Heading into this game against the Calgary Flames, which was the second half of a back-to-back for Tampa Bay, the Lightning looked to improve upon two areas that hurt them against Edmonton on Monday. First, they knew they needed to cut down on number of defensive breakdowns – the Oilers generated a number of odd-man rushes during Monday’s contest. Second, the Lightning wanted more shots. Versus the Oilers, they mustered only 24 shots – and were guilty of passing up a number of shot attempts throughout the game.
On Tuesday in Calgary, the Lightning played much better team defense. The Flames didn’t have more than a couple of outnumbered chances – and the Bolts held Calgary to only 22 shots, including only 16 during five-on-five play. When there were occasional breakdowns, Lightning defenders scrambled to disrupt plays. One such instance happened during a second period Lightning penalty kill. After failing to force a turnover from Mikael Backlund near the Lightning blue line, the Bolts were caught when Backlund slipped the puck to Mason Raymond, creating a two-on-one down low. But Anton Stralman hustled over to lift Raymond’s stick, while Eric Brewer slid on the ice to block the puck. The Josh Jooris shot eventually went wide.
But Lightning shots on Calgary goalie Karri Ramo were just as hard to come by. At different points in the game, the Lightning enjoyed long puck possession shifts in the offensive zone. But those shifts didn’t translate into shots or scoring chances. Credit the Flames for playing structured defense when they didn’t have the puck. So Tampa Bay didn’t record many shots in the game, either, also finishing with a game total of 22.
Because both teams were so structurally sound, neither goalie was under siege. They stopped the shots they needed to stop – and the game was scoreless after 40 minutes. But the Flames broke through during an early third period power play. High-skill players can make plays that break down a team’s structure and that’s what Johnny Gaudreau did on Calgary’s goal. The 2014 Hobey Baker winner sliced through a couple of Lightning penalty killers, which opened up some ice on the opposite side for Dennis Wideman. Gaudreau made a terrific cross-ice pass that Wideman put into the Lightning net.
Up 1-0 at the 1:12 mark of the third, the Flames went into lockdown mode. The Lightning were pressing – and had most of the puck possession in the period, but the Flames were a stingy bunch. When they had a chance to clear their zone, they did – and once out at center ice, they were content to dump the puck into the Lightning zone, forcing the Bolts to travel the length of the ice.
But the Flames gave the Lightning an opportunity late in the third after a couple of consecutive icing calls. Calgary coach Bob Hartley, knowing his unit was tired, used his timeout following the second icing. It didn’t help. After the ensuing faceoff, the Lightning were able to win a couple of puck battles to maintain possession. Then, just as Gaudreau made a great play for the Flames, Jonathan Drouin provided one for the Lightning. Drouin had the puck at the left circle and looked as though he might pass it to Steven Stamkos at the left point. Flames players loaded that side of the ice, hoping either to disrupt the pass – or converge on Stamkos once he received it. Instead of going to Stamkos, though, Drouin lifted a backhand pass cross-ice to Jason Garrison, who had a open look on Ramo. Garrison’s shot was low, hard and on the net. It forced a tough save from Ramo, which led to a rebound. Valtteri Filppula and Stralman had crashed the net as the initial save was made – and Filppula lifted the loose puck into the net, tying the game with only 2:16 left.
In overtime, Ramo made the save of the game, denying Drouin at the doorstep after a Stamkos feed. But shortly thereafter, Tyler Johnson stole the puck in the offensive zone and dropped the puck to Stralman. Like Garrison on the tying goal, Stralman put his shot on net and Ondrej Palat tucked in the rebound, giving the Bolts a come-from-behind overtime win.
While acknowledging that the Flames defended well, the Lightning still want more shots when the trip continues Friday in Winnipeg. It’s not easy to win games when your shot total is in the low-to-mid 20s. But the real story out of this game isn’t the shot total. It’s the circumstances surrounding the win. The Bolts were playing the second game of a back-to-back, on the road, against a rested opponent. They were without four of their key regulars – and lost Nikita Kucherov for a portion of the first period and all of the second period following a hard check from Mark Giordano. They trailed the game late in the third period and were in jeopardy of losing back-to-back games in regulation. But they still found a way to win – and defensively, they rebounded from Monday’s shaky performance. .
Also, the fact that Palat netted the game-winner is perhaps the best part of the narrative. Palat, whose d-zone turnover on Monday led to Edmonton’s game-winning goal, rebounded with a tremendous effort on Tuesday. Not only was he rewarded with the overtime game-winner, his line, with Johnson and Brett Connolly, was the Lightning’s most effective all night.
Now the Lightning have two days before their next game. Hopefully, some of the injured players can recover in time for Friday’s contest in Winnipeg.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
Filppula’s game-tying goal, which allowed the Lightning to force overtime.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
1.Ondrej Palat – Lightning. GWG in OT.
2.Karri Ramo – Flames. 20 saves, including incredible stop on Drouin in OT.
3.Evgeni Nabokov – Lightning. 21 saves to earn his first Lightning win.