The night before this game, the Ottawa Senators lost to the Florida Panthers, 3-2, in Sunrise. The Sens felt it was one of their worst performances of the year – it was a game in which they surrendered numerous odd-man rushes and left their goalie, Craig Anderson, out to dry. So one figured that the Sens would be determined to play a much tighter defensive game on Saturday against the Lightning.
The Sens did play better defensively than they did against the Panthers – and their solid structure was on display in the first period. The Sens didn’t allow one odd-man rush in the opening 20 and did a good job of limiting Tampa Bay’s time and space in the Ottawa d-zone. The Lightning only mustered five total shots on Ottawa goalie Robin Lehner in the first – and just three at even strength. Still, after yielding a couple of good looks to the Sens in the opening minutes, the Lightning defended pretty well themselves in the first. They held the Sens to just seven five-on-five shots. But there were also two Ottawa power play shots – and one of those went in the net.
Down 1-0 entering the second, the Lightning found another gear. Their forecheck became half-a-stride quicker, which resulted in more contested pucks in the Ottawa end. And five minutes into the frame, the Sens finally yielded an odd-man rush chance. The Lightning executed the play perfectly. From the Tampa Bay d-zone, Alex Killorn chipped the puck off the boards past Ottawa defenseman Eric Gryba. Steven Stamkos accepted the puck in the neutral zone and skated into the Ottawa end on a two-on-one with Ryan Callahan. Stamkos drew Patrick Wiercioch to him, dragged the puck back on his forehand (to give himself an open passing lane) and got the puck across to Callahan, who one-timed it in.
The Sens pushed back after that goal and recorded the next five shots in the period. But the Lightning withstood that momentum surge (and received a terrific play from Victor Hedman when he broke up an Ottawa two-on-one chance) and eventually retook control of the period. The Lightning had a strong finish to the second, recording seven of the final 10 shots, and forced Lehner to make several difficult saves.
In the third, the Lightning pulled away. Save for a couple of isolated d-zone turnovers, they played their best hockey in the game. Their forecheck was relentless and their physical presence seemed to wear down the Sens, who, as mentioned above, had played the night before. The Sens iced the puck multiple times and the Lightning spent much of the period in the offensive zone. They grabbed the lead 1:16 into the third, when Killorn deflected in a point shot from Anton Stralman. Later, hard forechecking from Cedric Paquette forced a turnover behind the Ottawa net and Paquette fed Brendan Morrow for his first goal of the year. Then, following a four-minute high-sticking penalty on Clarke MacArthur, Nikita Kucherov deflected home a Tyler Johnson shot. That goal, which made the score 4-1, came with just one second left on the double minor. The Sens did enjoy some offensive zone time in the closing minutes, but could not cut into the Lightning lead.
For the second straight game, the Lightning faced a very motivated opponent. But in both cases, that level of opposition motivation had no bearing on the final score.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Jassen Cullimore):
Morrow’s third period goal, which gave the Bolts a 3-1 lead.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Jassen Cullimore):
1.Ben Bishop – Lightning. 26 saves.
2.Alex Killorn – Lightning. GWG and assist.
3.Brett Connolly – Lightning. Strong all-around game. Five shots.