JANUARY 15, 2016: VLADDY WITH THE HATTY
The Tampa Bay Lightning only had one hat trick in 2015-16.
It came from Vladislav Namestnikov, who notched three goals, including the overtime game-winner, against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena.
Namestnikov’s best of the three was goal No. 1.
Before two minutes had come off the clock, Namestnikov raced onto a pass from Steven Stamkos at the center line. The Russian forward sped past the Penguins’ defense and charged hard at Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. From the circle, Namestnikov unleashed a wrist shot over the glove of Fleury for the game’s first goal.
Namestnikov would score a power-play goal in the second period to put the Bolts up 3-1 before his winner 2:11 into overtime to complete the first hat trick of his career.
MAY 6, 2016: GOAL GARRISON
Once Tampa Bay’s second round series against the New York Islanders shifted venues to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, the Lightning found a familiar pattern on the road: fall behind, rally in the third and win the game early in overtime.
Brian Boyle was the hero in Game 3, scoring 2:48 into the extra session.
Jason Garrison did him about a minute and change better three nights later.
Andrej Sustr collected the puck along the left boards and swung it along the blue line to Garrison right point. Garrison wound up and cranked a one-time slap shot. Nobody on New York got in the way to block Garrison’s notoriously heavy shot, and Greiss couldn’t find the puck quick enough to stop it on the far post.
The Lightning took an insurmountable 3-1 lead in the series just 1:34 into overtime of Game 4. The Islanders had played well in both Games 3 and 4, perhaps well enough to expect to go back to Tampa with a 2-2 split. Losing both games in Brooklyn was the end of the road for the Islanders, though, and Garrison provided the finishing shot.
Tampa Bay would close out the Islanders with a convincing 4-0 win in Game 5 at Amalie Arena and move on to the Eastern Conference Final for the second season in a row.
The Stralman Spin vs. Gud Save
JANUARY 15, 2016: THE STRALMAN SPIN
The Lightning were scrambling late in their first meeting of the season against the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Bolts had sprinted out to a 3-1 lead by the game’s midpoint, but the Penguins scored three-consecutive goals to take their first lead with 6:12 to go.
The Lightning needed to answer or risk letting two points slip away.
Anton Stralman supplied the lifeline.
The defenseman took possession of the puck just inside the offensive zone along the wall, carried the puck into the right circle, spun around to get Pens D-man Ben Lovejoy to drop to his knees then flipped a backhander into the top far corner of the net.
A wonder goal from a guy not necessarily expected to produce them
Pure class from a classy guy
The Lightning won in overtime on Vladislav Namestnikov’s third goal of the game (and the Bolts only hat trick of the season).
Tampa Bay took all three regular season contests against Pittsburgh.
Stralman’s spin-o-rama beauty was the catalyst for the first win.
OCTOBER 24, 2015: GUD SAVE
Kristers Gudlevskis only got one opportunity to prove himself at the NHL level in 2015-16.
But the Latvian goaltender sure made the most of it.
Gudlevskis was tasked with stopping the reigning Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in their own building early in the season. The Lightning were playing the second half of a back-to-back and didn’t want to send starter Ben Bishop out for the second night in a row, and Andrei Vasilevskiy was still recovering from offseason surgery and wouldn’t be ready to play for another week.
Gudlevskis starred in his lone NHL appearance of the season, stopping all 31 shots he faced in regulation. Unfortunately, the Lightning also failed to score, and the Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews needed just 17 seconds to break the deadlock in overtime.
The highlight of Gudlevskis’ night came late in the second period with Patrick Kane on a breakaway. Gudlevskis went down into a split to stop Kane’s initial offering and held firm to block away the rebound too.
Gudlevskis’ performance deserved better than an overtime loss. However, the scoring slump that plagued the Lightning toward the end of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final against the Blackhawks reappeared in their first meeting of the 2015-16 season.
Stopping an Avalanche vs. Bullet with Eyes
OCTOBER 29, 2015: STOPPING AN AVALANCHE
The 19,092 fans at Amalie Arena barely had time to find their seats before Colorado forced Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop to make one of his finest saves of the season.
Just 15 seconds into the game, Colorado started a 3-on-1 break toward the Bolts’ goal. The Avalanche worked the puck to Matt Duchesne on the left post for a wide-open shot and sure goal.
Except Bishop dove across the net to knock the shot away with his stick.
Bishop’s save was so brilliant, Fox Sports Sun play-by-play announcer Rick Peckham’s voice cracked as he made the call.
The Lightning wouldn’t be so lucky as the game progressed, however, the Avalanche winning 2-1.
May 22, 2016: BULLET WITH EYES
Give Tampa Bay forward Alex Killorn a 9.5 for degree of difficulty on this Eastern Conference Final goal.
Trailing 2-0 midway through Game 5 of the ECF at Pittsburgh, the Lightning were looking for any kind of spark to get them back in the game.
Killorn, like he’s done so many times in the postseason during his Lightning career, provided the timely answer.
Killorn latched onto the puck in the offensive zone near the boards and skated unimpeded into the left circle. Seeing a small sliver of space between Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and the net, Killorn blistered a shot from a sharp angle to the near post high over Fleury’s right shoulder. By the time Fleury reacted to the shot, the puck was already in the back of the net.
Killorn’s bullet kickstarted the Bolts comeback. Nikita Kucherov scored a little over a minute later to tie the game 2-2.
Pittsburgh went back in front late in the second period, but the Lightning leveled the score again in the third and won the game in overtime, giving them a 3-2 lead in the ECF.
The Captain Hits 300 vs. Bishop's Brilliance
FEBRUARY 20, 2016: THE CAPTAIN HITS 300
During an afternoon game in the Steel City at the start of the Bolts’ dads trip, Steven Stamkos made history.
Stamkos became the third player in Lightning history to reach the 300 career goal mark -- joining Vincent
Lecavalier (383) and Martin St. Louis (365) – with his first period goal at Pittsburgh.
Scoring 13 days after his 26th birthday, Stamkos became the ninth-youngest player in NHL history to reach 300 and second-youngest active player (only Alex Ovechkin was younger) according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Since entering the league in 2008-09, Stamkos is second in the league for goals with 312 (Ovechkin has 362).
MARCH 28, 2016: BISHOP’S BRILLIANCE
The Tampa Bay Lightning earned a harder-than-expected 3-0 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in late March.
And Bolts goaltender Ben Bishop was the main reason why.
Bishop made 34 saves to record his 16th career shutout. His save on Brad Boyes with the game still scoreless in the first period was the one that had to leave the Maple Leafs scratching their heads.
After taking a pass in front of the net from William Nylander, Boyes had a wide-open net with Bishop at the top of his crease. As Boyes sent the puck at the target for what he had to think was a sure goal,
Bishop reached back with his stick and, using incredible hand-eye coordination, batted the puck out of the air and away from goal.
The save was, arguably, the best of the season from the Vezina Trophy finalist.