I suppose there are two ways you can look at this game. On the one hand, the Lightning surrendered three separate one-goal leads, including a 4-3 advantage with five and a half minutes left in the third period. That’s disappointing. But on the other hand, the Lightning played an all-around solid game against one of the top teams in the league and have now banked one point on this challenging four-game road trip.
The more positive interpretation is the way I choose to view the contest. Coming off a very uneven performance against Buffalo on Saturday, the Lightning did a lot of good things versus Nashville. They managed the puck much better and, as a result, enjoyed an advantage in puck possession. Even though they were outshot in the game, they generated lots of scoring chances. And their special teams were a factor in getting the game to overtime. The Lightning became just the second team this season to score a power play goal against Nashville – their PPG tied the game early in the second period. The PK went a perfect 3-3, including a crucial kill late in the third with the game tied at four.
There were two main reasons why the Lightning didn’t win this game in regulation. First, Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne, despite allowing four goals, made a number of tremendous saves during the game. Second, the Lightning couldn’t contain Nashville’s line of Mike Fisher, James Neal and Filip Forsberg. Those players accounted for three of the four Nashville goals and were, by far, the Predators’ most dangerous line throughout the night.
Fisher opened the scoring by stuffing in a centering pass from Shea Weber in the final minute of the first period. Too bad for the Lightning, because the goal came moments after the Bolts had enjoyed a dominating shift in the offensive zone. In fact, the Lightning carried play for much of the first. In the opening minutes, Rinne made key stops on a Steven Stamkos attempt from the slot and on a Brian Boyle breakaway. The middle part of the period belonged to the Preds, who capitalized on some isolated Lightning d-zone turnovers. But the Lightning regained control with about eight minutes left in the first. During a Lightning first period power play late in the period, Stamkos just missed on a one-timer from the left circle. When the infraction ended, the Lightning kept applying pressure. But the Weber play to Fisher off the rush ended up being the only goal in the frame. So despite their overall solid period, the Lightning trailed, 1-0, after one.
Had Nashville been able to add to its lead in the second period, the game might have unfolded differently. Instead, the Lightning tied the score at 3:25 when, during another Lightning power play, Stamkos put a shot from the bottom of the left circle off Rinne’s pads and into the net. Before the period was halfway over, the Lightning had grabbed the lead. Ondrej Palat deflected Braydon Coburn’s left point shot and the puck ricocheted in front to Nikita Kucherov. Rinne’s stopped Kucherov’s shot, but the puck bounced off Nashville’s Paul Gaustad into the net.
The 2-1 lead would be the first of three that the Lightning surrendered. Less than two minutes after Kucherov’s goal, the Lightning won a d-zone faceoff, but turned the puck over. Nashville’s Craig Smith stole it and put a shot off the post. As the Lightning scrambled to retrieve the puck, the Preds worked it back to Weber at the left point. Weber blasted a shot through Ben Bishop’s pads to tie the score at 10:29.
The Preds gained momentum from the goal and enjoyed their longest stretch of sustained pressure. They were aided by back-to-back power play chances. But the Lightning killed off both penalties and eventually regained momentum. After another long shift in the offensive zone, the Lightning retook the lead. Anton Stralman made a nice play at the right point to hold the puck in. He moved it to the left point, where Victor Hedman skated to the left circle. Hedman pulled up, then passed it back to Ryan Callahan at the left point. Callahan slapped a shot past a screened Rinne to make it 3-2 with 2:19 left in the period.
But the Bolts couldn’t get out of the period with their lead. Instead, Nashville scored another late goal off the rush. Fisher took the puck into the Lightning end and tried to pass it. It bounced off a Lightning stick right to Forsberg’s skate. Forsberg kicked it to an open Neal, who one-timed the puck from the right circle past Bishop’s stick. The goal came with just 1:05 remaining in the period.
At 5:24 of the third, Erik Condra rifled home a shot from the slot after Boyle won a puck battle behind the Nashville net. The Lightning held that lead for the next ten minutes and six seconds. During that time, Nashville had little sustained offensive zone time (other than Fisher’s line, which continued to generate looks). At the other end, Rinne made another terrific save on Stamkos and Hedman put a shot off the outside of the post. Those missed chances became even more important when Neal tied the score at 4 with 5:30 remaining. Forsberg tracked a puck into the Lightning end – it was there because it had skipped over Stralman’s stick at the Lightning blue line. Forsberg curled from the left corner to the left circle and whipped a no-look cross-ice pass to Neal at the right circle. Neal one-timed the shot past Bishop.
The Predators had a chance to win the game in regulation when they received another power play with 2:38 left. But Bishop made four tremendous saves during the PK to keep the game tied.
In overtime, both teams seemed content to hold on the puck when they had it and patiently wait for the defending side to make a mistake in coverage. There weren’t many breakdowns on either side, although the Lightning did get a point blank shot from Jonathan Drouin that Roman Josi blocked and later, a breakaway for Stralman in which he put his shot over the net. In the first round of the shootout, Forsberg scored what would be the only goal in the three rounds. For the second straight year, the Lightning had to settle for one point in Nashville.
Jon Cooper states that on road trips, he wants his team to earn more points than games played. The Lightning now have three games left to earn at least four points. If they can produce a performance in Winnipeg on Friday similar to the one they came up with in Nashville, they’ll have an excellent chance to pick up two more points.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
The late penalty kill, which helped the Lightning get the game to OT. And earn one point.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
1.Filip Forsberg – Predators. Two assists and GWG in shootout.
2.Steven Stamkos – Lightning. PPG.
3.James Neal – Predators. Two goals. Eight shots.