Up until the third period, this was an evenly-played game. Through 40 minutes, shots were 21-20 in favor of Ottawa. Scoring chances were comparable. But the Lightning had been able to convert on two of their chances (well, three, but more on that in a moment) and, as a result, took a 2-0 lead into the third period.
During the first 10 minutes of the final frame, however, the Senators made a strong push and dictated play for long stretches. They also scored an early third period goal, cutting the Lightning advantage to a single goal. But the Lightning rebounded well in the second half of the third and ultimately did a fine job of closing out the game. Two late goals set the final at 4-1, but, as mentioned earlier, the game was much actually much closer than the final score might indicate.
In the Lightning’s most recent game in Ottawa, they were decisively outplayed in a 5-1 loss. The Senators, when they are on their game, are a very dangerous team off the rush. They like to activate their defensemen, creating matchup problems for the opposition. But for much of the game, the Lightning did well in their rush coverage. Through the first two periods, most of Ottawa’s dangerous looks came during three different power play chances. But thanks to the aforementioned solid rush coverage, some timely saves from Ben Bishop, critical blocks from Lightning defenders and some missed net attempts from the Sens, the Lightning kept Ottawa off the board through the first two periods.
At the other end, the Lightning generated most of their scoring chances during five-on-five play (they only received one power play in the entire game). In the first period, Anton Stralman whistled a right circle shot past Andrew Hammond’s stick, but the goal was overturned on a coach’s challenge. The officials felt, after watching the replay on video, that Erik Condra made contact with Hammond and prevented him from making the save. The contact was slight, but it occurred as the puck was traveling past Hammond, so the officials overturned the goal.
The Bolts would ultimately score the game’s first goal in the second period. After applying pressure in the offensive zone, the Lightning regrouped after an Ottawa clear to center ice. Victor Hedman quickly reversed the puck to Cedric Paquette, who skated back into the Ottawa end and took a left circle shot. Hammond kicked out the rebound to the slot. J.T. Brown was tied up with Dion Phaneuf, but still tapped the puck to Paquette, who finished on a backhander. Then, late in the period, moments after killing the third Ottawa power play in the game, the Lightning scored again. Ondrej Palat intercepted a puck in the defensive zone and sprang Tyler Johnson with a pass down the right wing. Johnson accelerated behind the Ottawa net and almost scored on a wraparound. Hammond kept the puck out with a terrific right skate save, but Palat followed up with a backhander into the net. Ottawa was not as successful as the Lightning in rush coverage, allowing two chances off the rush. And in both instances, the Lightning did well to follow up the initial shot and score on a rebound.
The Senators broke through early in the third, when Marc Methot stole an errant Lightning outlet at center ice and countered. On this play, the Lightning couldn’t stop the Ottawa rush. Back in the Lightning end, Zach Smith fed the puck back to Methot, who had jumped into the play. He finished his shot from the slot over Bishop’s glove.
The goal sparked the Sens, who decisively dictated play for the next several minutes. But Bishop wouldn’t allow another. At the halfway mark of the frame, the Bolts pushed back and began spending more time in the Ottawa zone. That swing curbed some of the Senators’ momentum. Then, with just under two minutes left, the Lightning added an insurance goal. The Sens attempted a breakout pass from their own zone, in the hopes of moving the puck up the ice so they could pull Hammond for an extra attacker. But from in front of his own net, J.G. Pageau whiffed on a pass attempt and Nikita Kucherov stole the puck. He snapped a quick shot past Hammond’s glove to make it 3-1. Steven Stamkos added an empty netter in the closing seconds.
So here are the important components to this Lightning victory. In building their 2-0 lead in the opening 40 minutes, the Lightning defended well during five-on-five play and managed to get through those first three penalty kills (and a fourth early in the third). They capitalized on a couple of chances so that they never had to play from behind, instead forcing the Senators to do so. In the first half of the third period, they survived the Senators’ furious push. And when they needed big saves at different points in the game, Ben Bishop provided them.
The Bolts have now tied a franchise record with their eighth consecutive win. Impressively, six of those victories have come on the road. They’ll look to set the record outright when they host Carolina on Saturday.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
Paquette’s second period goal, which gave the Lightning the lead – for good.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
1.Ben Bishop – Lightning. 33 saves.
2.Cedric Paquette – Lightning. Goal.
3.Ondrej Palat – Lightning. GWG.