Circumstances were not in the Lightning’s favor for this game. They had played (and traveled) the night before and were facing a rested opponent. But thanks to an outstanding work ethic, a terrific start, a crisp third period power play, key saves from goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and an overtime finish from Nikita Kucherov, the Lightning were able to complete the back-to-back weekend sweep.
The Lightning dominated the opening minutes of the game. They passed the puck well, which allowed them to enter the offensive zone cleanly and repeatedly. They applied heavy forechecking pressure on the Canucks, pinning Vancouver back in the defensive zone for long stretches. And they netted an early goal. From the neutral zone, Alex Killorn muscled the puck forward past a couple of Vancouver defenders into the Canucks end. Kucherov collected the puck and Killorn broke for the net. Kucherov fed Killorn, who outwaited for Jacob Markstrom, took the puck wide and fired it into the net. In all, the Bolts had the game’s first five shots and had some other chances to score.
But about eight minutes into the game, the Canucks pushed back with a couple of strong offensive zone shifts. Shortly thereafter, they received a power play chance. While they didn’t score on the man advantage, it fueled their momentum surge. They eventually scored on a later first period power play chance to tie the game. The second half of the first period was Vancouver’s strongest stretch in the game. The Canucks recorded eight of the period’s final nine shots.
But the Lightning regrouped during the intermission and carried much of the play in the second. They were helped by three Vancouver penalties. Even though the Lightning posted five shots during those power play opportunities, they didn’t score. Their best power play chance in the period came off a close range shot from Vladdy Namestnikov, but Markstrom made the save. The second period ended with the score still tied at one.
The Bolts fired 17 third period shots on net. Six of those came during a key power play with 9:41 left. It was the Lightning’s best power play chance of the night. A seventh shot, which came from Valtteri Filppula, deflected off Alex Edler’s skate and through Markstrom’s pads one second after the power play ended.
A few minutes after Filppula’s goal, Derek Dorsett made a nice move down the right wing to create a two-on-one chance, but Vasilevskiy stopped the attempt. That was Vancouver’s best scoring chance during that time frame – otherwise, the Lightning were defending well. But the Canucks were able to tie the score with just under three minutes left. Bo Horvat wristed a shot from the right circle past Vasilevskiy.
The Canucks enjoyed most of the puck possession in the overtime and Vasilevskiy made three crucial saves before the Lightning won it. Three-on-three can be played in a completely wide-open fashion (and this one had some moments like that). But key plays can be made in close quarters, too. Puck battles, when they happen, are critical, since the team that emerges with the puck may have an advantage on the attack. With the puck deep in the Lightning d-zone, Anton Stralman engaged Edler in a fiercely-contested puck battle. Eventually, Stralman won the puck to Namestnikov, who countered. Two of the Canucks went to the bench for a line change, which opened up ice for Kucherov. He took a lead feed from Namestnikov and only Edler was in a position to catch him. But Edler, who had just emerged from the puck battle with Stralman, couldn’t stop him. Kucherov finished the breakaway to give the Lightning a 3-2 win.
It was a strong performance for the Lightning, given the aforementioned circumstances. Sure, they would have liked to have wrapped up the game in regulation after Filppula’s goal. But in the end, it didn’t matter. They got the two points anyway.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
Kucherov’s GWG in OT.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
1.Nikita Kucherov – Lightning. GWG and assist.
2.Andrei Vasilevskiy – Lightning. 21 saves, including three crucial stops in OT.
3.Bo Horvat – Canucks. Goal and assist.