The Lightning were very fortunate to win this game. As Ondrej Palat stated afterwards, the Bolts didn't deserve the victory. And Victor Hedman even apologized to the fans for the team's performance.
For most of the game, the Hurricanes outplayed the Lightning. That included virtually the entire first period and extended stretches in the second and third. Carolina was hungrier on pucks, controlled most of the puck possession, repeatedly forced Lightning turnovers and were the beneficiaries of some unforced Lightning errors, too.
But when the Canes were applying consistent pressure, Andrei Vasilevskiy kept his team within striking distance. In the first period, he made 16 saves and denied several Grade-A Carolina chances. His first period performance allowed the Lightning to get out of that period trailing only 2-1, even though they were outshot, 18-4, in the frame.
The Lightning's play improved in the early part of the second period and, as a result, they had more puck possession. But they couldn't tie the score. Their best chance in the second came in the opening minute, when Palat fired wide of an open net. Missing the net was another problem area for the Lightning in this game - they finished with 23 shot attempts that missed the net. (Some of those misfires had to do with how well Carolina defenders took away shooting lanes, but that wasn't the case on the aforementioned chance for Palat).
As the second period progressed, the Hurricanes began reestablishing control. In the closing minutes of the period, the Lightning didn't generate much, including during a quiet power play chance late in the frame. But the Hurricanes couldn't extend their lead and the period ended with Carolina still up, 2-1.
The third period began with the Hurricanes dominating play as they had done in the first. Vasilveskiy had to make a terrific pad save on Derek Ryan in the opening minutes. In the first half of the period, the Lightning managed only one shot on net. But they eventually tied the score at 10:51. Jake Dotchin's right point shot hit off Tyler Johnson's skate and ricocheted past Eddie Lack.
That goal sparked the Bolts, who played with more jump and urgency in the final nine minutes of regulation. Moments after an unsuccessful power play ended, they retook the lead. Jason Garrsion delivered a perfect pass to Johnson, who accepted the puck as it banked off the boards. He sped into the Carolina end and fed Nikita Kucherov, who was alone in front. Kucherov redirected the puck over Lack with 4:42 remaining.
Carolina did tie the score with a shorthanded goal - a nice tip from Jay McClement - but the Lightning didn't allow that late goal to deflate them. In OT, following a puck battle won by Johnson in the defense zone, Kucherov accelerated up ice past Jordan Staal. That created a two-on-one with Hedman, who finished his shot past Lack's stick.
Based on how the game unfolded, it was an unlikely victory. But the Lightning leaned on Vasilevskiy, who turned in another terrific performance. All three of the goals he allowed were deflected, two by his own players. And the Lightning found a way to make key plays at critical times. In particular, the third and fourth goals were well-executed, high-skill plays.
The Bolts managed a season-low 16 shots in the game (and that includes the one shot in OT). But they scored on their final three shots on goal. That high percentage allowed them to escape this game with a win.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Jassen Cullimore):
Hedman's winning goal in OT.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Jassen Cullimore):
- Victor Hedman - Lightning. Two goals.
- Andrei Vasilevskiy - Lightning. 28 saves.
- Nikita Kucherov - Lightning. Goal and two assists.