Last night’s game was a tough pill to swallow: a third-period lead surrendered in an OT loss in Minnesota. Luckily for the Tampa Bay Lightning, they didn’t have to wait long to put that performance behind them. In Chicago tonight, the Lightning hoped to be more responsible with the puck if they found themselves out in front. They were dominant, breaking two team records and an NHL record in the process.
Similar to last night, the first period was simply owned by the Lightning. They held an 8-1 shot advantage over the Blackhawks just twelve minutes in. That was when Nikita Kucherov got the game’s first goal on a wicked, all-star caliber backhand that Hawks fans are accustom to seeing from Patrick Kane. Gorgeous goal to get the Lightning on the board. Victor Hedman collected his first point of the game with the assist at the 3:21 mark. That would set the tone on what would be a record-breaking night for the Bolts.
However, as the clock bled towards the middle of the first, the tides began to turn. Chicago was able to generate some quality looks and finally broke through. Alexandre Fortin got his first career goal after sneaking in behind the Tampa Bay defense.
It was at this point that Louis Domingue made the most impressive save since Andrei Vasilevskiy’s behind-the-back larceny last year. He went full-Brodeur, scissor kicking out the pad to make a show-stopping windmill save with the pillow. That was a massive stop to keep the game tied 1-1 after one.
They don’t ask how, they ask how many
Following an unsuccessful attempt on their first power play of the night, the Lightning broke the tie with a very ugly goal. It took Anthony Cirelli about four whacks to push the puck underneath Hawks goalie Cam Ward from inches away. Ward was rattled afterwards. He felt he was interfered with and made that clear by smashing his stick over the crossbar. Though the Lightning didn’t connect on the PP, they began to really get some continuity and momentum generated. Shots were 12-1 as full strength action resumed.
Yanni on the spot
When Marcus Krüger headed to the box for the second time, the Bolts headed to the PP looking to extend the lead. They would do exactly that, as a Yanni Gourde rebound slipped above Ward and gave Tampa a 3-1 lead. The goal came on the 37th shot on net for the Lightning in just the early second. Again, it was good to see the Lightning connect in close and get a little down and dirty. Gourde has 22 goals scored from within 20 feet of the net in his young career.
The Bolts were gifted a bit of breathing room when Brayden Point slipped his fifth of the year past an exhausted Ward to extend the lead to 4-1.
At the second intermission, Gourde attributed the team’s success in the period to how they “committed themselves to creating traffic and going to the net.” They certainly went to the net often, collecting an ungodly 33 shots in the frame. That sets a new NHL record for shots on goal in a period. The previous high was 30, done twice by the Stars and Canadiens. They also set franchise records for shots on goal in a road game and in general.
Jon Cooper is always stressing the “shoot-first mentality.” Maybe the Lightning will realize their head coach doesn’t just love the sound of his own voice. Putting lots of pucks on net is a recipe for success, and the Lightning proved that this evening.
Changing the ending
After holding a lead through two periods last night, the Lightning knew they needed to be better in tonight’s third period to secure two points. They hardly faltered the second time around.
A Hedman rocket off the right corner of the crossbar gave Tampa Bay a 5-1 lead. They were responsible with the lead, with the exception of one sequence. After the Hawks got back within three on a David Kampf tally, things unraveled just slightly. The puck had ricocheted off a linesman’s skate and into the slot. Domingue was furious, and Kucherov ended up serving an unsportsmanlike minor for Domingue destroying his goal stick.
Nick Schmaltz made it 5-3 on the ensuing power play with the goalie pulled. With the lead dwindling, the Bolts knew they needed their strongest three-and-a-half minutes of the night to close out the win.
Game, set, match
A Ryan Callahan empty-netter put it away for Tampa Bay for their sixth tally of the night in what turned out to be a 6-3 victory. A great effort from the team on the road. Their first road win of the season secured three points out of a possible four in a tough back-to-back. The Lighting move to 5-1-1 on the season with the win.
The Lightning’s road trip continues on Wednesday when they head to Denver to take on the Colorado Avalanche in a nationally-televised contest on NBCSN. Puck drops at 9:30 pm.
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