On the night that Connor McDavid played his first-ever game at Amalie Arena, the Triplets stole the show. Showing the form that they displayed as a line throughout the 2014-15 season, Tyler Johnson (two assists), Ondrej Palat (two goals) and Nikita Kucherov (goal and three assists) combined for eight points. They did it while being matched up the entire game against McDavid's line, which was held without a point.
The Triplets set the tone from the opening faceoff, as they brought the puck into the Edmonton zone and kept it there for the entire shift. And that's where they spent most of the game. They were hungry on pucks, dynamic in their puck movement and all three players used their speed to keep the Edmonton defenders back on their heels. They took advantage of a lucky break on the first goal - Brandon Davidson broke his stick on a shot attempt in the offensive zone and couldn't slow up Kucherov, who grabbed the puck, broke around Davidson and countered on a two-on-one with Palat. The pass to Palat was a perfect one and Palat finished the chance to open the scoring. In the opening minute of the second, Kucherov disrupted an attempted outlet pass from Kris Russell. Johnson intercepted it and delivered a beautiful saucer pass to Palat, who one-timed it into the top of the net. Kucherov's early third period goal came off the rush - he stickhandled to the left circle and zipped a shot past Laurent Brossoit.
As good as the Triplets were, the Lightning also had a terrific overall team performance. In particular, their neutral zone play without the puck was outstanding. Forwards applied consistent back pressure, which allowed the defensemen to gap up on the Edmonton forwards. As a result, the Oilers turned over lots of pucks at center ice and the Lightning were able to repeatedly counter-attack.
Which is not to imply that there weren't a few speed bumps along the way for the Lightning. The Oilers made a surge in the first half of the second period and eventually cut a 2-0 Lightning lead in half when Iiro Pakarinen wired a shot from the slot past Ben Bishop. But following that goal against, the Lightning pushed back effectively and reestablished control for the rest of the frame.
Then, in the third period, after Kucherov extended the Lightning lead to 3-1 at the 49-second mark, the Oilers appeared to answer about a minute later with an Oscar Klefbom goal during a four-on-four. But the Edmonton goal was wiped out after the Lightning successfully challenged that the play was offside. After the overturned goal, the Oilers generated a few isolated chances in the third, but never put together a sustained attack.
The Lightning have now gone 5-0-2 in their last seven, a points streak they'll look to extend Thursday against Calgary.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Kucherov's third period goal.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
- Nikita Kucherov - Lightning. Goal and three assists, tying a career-high for points in a game. Six shots.
- Ondrej Palat - Lightning. Two goals.
- Tyler Johnson - Lightning. Two assists.