During a stretch of four losses in six games, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s offense dried up, scoring just 13 goals in that time. Since returning to Tampa for a four-game homestand, the Lightning have reverted to their high-flying form of the opening six weeks.
Entering Thursday’s contest against the Colorado Avalanche, the Lightning (20-6-2) tallied 11 goals in victories over the Sharks and Islanders in the first two games of the homestand. A struggling Avalanche (12-13-2) team became the latest victim at Amalie Arena.
Five different Lightning players scored goals while Peter Budaj made 28 saves in just his fifth start as the Ligthning topped the Avs 5-2 for their third straight victory. Steven Stamkos and Vladislav Namestnikov each had a goal and two assists, Tyler Johnson notched a pair of helpers, and Chris Kunitz and Alex Killorn also hit the back of the net. Semyon Varlamov took the loss in net for Colorado, making 27 saves as the Avs have now lost five of their last six.
Didn’t take long for Colorado to get on the scoreboard first.
Only 1:21 into the game, Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog powered to the net and tucked a shot past Budaj to put Colorado up 1-0. The Lightning, however, weren’t fazed, as Stamkos tallied his 12th of the season only 25 seconds later to tie it up. Namestnikov sent a long pass that bounced off the boards and ricocheted towards Colorado’s blue line. Stamkos beat Nikita Zadorov in a footrace, cutting in alone on Varlamov and roofing a shot past him for the goal.
The Lightning proceeded to dominate the rest of the period.
With their fourth line grinding and playing keep-away, the Lightning took a 2-1 lead when Kunitz redirected Dan Girardi’s shot into the net, scoring for the second straight contest. Tampa Bay was 1:38 away from taking a lead into the locker room, but a Stamkos turnover at Colorado’s blue line went the other way. Sven Andrighetto worked the puck to a streaking Erik Johnson, who flew down the left wing and beat Budaj through the five-hole, tying the game 2-2. Budaj would probably be the first one to admit it was a goal that he’d like to have back. Tampa Bay held a 17-7 lead in shots on goal at the intermission while also attempting 34 shots in the opening 20 minutes.
While its been easy to call Namestnikov the third wheel on the top line, he just keeps producing.
He scored the eventual game-winner at 8:09 of the second period when he took briefly took the puck behind Colorado’s net and left it for Stamkos. Stamkos then sent the puck into the slot for Tyler Johnson. Johnson’s shot was denied by Varlamov, but Namestnikov was camped out by the side of the net, knocking home the rebound for his 12th of the season and a 3-2 Lightning lead.
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) December 8, 2017
During the first two periods, the Lightning power play mustered only four shots on their first three chances.
Keep in mind, this was a team that scored at least one power play goal in seven straight games entering this contest. At the 3:37 mark, Mikko Rantanen went to the penalty box for holding the stick, and the Lightning would extend their streak to eight games with a power play goal. Namestnikov held the puck behind the net, then passed it to Stamkos along the boards. Stamkos promptly dished it to Killorn in the slot, and he made no mistake, ripping a one-timer past Varlamov for his third goal of the year and a 4-2 lead. Brayden Point would tack on a shorthanded empty net goal to put the final bow on this game.
Although Budaj got off to a rough start, he was rock solid after Colorado’s second goal.
He earned just his second win of the season in just his fifth start, and his night was highlighted by a pair of saves on Avalanche forward J.T. Compher. During a Lightning power play in the second period, Compher found himself alone on Budaj on a breakaway, but the Lightning goaltender was up to the task. In the third period, Compher broke in alone again, but Budaj was there to deny him, preserving a two-goal lead and allowing the Lightning to cruise to the win.
The Bolts will look to go 4-for-4 on this homestand when they host the Winnipeg Jets at Amalie Arena this Saturday. Puck drops at 7 pm.
- Per the Elias Sports Bureau, the Lightning have scored at least five goals in three consecutive games for the first time since a four-game run from Jan. 25 to Feb. 1, 2013.
- Stamkos’s three-point night pushed him ahead of teammate Nikita Kucherov for the NHL lead in points. Stamkos has 41 and Kucherov, who was held pointless, now has 40.
- Tonight’s game marked the first time that Stamkos tallied a point against Colorado at Amalie Arena.
- The victory ended a two-game losing streak against the Avalanche in Tampa.
- Yanni Gourde earned an assist on Point’s goal, giving him at least one point in three straight games.
- Kunitz has points in five straight games against Colorado.
My Three Stars of the Game
1st Star: Vlad Namestnikov – One goal, two assists, game-winning goal
2nd Star: Steven Stamkos – One goal, two assists, first goal of the game after Colorado scored early
3rd Star: Tyler Johnson – Two assists, had multiple solid scoring chances.
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