Boy, did the Lightning need this one. And they got it, in large part, because of their work ethic and compete level. That was a problem area during the second and third periods in Saturday’s loss to the Boston Bruins. But in a polar opposite performance the next night, the Lightning’s compete level in the final two periods against Carolina was very high. It served as the foundation for their four-goal output during those final 40 minutes and was a big reason why the Lightning were able to begin this four-game road trip with a victory.
The first period, however, was not an exceptional one for the Lightning. The Lightning outshot the Hurricanes, 10-6, in the period, but didn’t generate many dangerous scoring chances on Cam Ward. At the other end, the Hurricanes did produce a handful of chances. Most of those six Carolina’s shots required tough saves from Andrei Vasilevskiy. One of them got past him – Eric Staal slid a backhander underneath him during a late first period Carolina power play. The Lightning, who squandered two power play chances of their own in the frame, trailed by a goal after one period.
In his postgame comments, Jon Cooper described the Lightning’s first period as “stale”. “Still stale” to be exact. So in the second period, Cooper mixed up his lines. He had done that in earlier games during the winless skid, but it hadn’t produced immediate results. It did in this game. A line of Steven Stamkos, Ryan Callahan and Ondrej Palat started the second period. They worked the puck into the offensive zone before Carolina cleared it. But Stamkos hustled back to retrieve the puck at the red line and swept it back into the Carolina end. John-Michael Liles tried to pass the puck to Brett Pesce, but Palat anticipated the play and stole the puck. Palat shook off Liles’ check and moved to the right circle. He then centered the puck through Pesce’s skates to Callahan, who backhanded the puck past Ward. The tying goal came 38 seconds into the period and set the tone for the rest of the game.
The Lightning had the better of the play in the second. That increased compete level helped them win lots of puck battles and maintain possession. The relentless pressure resulted in two more Carolina penalties and the Lightning converted on the second of those. Stamkos blasted a shot from the left point past Ward’s stick with 1:09 left in the period.
Even though the second period was a good one for the Lightning, they still needed several key stops from Vasilevskiy to keep Carolina’s goal total at one. Thanks to his 11 second period saves, the Lightning took a 2-1 lead into the locker room after two periods.
Up until Carolina pulled Ward for an extra attacker, the Lightning completely dominated the third period. They effectively killed an early third period Carolina power play. Then, on the shift after the penalty ended, J.T. Brown rushed the puck into the Carolina zone and roofed a backhander over Ward’s stick. With the Hurricanes having to press the attack, the Lightning accumulated several scoring chances on counters. One of those led to Tyler Johnson’s first goal of the year and a 4-1 Lightning lead.
With under five minutes left, however, a Carolina shot block led to a breakaway goal for Kris Versteeg. The Lightning managed the next couple of minutes well and didn’t let the Hurricanes build any momentum. But, after getting an offensive zone faceoff with just over two and a half minutes remaining, the Hurricanes went with six attackers. They applied heavy pressure in those closing minutes – Vasilevskiy made five saves, including a couple of terrific ones on Jordan Staal. Unfortunately for Vasilevskiy, Jordan Staal did finally beat him with one-tenth of a second left in the game. That goal may have changed the final score, but didn’t change the outcome.
The Callahan goal seemed to help the Lightning’s confidence and swagger, which had wavered during the winless skid. They’ll look to carry that over into Tuesday’s contest in Detroit. Just as importantly, they will need to maintain the same compete level they displayed in the final two periods against the Hurricanes.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
Callahan’s tying goal in the opening minute of the second period.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
1.Nikita Kucherov – Lightning. Two assists.
2.Andrei Vasilevskiy – Lightning. 32 saves.
3.Steven Stamkos – Lightning. PPG. Moved into second place in franchise history with 97 career PPG.