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Lightning’s Anthony Cirelli has an unforgettable night in his NHL debut

Wayne Masut | Sr. Staff Photographer

Do you remember what you were doing 229 days after your 20th birthday? Tampa Bay’s rookie center does, and he will never forget it.

For the second time this season the Tampa Bay Lightning took aim at a familiar face. Ben Bishop gave up six goals, on just 28 shots, on November 16 at Amalie Arena. This time Bishop didn’t fare much better, allowing five goals on 25 shots. The outcome was the same — Tampa Bay exited the Lone Star State victorious after a 5-4 victory in overtime.

Cirelli makes the most of his NHL debut

After being drafted in Round 3 of the 2015 NHL Draft, Anthony Cirelli spent his first two seasons in the minors playing for the Oshawa Generals (OHL), Erie Otters (OHL), and Syracuse Crunch (AHL). The Ontario native had 14 goals and 23 assists in 51 games this year before being called up. To make room for Cirelli, Tampa Bay sent Michael Bournival down to Syracuse.

Trailing 2-1 in the second period, Cirelli took control of the puck just outside of his own zone and raced down the left side of the ice. With Bishop in position, and guarding against a centering pass, the 20-year-old beat the Stars goalie to the short side of the net. Cirelli is eight days younger than Point was when he scored his first goal on November 5, 2016. Chris Gratton (18 years-107 days) is the youngest player to score a goal for the Lightning, back on October 20, 1993.

“It’s been fun so far,” Cirelli said after the second period.

I’d say that’s a bit of an understatement, but Cirelli was very modest stating that tonight was “just another hockey game” and he was thankful for the opportunity. His teammates from the minors are a bit more outgoing about their excitement.

Rookie of the Month

February was a nice month for Tampa Bay rookie Yanni Gourde. The 26-year-old forward scored five goals (three on the power play) and tallied 11 assists in 14 games during the shortened month. Perhaps most impressive is that he was held point-less in just two contests (2/15 at Detroit – 2/24 vs Montreal). His most productive outings came in consecutive games, during a four-day stretch, after posting a goal and an assist on February 5 and February 8 versus the Oilers and Canucks, respectively.

Miller’s first assist with new team

Playing in his second game with the Lightning, J.T. Miller added his name to the score sheet by assisting Brayden Point on his 26th goal of the season. For Miller, it’s his first point since coming over to Tampa Bay at the trade deadline. He came inches away from recording his first goal as well but his second-period wrist shot ricocheted off the post after beating Bishop high to his glove side.

The goal gave the Lightning an early 1-0 lead but Dallas responded later in the period when Tyler Seguin found the back of the net for the 33rd time this season. Seguin later added his 34th goal during the second period, just moments after the Stars killed off a 4-on-3 Lightning power play.

More controversy

With under a minute to play in regulation, after drawing within one goal, Dallas took advantage of an interesting situation with under a minute to go. After the game clock accidentally stopped, while play was still going on, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos drew the attention of the refs. As play continued, Tyler Seguin found himself in the from of the net searching for the hat trick. Instead, he found himself making contact with Lightning goalie Louis Domingue, who fell back into the net and out of position. With Domingue laying on his stomach and the puck several feet in front of him to his glove-side, Mattias Janmark elevated the puck enough to beat Domingue who was unable to get to his feet.

The referees got together to discuss the frantic final moments of the game. With Stamkos addressing concerns over why the clock suddenly stopped, the refs determined that the goal was good. However, thats not all. Originally, the puck crossed the line with 10.6 seconds to play. Since the accidental clock stoppage allowed for longer play, it was determined that roughly six seconds had gone by during the initial clock mishap.

So, back to the good goal. Head Coach Jon Cooper decided to challenge that there was goaltender interference on the Janmark goal. Replay shows Seguin making contact with both the stick-side and glove-side of Domingue but the question remained of whether it warranted an interference call. After another short debate, the officials determined, once again, that it was a good goal.

In December I mentioned the growing concerns surrounding this rule. Tonight did not help…

There is a growing concern around the NHL over what ‘goalie interference’ really is? Just as NFL fans pose the question, what is pass interference? Or, what is a catch? Hockey fans find themselves asking for clarification on goaltender interference.

More drama in Overtime

Sixty minutes was not enough in this one as the teams went into overtime. And the drama did not stop there. After turning the puck over during an attempt to play the puck in the early moments of overtime, Domingue found himself in a more significant situation when he tweaked his right leg attempting to make a save. After a brief consultation from the Lighting trainer, the Lightning goaltender remained in the game.

With less than a minute to go, Cory Conacher scampered down ice and lifted a shot toward Bishop that took a funny bounce off of the chest area of the Stars backstop and made its way into the back of the net.

Bolts Notes:

  • Lightning have not lost in regulation since February 17 (six games) against New Jersey
  • The victory gives Tampa Bay a franchise record 23 road wins this season
  • Just the 4th time they have won the second game of a back-to-back this year (4-5-1)
  • Tampa Bay paced the NHL finishing February with 14 power-play goals

Up Next:

Tampa Bay returns home to face the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday March 3 at 1pm.

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