Following Saturday’s game against Florida, I wrote how the Lightning, despite losing by three goals, didn’t play that badly. In this game versus Toronto, the Lightning, despite winning by three goals, didn’t play that well. They were outshot, 34-18, and surrendered numerous scoring chances. Fortunately for the Bolts, however, goaltender Ben Bishop was magnificent - because of his performance, the Lightning were able to bank two points.
The Lightning struggled with their team defense for much of the night. They yielded chances off the rush. They couldn’t get pucks out of their own end. They had coverage issues in the defensive zone. But Bishop didn’t let the Maple Leafs capitalize on any of the chances they generated. One of his best saves of the game came during an early Toronto power play – he lunged back with the blade of his stick to deflect wide a seemingly open-net shot for Brad Boyes. But that save on Boyes was only one of many great stops he was forced to make. He repeatedly denied point-blank Toronto shots, especially in the first two periods. He recorded 27 of his 34 saves during the opening 40 minutes.
As well as Toronto played in the offensive zone, the Leafs, like the Lightning, did have some defensive miscues. Unlike the Lightning, those defensive miscues cost them. They allowed three goals off the rush. Credit the Lightning for executing well on all three plays. In the first period, Victor Hedman’s intentional “icing” pass banked off the end boards perfectly to Erik Condra and created a two-on-one with Mike Blunden. Condra passed to Blunden, who finished his shot into an open side of the net. Later in the first, Ondrej Palat exited the penalty box and fed Steven Stamkos. Stamkos fired a right circle shot that Garret Sparks stopped, but Palat batted the rebound out of the air into the net. Finally, in the second period, Stamkos and Condra moved the puck into the Toronto end and Stamkos fed Hedman with a cross-ice backhand feed. Hedman roofed his shot from the left circle over Sparks’ stick.
The Lightning, when they had the puck in the offensive zone, were able to create some looks against the Leafs. But those shifts were few and far between. Most of the game was spent in the Lightning end. But thanks to Bishop, no damage was done.
The Bolts will happily bank their two points. But they know they’ll need to tighten up coverage when they host Montreal on Thursday.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Bishop’s key saves throughout the game.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Ben Bishop – Lightning. 34-save shutout.
2.Steven Stamkos – Lightning. Two assists.
3.Victor Hedman – Lightning. Goal and assist.