One of the oldest traps NHL teams fall into is coming out flat in the first home game after a long road trip. The Tampa Bay Lightning returned home after a pair of four-game road trips sandwiched around the All-Star break. Following a poor showing in Edmonton, the Bolts needed a rebound performance against the Vancouver Canucks.
Thankfully for the Lightning, their best players shone brightly, a recent call-up hit the scoresheet, and their hottest player continued his stellar play, resulting in a two-game season sweep of the Canucks.
Five different Tampa Bay players hit the back of the net and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 27 shots as the Lightning (37-14-3) beat Vancouver (21-27-6) by a 5-2 score at Amalie Arena. The Lightning’s first home victory since January 9 also marked their first game at home since January 18. Nikita Kucherov, Yanni Gourde, Adam Erne, Steven Stamkos, and Victor Hedman each scored goals, with each of them having some meaning. For Kucherov, his goal snapped an 11-game goal drought, while Gourde and Stamkos each hit the 20-goal plateau this season. Erne’s tally was his first of the season following his call-up from AHL Syracuse. Hedman’s goal turned out to be a historic one, as he now sits in first place in franchise history in goals by defensemen.
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) February 9, 2018
Early on, both teams traded shots on goal with Vancouver getting a few better looks early on.
The Canucks also picked up the game’s first power play when Tyler Johnson went to the box for slashing. However, the Lightning’s penalty killers came up big despite giving up a couple of early shots.
Tampa Bay stepped up their game and began generating their own solid looks. Johnson collected a pass from Kucherov and nearly scored, but Vancouver goalie Anders Nilsson denied him. Brayden Point earned the game’s best scoring chance up to that point, cutting to the net after getting around Chris Tanev. However, Tanev was able to bump Point off the puck before he could release a shot.
After seeing his fair share of quality chances in recent weeks, Kucherov’s drought came to an end.
The Lightning sniper took the puck out of the corner and sent a pass to Point at the edge of the crease. The puck took a bounce and caromed back to Kucherov in the slot. He proceeded to backhand a shot top shelf past Nilsson for his 28th of the season, putting Tampa Bay up 1-0 at the 14:36 mark with Alex Killorn and Hedman assisting. Kucherov punctuated the goal with a great celebration, raising his arms to the heavens, the relief on his face obvious to all watching the game.
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) February 9, 2018
Tampa Bay began the second period with 1:50 of power play time thanks to a holding penalty on Brock Boeser.
It didn’t take the Lightning long to make Boeser, the Canucks’ rookie sensation who won All-Star MVP, pay for his mistake. Mikhail Sergachev released a shot from the point, leading to Johnson redirecting it. Although Nilsson made the save, Gourde camped out in front of the net and backhanded the rebound home, putting the Bolts up 2-0 on his 20th goal at the 1:38 mark.
The Canucks continued to push despite trailing, earning their best chances within seconds of each other. Loui Eriksson nearly scored when he shook loose from Dan Girardi and fired a shot just wide. Seconds later, Vasilevskiy denied Jake Virtanen in close to preserve the two-goal advantage.
Having survived those quality chances, the Lightning began to take control of the game.
Erne took a page out of Kucherov’s book when he notched the fourth goal of his NHL career at the 13:40 mark. Sitting in Kucherov’s usual spot in the right circle, Erne took a pass from Andrej Sustr and blasted a one-timer past Nilsson for a 3-0 Bolts lead.
Spearheaded by ferocious forechecking from Gourde, the Lightning piled it on by going up 4-0 with 2:46 remaining in the second period. Gourde’s work down low helped the Bolts maintain possession, and he worked the puck over to Johnson. Johnson then fed it to a wide-open Stamkos in front of the net, where the Lightning’s captain notched his 20th of the season a day after celebrating his 28th birthday.
Much like the previous meeting between these two teams in Vancouver last Saturday, the Canucks refused to go away quietly.
Bo Horvat nearly broke up Vasilevskiy’s shutout bid on a breakaway opportunity, but the Lightning’s All-Star goalie came up with the save. However, he wasn’t able to keep Boeser off the board. With Girardi serving a double minor for high-sticking, Boeser ripped a one-timer from beyond the left circle, deflecting off Sustr and into the net for his 26th goal, cutting the Lightning’s lead to 4-1 at the 5:12 mark. With 9:05 remaining, a Lightning turnover led to Horvat getting the puck on a 2-on-1. He dished it over to Sven Baertschi, who beat Vasilevskiy for his 12th goal and making it a 4-2 hockey game.
While that sequence seemed eerily similar to Vancouver’s comeback attempt nearly a week ago, Hedman restored the Lightning’s three-goal lead when his shot from the point beat Nilsson for his eighth of the season. Nilsson allowed 5 goals on 36 Tampa Bay shots.
The Lightning return to action this Saturday, February 10, when they host the Los Angeles Kings at 7 pm. Vinny Lecavalier’s jersey number will get raised to the rafters in a special pregame ceremony, so make sure to be in your seat at 6 pm.
-Kucherov’s goal was his first since January 7 in a 5-2 win at Detroit.
-This game also marked the first time that Kucherov and Stamkos have scored in the same game since a 5-0 victory in Columbus on New Year’s Eve.
-Hedman set the Lightning’s career record for most goals by a defenseman in 64 fewer games than Pavel Kubina.
-The victory snapped a two-game home losing streak, as the Lightning’s last win at Amalie Arena was a 5-4 decision over Carolina on January 9.
-Four Lightning players have now hit the 20-goal mark this season: Kucherov, Point, Gourde, and Stamkos.
-The win gave Vasilevskiy 32 victories on the season, the most in the NHL.
Our Three Stars of the Game
1st Star: Nikita Kucherov – Ended an 11-game goal drought and added an assist. Tallied a game-high seven shots on goal.
2nd Star: Yanni Gourde – Reached the 20-goal mark for the first time in his NHL career and added an assist.
3rd Star: Steven Stamkos – Scored his 20th goal of the season while also chipping in one assist.
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