Overall, this was an evenly-played game. But an unusually evenly-played game. For about half of the game, the Lightning carried play, outshooting and outscoring the Avs. For the other half, Colorado dictated play, outshooting and outscoring the Lightning.
The Bolts dominated the first period. They posted the first nine shots of the game, all in the opening 3:37. Ryan Callahan converted off a two-on-one rush with Alex Killorn at 1:58 during an early power play chance, giving the Lightning a 1-0 lead. But Colorado goalie Semyon Varlavmov kept his team’s deficit at one, making 14 first period saves. At the other end, Colorado only mustered five shots on Ben Bishop. The Lightning did an excellent job gapping up in the neutral zone, which prevented the Avalanche forwards from attacking the Tampa end with speed. And the Lightning’s forecheck kept the Avs pinned back in the defensive zone throughout much of the frame.
But the Avs struck back in the second. They began breaking out of their own zone more cleanly and the Lightning’s structure wasn’t as solid. Consequently, the Avs generated looks off the rush. Once the puck was in the Lightning end, Colorado effectively worked it around the zone, which created other dangerous chances. But just as Varlamov thwarted the Lightning in the first, Ben Bishop did the same to the Avalanche in the second. He allowed an opening minute goal to Ryan O’Reilly (which came moments after he made three tough saves in a row), but shut the door for the rest of the period. The Lightning allowed a season-high 20 shots in the period, but thanks to Bishop, escaped the frame still tied at one.
The Lightning regained control of the game at the start of the third. They were buoyed by Anton Stralman’s snapshot goal from the right point at 4:08 and spent most of the first 12 minutes of the period dictating play. They managed and pressured the puck well, which kept the Colorado attack quiet. But the complexion of the period changed when the Avalanche received their first power play chance. That came with 7:34 remaining. While the Lightning killed the penalty, the Avs built some momentum off it. Then, 19 seconds after the penalty ended, the Bolts took a delay of game minor. Again, Tampa Bay killed the penalty, but the Avs continued to put pressure on the Lightning. This was particularly true after they pulled the goalie with just under two minutes left. In the closing seconds, Victor Hedman broke his stick, which kept him from grabbing a loose puck in front. Nathan MacKinnon buried a shot at the side of the net with under seven seconds left to tie the score.
The Avs nearly won the game in overtime when they received a third power play. Even though it only lasted for the final 24 seconds of OT, they registered two dangerous shots in the closing seconds.
The Lightning have had their issues in the shootout this year, posting a 1-4 record before this game. But Nikita Kucherov and Ryan Callahan both converted, helping the Lightning salvage the second point.
In the previous three games, the Lightning had struggled with rush coverage. They were better in this game, at least during the times that they carried play. But, as Stralman stated during our postgame interview with him on Lightning Radio, there is still room for improvement. We’ll see if they can tighten things up even more when they host Vancouver on Tuesday.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Bishop’s saves throughout the second period, which kept the game tied at 1.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Ben Bishop – Lightning. 40 saves.
2.Semyon Varlamov – Avalanche. 29 saves.
3.Nathan MacKinnon – Avalanche. Goal and assist.