There were similarities between this game and Tuesday’s contest in Nashville. Both games were, in the end, fairly evenly played. But there were different points in both contests when one side carried momentum. Both needed more than 60 minutes to determine a winner. The games were entertaining. And in both, the Lightning played at a higher level than they had in some of their earlier games this year. Of course, there was one big difference between Tuesday’s game and this one – the Lightning earned the extra point by getting an overtime win.
The Jets are not exactly the same team as the one that qualified for the playoffs last year. In adding some young, talented prospects to their roster, they’re playing a high-octane, offensive game. Like the Lightning’s defense, the Winnipeg defensemen will join the attack off the rush, creating matchup problems for the opposition. The Bolts saw some of that speed off the rush in the first period. In particular, Winnipeg’s line of Mark Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers and Mathieu Perrault created dangerous chances off the rush, especially when one of the Winnipeg D joined the attack. The Jets also forechecked effectively, at times pinning the Lightning back in the Tampa Bay end for extended periods of time. But the Lightning also had their moments in the first period. An early Tampa Bay power play chance yielded some good looks on Ondrej Pavelec. Also, from the opening shift, it became clear that “The Triplets” were clicking. When they were on the ice in the first period, they had the puck and were making plays in the offensive zone. On the first Lightning goal, that line forced a turnover in the Winnipeg end and Tyler Johnson set up Braydon Coburn at the left circle. Coburn roofed the shot over Pavelec to make it 1-0 with 7:43 left in the frame. Before the period ended, however, Ehlers answered for the Jets. Off the rush, Scheifele took a pass from Perrault and moved it to Ehlers at the right circle. Ehlers put his shot off Ben Bishop’s blocker and into the net. Even though the first period ended in a 1-1, the Jets had the better of the overall play. They outshot the Lightning, 11-6, and created the more dangerous chances.
That changed in the second. While the Jets did generate some good looks at different points in the period, including a breakaway goal for Drew Stafford, the Lightning controlled play for most of the period. The Bolts took back the lead after Victor Hedman forced a steal at the offensive blue line. The puck bounced to Erik Condra, who set up Cedric Paquette at the right circle. Paquette finished his shot over Pavelec’s glove to make it 2-1. That goal came after the Lightning had applied heavy pressure on the previous two shifts – one from Stamkos’ line and then from the Triplets. Stafford’s goal came off an isolated Lightning breakdown in the period. After another sequence of Lightning pressure in the Winnipeg end, Alex Burmistrov flipped the puck down the ice. Adam Lowry tracked it at the Lightning blue line. He slipped it through Anton Stralman and Coburn to Stafford, who skated in alone on Bishop. Bishop readied himself for a shot, but Coburn lifted Stafford’s stick before that happened. That might have crossed up Bishop, who had the puck slide between his pads and into the net. But on the next shift, the Lightning regained the lead again. Hedman’s left point shot hit Paquette in front and Vladdy Namestnikov poked in the rebound. The Lightning had several chances to extend the advantage, but Condra hit the post and Pavelec denied numerous looks from Johnson.
The Jets tied the score early in the third when Blake Wheeler stole the puck from Bishop and tucked a shorthanded goal into the vacated net. That tally sparked the Jets, who were able to rediscover their forecheck as the period progressed. But although shots in the third were 16-7 in favor of Winnipeg, the Lightning also enjoyed some good shifts down the stretch – especially the Triplets line and the Paquette-Namenstnikov-Condra line. In the closing seconds of regulation, Ehlers got loose on a breakaway, but fortunately for the Lightning, he put his shot off the inside of the post.
The two previous overtime games for the Lightning had been very different. Against the Flyers on October 8, both teams attacked, which created counter chances. In Tuesday’s OT in Nashville, both teams were more deliberate in possessing the puck and each waited for the opposition to make a mistake in coverage. This one more resembled the Philly OT. After winning the opening faceoff, the Lightning brought the puck into the offensive zone. Hedman put a pass onto Ondrej Palat’s stick in the slot. Pavelec stopped Palat’s redirection attempt and the rebound bounced back out to Bryan Little, who had a breakaway. Bishop stopped the attempt and the puck went to the side boards. Hedman and Andrew Ladd battled for the puck at the Lightning blue line. Hedman thought he had it and started exiting the zone, but Ladd swiped it back and turned back into the zone. But Steven Stamkos pressured Ladd, took it away and countered. It was a high-risk play - if Stamkos can’t retake the puck, Ladd and Little have a two-on-zero. But it turned into a high-reward play. Once Stamkos got free of Ladd, it became a three-on-one for the Lightning. Hedman, Stamkos and Palat executed a perfect passing play and Palat finished into an open side of the net.
This was the best game so far this season for the Triplets. They combined for 11 of the Lightning’s 31 shots and generated terrific chances throughout the game. Also, the Paquette-Namestnikov-Condra line was a difference-making line, accounting for two goals and creating havoc in the Winnipeg zone. And most importantly, now two games into this challenging four-game road trip, the Bolts have banked three out of four points.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
Palat’s winning goal in overtime.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
1.Victor Hedman – Lightning. Three assists.
2.Cedric Paquette – Lightning. Goal and assist.
3.Ondrej Palat – Lightning. GWG in OT.