The biggest priority for the Lightning in this game, which came on the heels of two poor defensive performances against the Islanders and Maple Leafs, was to play a sound, defensive game. They needed to do it against one of the better defensive teams in the league, too. The Wild lead the league in fewest shots allowed per game and rank second in average shots attempted per game. They entered this game on a four-game winning streak.
For the bulk of this contest, the Lightning succeeded in their goal. Compared to the last two games, they cut down on their turnovers and more often than not, made the high percentage play instead of the low one. Their structure was much better as well, so the Wild weren’t able to generate many odd-man rushes.
Still, the Lightning had a few hiccups early in the second period, and those seven to eight minutes were their toughest stretch of the game. A d-zone turnover led to a Zach Parise goal, which broke a scoreless tie. One had a feeling that the next goal was going to be especially important. Following the Parise goal, the Lightning endured a few shaky shifts, but eventually righted the ship. Instead of losing possession in the neutral zone, they started getting pucks in deep to the Minnesota end and winning ensuing puck battles. After faking a shot from the point and dancing into the slot, Anton Stralman drew a penalty on Ryan Carter. On the ensuing power play, the Lightning held the puck in the offensive zone for most of the two minutes. As the penalty time was about to expire, Steven Stamkos zipped a shot from the right circle past Darcy Kuemper, tying the score. Buoyed by that goal, the Lightning carried play for final six minutes of the period. They grabbed the lead following a hard-working offensive zone shift in which they won several puck battles. Eventually, Ryan Callahan dropped the puck to Stralman, whose shot deflected into the net off Alex Killorn.
Minnesota pressed hard to tie the score in the third period – and the Wild did have some extended offensive zone shifts. But the Lightning defended well without the puck in those instances. And there were also several shifts in which the Lightning did well to move the puck up ice and force plays deep in the Wild’s defensive zone. Minnesota did benefit from two third period power play chances, but the Bolts got through both of them. On the first, they dealt with two broken sticks and received a key Ben Bishop save on Nino Niederreiter. On the second, which occurred with just 1:23 left in the game, the Wild pulled Kuemper for a six-on-four advantage. But the four penalty killers – Brian Boyle, Cedric Paquette, Stralman and Jason Garrison protected the front of the net effectively and held to Wild to just one point shot during the six-on-four.
In all, it was an impressive response after the games on Long Island and Toronto. And they did it against an excellent opponent. This game completed a stretch of nine games in 15 days. Now the Lightning get three days before the next contest – on Thanksgiving Eve against Marty St. Louis and the New York Rangers.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Stamkos’ PPG, tying the score at 1-1.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Steven Stamkos – Lightning. PPG.
2.Ben Bishop – Lightning. 30 saves.
3.Zach Parise – Wild. Goal.