This was a solid, complete performance by the Lightning. Heading into the game, players and coaches stressed the importance of reducing the number of shots and goals allowed. They did that with a strong, defensive effort against a Blues team that had gone 4-1-0 in its first five games.
The Blues were at their most dangerous in the first period, a frame in which they outshot the Lightning, 15-9. But despite the shot disparity, the period was fairly evenly played - and it ended scoreless. Both teams had some good scoring chances, while St. Louis seemed to have only a slight edge in puck possession. Andrei Vasilevskiy's best save of the period came during a St. Louis power play when he made a point-blank stop on Paul Stastny.
It was early in the second period that the Lightning began to take control of the game. Their puck management was excellent, so they forced the Blues to work hard in the St. Louis defensive zone. The Lightning's superb neutral zone play allowed them to smother St. Louis rush attempts and turn pucks back over. The Lightning spent most of the period in the offensive zone - they outshot St. Louis, 13-5, and shot attempts were 34-10 in favor of Tampa Bay. The Bolts grabbed the lead when, during their first power play chance of the game, Tyler Johnson fired a left circle shot past Jake Allen. In all, the Lightning generated plenty of scoring chances, but because of Allen saves or shots missing the net, they had to settle for the one-goal advantage after two.
The Blues had a few more looks in the third period than they had in the second, but the Lightning again enjoyed a large puck possession advantage. For most of the period, the Lightning simply didn't allow the Blues any room to move the puck cleanly up ice. They also forechecked well, resulting in lots of offensive zone time. They extended the lead when Nikita Kucherov finished a backhand shot off the rush at 6:27. One of the Lightning's rare breakdowns occurred late in the third and Vladimir Tarasenko scored off a three-on-two rush. But the Lightning didn't allow the Blues to build momentum off that tally. On the next shift, the Bolts rebounded with a dominant shift spent entirely in the offensive zone. The Blues did get one last chance in the final minute, when they were awarded a power play (and had the goalie pulled for a six-on-four advantage), but Vasilevskiy made a key save on a Colton Parayko shot to preserve the lead and help secure victory.
Don't be fooled by the final shot totals, which favored St. Louis, 29-27. Shot attempts were 64-49 for the Lightning. And after the first period, St. Louis struggled to generate many Grade-A chances.
This was the kind of defensive performance the Lightning had been seeking. Now that they got it, they'll need to take it on the road, where they'll play three games in four nights starting Monday in Detroit.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Kucherov's third period goal.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1. Andrei Vasilevskiy - Lightning. 28 saves.
2. Nikita Kucherov - Lightning. Goal. Scored in all five games to start season.
3. Vladdy Namestnikov - Lightning. Assist.