Tampa Bay saw their seven-game winning streak come to an end in the final seconds of Tuesday night’s game. On Thursday, Stamkos and the crew returned home.
Despite a last-second defeat at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights, the Lightning still have a commanding lead in the Atlantic division (24-7-2), and throughout the rest of the NHL. In fact, Vegas had the second-most points in the league as of Wednesday.
Ottawa, on the other hand, entered with only 29 points. Having collected only five road-wins on the season, the Lightning made sure that the Senators remained near the bottom of the Atlantic division standings.
Girardi did what?
Typically, when you are wearing a blue jersey you aim to prevent the puck from getting behind the goalie wearing the same color. On Thursday night, Lightning defenseman Dan Girardi was part of a unique situation after Andrei Vasilevskiy robbed Senators winger Bobby Ryan.
During the first period of play, Girardi corralled the puck after Vasilevskiy thwarted a Ryan wrist-shot, however, his clearing pass ricocheted off Brayden Coburn’s shin and into the Lightning net.
Not how this one was drawn up – by anyone.
Bobby Ryan will take it, though. pic.twitter.com/o2kehAz7oC
— NHL (@NHL) December 22, 2017
Second Period Awakening
Managing just seven shots on goal during the first period of play, the Lightning came out aggressive in the second frame. While neither team found much of a rhythm during the opening period, the Lightning quickly gained momentum after the intermission.
As the old adage goes, you can’t score if you don’t put pucks on net. The Lightning’s first goal was a perfect example of what can happen if you just throw pucks toward the goal.
Nikita Kucherov (tie with Alex Ovechkin) leads the NHL with 23 goals scored this season. Searching for number 24, the Lightning forward guided a puck from the right-circle in the direction of Senators goalie Craig Anderson. Having set up shop in front of the net, Tyler Johnson was in perfect position to deflect the shot passed Anderson – his ninth goal of the season.
After a Jake Dotchin turnover helped Ottawa regain the lead, the Bolts continued their aggressive onslaught – culminating in a game-tying goal by Yanni Gourde. His initial shot was kicked away by Anderson but Alex Killorn snuck a pass in behind Anderson, through the crease, and Gourde netted his 11th goal of the season.
Ottawa had 12 blocked shots after two periods of play – a testament to the previously stated “throw pucks on net” theory. The Lightning totaled 18 shots in the period and outshot their opponent by 12.
Late Heroics from Stamkos
Just as the two sides had done throughout the night, the Senators and Lightning alternated goals in the third period. For Tampa Bay, Vladislav Namestnikov provided the equalizer after Erik Karlsson gave Ottawa the advantage.
The second period saw 24 shots between the two squads. It appeared that, perhaps, fatigue set in during much of the third. With two minutes to play, the Senators had just five shots while the Lightning had six.
“Tough travel day, well not tough but pretty long with time change and everything. You know, guys under the weather, so for us to come out tonight and kinda get our legs going in the second was huge for us,” Victor Hedman told us after the game. “It was a tough game. It came down to two great goaltenders and it came down to a shootout but we’re obviously happy we got the extra point.”
Five minutes of 3-on-3 hockey was not enough to decide a winner tonight. For that matter, 4-on-3 wasn’t either after the Lightning spent the final 1:08 on the power play. Anderson made several key saves down the stretch to help propel the Senators into the shootout.
During the shootout, Vasilevskiy was outstanding. Ottawa was unable to get anything past the Tampa Bay netminder, and with Steven Stamkos focussed in on Anderson, and a victory, the Lightning captain took aim on the Senators goalie. Just as Stamkos went to make a move to his right, Anderson started to slide to his left, Stamkos saw this, took advantage, and lifted the puck over the right shoulder of Anderson, who was leaning the other direction.
Three Stars of the Night
1st Star: Victor Hedman (1 assist)
2nd Star: Erik Karlsson (1 assist)
3rd Star: Nikita Kucherov (2 assists)
The Minnesota Wild come to Tampa on Saturday night. It’s the second game of a four-game home stand for the Lightning before heading on the road New Years Eve.
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