The Lightning were able to win this game because a) they received stellar goaltending from Ben Bishop, b) they used high-skill plays (from high-skill players) to build a lead and c) entering the third period with a three-goal advantage, they played a solid, structured frame, helping them lock down the win. They earned the victory, too, playing much of the game with only 10 forwards, after J.T. Brown and Brett Connolly left with injuries.
Unlike the third period, though, the Jets spent a good portion of the first two frames buzzing around the ice. They looked dangerous off the rush – and forechecked tenaciously in the Lightning defensive zone. Winnipeg fired 16 first period shots on Bishop, who stopped them all, including three tough saves during a long five-on-three Winnipeg power play.
The Bolts, who entered this game hoping to generate more shots on goal, were similarly effective in the first period at getting pucks on Jets goalie Ondrej Pavalec. One of those shots went in, when Steven Stamkos and Jonathan Drouin teamed up on a two-on-one. It was extremely well-executed – Stamkos fed Drouin, who ended up accepting the puck just at the top of the crease. Had he tried to shoot, Pavalec would have likely smothered it. Instead, Drouin slickly slid the puck back to Stamkos, who scored into an open side of the net.
Thanks to that play – and Bishop’s goaltending – the Lightning got out of the first period with a 1-0 lead. Early in the second, another tremendous offensive play led to a Drouin’s first NHL goal. Nikita Kucherov had the puck behind the Winnipeg net and Tyler Johnson was camped in front. The Jets defended Johnson – and Kucherov’s eyes remained on Johnson. But Kucherov passed the puck to an open Drouin at the left circle – and he one-timed his shot past a moving Pavalec for his first NHL goal.
The two-goal lead was not secure, though. The Bolts hurt themselves with another penalty taken on the shift after the Drouin goal. The Jets converted on that power play to cut the lead in half. Winnipeg kept pressing and had several opportunities to tie the game – both during an ensuing Lightning power play and then another man-advantage for the Jets. But Bishop stopped the rest of their second period attempts – and the Lightning extended the lead with 7:08 left in the frame. After a tripping call on Winnipeg’s Paul Postma, Ondrej Palat drilled a cross-ice Kucherov feed toward the net. Vlad Namestnikov deflected it past Pavalec, giving the Bolts a 3-1 lead.
From that point onward, the Lightning’s defensive game settled down. Winnipeg wasn’t able to mount the same sorts of dangerous chances – and late in the second, Kucherov made another tremendous pass that led to a Lightning goal. After a Lightning center ice faceoff win, Anton Stralman passed the puck up the right wing to Kucherov. When Winnipeg’s Toby Enstrom stepped up to check Kucherov, the Lightning forward banked the puck off the boards past Enstrom. It went right onto Tyler Johnson’s stick, who broke up ice on a two-on-one with Palat. Palat finished the chance – and the Lightning had built a 4-1 lead after two periods.
Entering the third, the Jets had lost their momentum. The crowd was silent – and for most of the period, the Lightning kept them quiet. Pucks were passed cleanly out of the defensive zone, moved to the red line and dumped deep behind the Winnipeg net. The Jets did score a second goal about halfway through the third, when Blake Wheeler jumped on a loose puck in the low slot, but the Lightning didn’t allow the Jets to build on that tally. Bishop did have to make a couple of tough third period saves, both right after the Wheeler goal and then in the closing minutes after the Jets pulled the goalie. But it was his most “routine” period of the night. It was a textbook third period performance by a short-handed club looking to lock down a road game in which it had a lead.
The injury bug continues to bite the Lightning. We’ll see what the lineup looks like Saturday in Minnesota. But so far on the trip, the team has shown an ability to win games, even with some of their regulars out of the lineup.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
Namestnikov’s PPG, which turned out to be the game-winner, and took much of the wind out of Winnipeg’s sails.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
1.Ben Bishop – Lightning. 40 saves.
2.Nikita Kucherov – Lightning. Three assists, setting a career-high for assists and points in a game.
3.Jonathan Drouin – Lightning. Scores first NHL goal and adds assist.