When you think of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2017-18, you think of star players, elite goaltending, speed, and scoring. At this rate, you can add overtime and shootout to that list of descriptions as well. Thanks to their recent play in extra hockey, they now own their longest point streak of the season.
Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov each tallied shootout goals, while Kucherov also chipped in the game-tying goal as the Lightning beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 at Amalie Arena. Backup goalie Louis Domingue made 27 saves in the win, while Tyler Johnson scored the other Lightning goal. Tampa Bay rallied from a 2-1 third period deficit to knot this one up, showing some third period moxie. The Lightning are 9-0-1 in their last 10 games, their longest point streak of the season. This contest also marked the seventh time in eight games they’ve gone to either overtime or a shootout. Their previous longest streak was a nine-game run back in October.
Unlike some recent games, the Lightning found themselves in a tight-checking affair against the Habs.
This was also a contest where the Bolts didn’t have their A-game from the beginning, and it was pretty evident this team isn’t used to 1 pm puck drops. Early on, Montreal had the Lightning back on their heels, drawing a power play within the first three minutes. Charles Hudon took a shot that caromed off the leg of Dan Girardi, bouncing over to Artturi Lehkonen. Lehkonen immediately blasted a one-timer that beat Domingue through a screen at the 4:10 mark, putting the Habs up 1-0 with a power play goal.
Although scoring chances were at a premium for both teams early on, a Lightning power play shifted momentum back in their favor. After generating multiple quality chances, the Bolts hit the back of the net as Johnson took a page out of Steven Stamkos’s playbook. While camped out in the left circle, Johnson took a pass from Mikhail Sergachev and ripped a one-timer past Habs goalie Antti Niemi, tying the game 1-1.
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) March 10, 2018
Despite building some positive momentum going into the second period, Tampa Bay just seemed a step slow at times.
They gave up a multiple odd-man rushes to the Canadiens, although not as many as we’ve seen them give up in recent weeks. Unfortunately for them, one of them ended up in the back of their net.
New addition Ryan McDonagh, making his Lightning debut after being acquired at the trade deadline, made a fantastic play to intercept a pass in the neutral zone. While skating the puck into the Habs’ zone, his pass was intercepted by Hudon and taken back the other way. Hudon led a 3-on-1, feeding the puck over to Alex Galchenyuk. Galchenyuk promptly fired one past Domingue for his 16th goal and a 2-1 Montreal lead three minutes into the period. The play was McDonagh’s only mistake in his first game action since February 7, missing time due to an upper body injury.
Despite the giveaway, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper had praise for McDonagh after the game.
“He was extremely noticeable on our penalty kill,” Cooper said. “In some situations where we might not have gotten the puck out, McDonagh made sure we got that puck out.”
Speaking of the Lightning’s penalty killers, their struggles over the last few months have been well-documented.
Despite giving up an early power play goal to the Canadiens off a weird bounce, they bounced back in a big way. During the third period, Tampa Bay took a pair of penalties that could have been costly. Fortunately for the Bolts, the PK unit came up huge, even generating a shorthanded chance by Alex Killorn that rang off the post. One of those kills came before Kucherov’s tying goal, while the other occurred afterwards. Girardi praised the work of the Bolts while shorthanded.
“I think for the most part, we did a really good job on the PK and were able to get some momentum off that,” said Girardi in reference to the penalty killers’ efforts in the final period.
For much of the first two-and-a-half periods, Nikita Kucherov was visible for all the wrong reasons.
He committed a few turnovers that led to some quality scoring opportunities for the Canadiens. For a while, he didn’t look like the elite player we’ve all grown accustomed to. Thankfully for the Lightning, that all changed with 6:17 left in regulation.
J.T. Miller, who continues to be impress after being acquired in the McDonagh trade, forechecked behind the Habs’ net, forcing a turnover by Jordie Benn. Stamkos pounced on it, giving the puck to Kucherov in front, and the rest was history. Kucherov’s 34th goal of the season gave the Lightning some added jump, tying the game 2-2. Miller, placed on the same line as Stamkos and Kucherov for the third period, sang praises about his linemates on that goal.
“If you asked me a couple weeks ago if I thought I’d be playing a period with those two, I would have laughed. It’s a heck of an opportunity,” said Miller.
During overtime, both teams failed on golden opportunities, one of them a power play for the Lightning that fell short.
As a result, this game found itself needing a shootout. In the second round, Point proceeded to work his usual shootout magic:
BRAYDEN POINT IS ABSOLUTELY SICK. ???? pic.twitter.com/EGfBovFQMF
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) March 10, 2018
At this point, the work of Point in the skills competition has become routine. It appeared as though that goal would hold up as the shootout winner. However, former Lightning winger Jonathan Drouin had other ideas. Drouin snapped a blistering wrist shot past Domingue in the third round, extending the shootout to a fourth stanza. However, Kucherov one-upped Drouin with a snipe of his own, leaving it all up to Domingue. The Lightning’s backup goalie made one final save on Lehkonen in the fourth round, preserving the win for the Lightning.
Tampa Bay’s homestand continues on Tuesday, March 13, when they host the Ottawa Senators at 7:30 pm.
-The Lightning became the first team in the NHL to reach 100 points. They’re now six points ahead of Boston for first place in the Atlantic Division. They also lead Nashville by three points for the top overall spot in the NHL.
-Sergachev’s assist puts him in first place in scoring among rookie defensemen. He has three assists in the team’s last two games.
-Kucherov leads the league in scoring with 88 points. He has led the league in scoring continuously since December 12.
-Hudon, who finished with two assists for Montreal, left the game with what appeared to be an ankle injury after crashing into the boards in the third period. He had to be helped off the ice by teammates.
-The Lightning closed out their four-game season series with Montreal by going 3-0-1. Three of the four games ended in shootouts.
My Three Stars of the Game
1st Star: Nikita Kucherov – Scored the game-tying goal in regulation and the winner in the shootout.
2nd Star: Charles Hudon – Tallied two assists for the Habs before leaving the game with an injury.
3rd Star: Brayden Point – Tied Kucherov for the team lead in shots on goal with five. Created multiple scoring chances and also tallied yet another shootout goal.
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