lightning from start to finish tonight, and if it was not for the incredible play of Andrei Vasilevskiy the game could have been a blow out, in what was likely the Tampa Bay Lightning’s worst effort on the season. The Flyers the game would finish with a huge 40-18 shots on goal advantage.
The Lightning would fall to 39-22-4, with 82 points. The Flyers would improve to 30-23-11, with 73 points on the year and giving some much-needed life to their playoff hopes.
The Lightning will return home tomorrow March 7th, to face the Boston Bruins. The game can be seen locally on SUN sports with a 7:30 pm puck drop.
THREE STARS OF THE GAME
- Shayne Gostisbehere – The rookie defensive sensation was everywhere tonight for the Flyers scoring two goals against a goal tender who was stopping everything the Flyers could throw at him. The rookie buried both of his scoring chances and allowed his team which was dominating the Lightning on the ice but not on the scoreboard to get a huge win for their playoff chances.
- Andrei Vasilevskiy–Vasilevskiy was an absolute monster in net tonight stopping 37 of the 40 shots he faced. All three of the goals scored on him were shots no goalie could have stopped. Vasilevskiy made highlight reel after highlight reel save tonight trying to will his team who did not seem interested in playing to victory. Unfortunately for Vasilevskiy his effort and tremendous play tonight was not rewarded by his teammates.
3. Claude Giroux– Giroux pestered the Lightning forwards all night into one of their worst performances on the year, and he also assisted on the go ahead and game winning goals on the night.