In last night’s game against the Kings, the Lightning fell behind by three goals in the first period. They made several costly mistakes that led to Los Angeles chances. They were determined in this game to get off to a better start.
They did get off a better start – and did it against Anaheim, which entered the game as the top point team in the NHL. The Bolts built a 3-0 lead of their own after 20 minutes. The first period was the Lightning’s strongest frame in the game – they dominated puck possession, limited Anaheim’s time in the Lightning d-zone and outshot the Ducks, 10-4. Of the seven saves made by Anaheim netminder Frederik Andersen, at least four were dangerous scoring chances. And three others went in, of course. On the first, Victor Hedman danced through a couple of Anaheim defenders in the offensive zone and carried the puck behind the net. He slid it back on the short side to an open Brian Boyle, who one-timed it past Andersen. The goal came at 2:55 and helped set the tone for the rest of the period. Valtteri Filppula added to the lead at 13:42 when he grabbed a puck in the slot and roofed a shot over Andersen’s stick. Ryan Callahan had centered it from the left corner and Steven Stamkos, with two defenders covering him, chipped it to an unguarded Filppula. Nikita Kucherov finished the first period scoring when he reached out on his backhand to deflect a Tyler Johnson centering feed into the net. In just about every aspect of their game, the Lightning played crisply in the first period. One isolated turnover at the offensive blue line led to the best chance in the period for Anaheim. Ryan Kesler got loose on a two-on-one and was denied by Ben Bishop on what was Anaheim’s first shot of the game.
The Ducks came out with more jump in the second and got on the board at 4:49. Corey Perry’s centering feed hit the skate of Ryan Getzlaf and was then accidentally kicked in the Lightning net by Boyle. But despite more pressure in the frame from the Ducks, Bishop did not allow another one. (He was especially sharp on a couple of shorthanded Anaheim bids in the final minute of the period). Earlier, Boyle had converted off a rebound at 14:27 to extend the lead to 4-1.
The third period was Ducks’ best. They brought lots of pressure by activating their defense. But that is a high-risk strategy – and the Lightning countered off a three-on-one at 6:14. Callahan tucked in a rebound from a Stamkos shot to make it 5-1. The Lightning managed the next several minutes quite well and seemed poised to close out the game without any further trouble. But back-to-back penalties late in the third on the Bolts gave the Ducks life. Anaheim scored on the first and added another shortly after the second one ended. It was suddenly 5-3 with 2:34 left. About 30 seconds later, Bishop made a key two-on-one save on Andrew Cogliano to preserve the two-goal lead. It was Anaheim’s best final chance.
Perhaps the game didn’t end quite as well as the Lightning would have liked. But thanks to their play before the closing minutes, they built enough of a cushion to get across the finish line. Keep in mind that they were playing their second game in as many nights, third in four and fourth in six. And they did it against another big, heavy team that hadn’t played the night before. It was an impressive response after last night’s defeat.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Jassen Cullimore):
Boyle’s first goal, which set the tone for a dominant first period.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Jassen Cullimore):
1.Brian Boyle – Lightning. Two goals.
2.Valtteri Filppula – Lightning. Goal and two assists.
3.Victor Hedman – Lightning. Assist. Team-high 24:11 TOI.