Finally. A game in which the Lightning were rewarded offensively for their hard play and high compete level. A game in which they also got some bounces. And a game in which could play with a large lead. All that led to a blowout win over the Anaheim Ducks.
It wasn’t easy, though. Not against the Ducks, who, after a slow start, had posted a 6-2-2 record in their previous 10 games. The Ducks had recorded 40 or more shots in each of their previous two games and were playing some of their best hockey of the season heading into this game.
Through the first 32 minutes, the game was a toss-up. The Lightning had grabbed a 1-0 lead at that point, but the Ducks had generated numerous chances to score. In fact, after an evenly-played first period, the start of the second favored the Ducks. Anaheim had multiple odd-man rushes, but none led to a goal. The best of those odd-man chances resulted in a Ryan Kesler shot that hit the post, ricocheted off Ben Bishop and was headed back toward the net when Bishop’s reached back with his stick to stop it. Certainly, a puck staying out was a break for the Lightning, who have seen their fair share of such plays go against them so far this year. That Kesler shot came shortly after the Lightning had broken a scoreless tie with a Nikita Kucherov goal. On that play, Joel Vermin skated into the Anaheim zone on a two-on-one with Vladdy Namestnikov. Vermin tried to pass the puck across, but it was blocked by the lone Anaheim defender. The puck bounced back to Vermin, however, and it took it behind the net. He set up Andrej Sustr for a one-timer at the right circle. Sustr’s stick broke as he attempted the shot, but the puck slid to Kucherov at the top of the crease and he tapped it in past Frederik Andersen.
Those two plays may have featured some breaks for the Lightning, but there was no puck-luck involved in either of the next two second period Lightning goals. Steven Stamkos stormed into the offensive zone and snapped a shot from the right circle over Andersen’s stick at 12:35. Just over a minute later, Namestnikov, Kucherov and Stamkos teamed up on a beautiful passing play while the Lightning were on the power play. Stamkos’ second goal of the game extended the Lightning lead to 3-0.
The Bolts played as well as a team can in the third period when it has a multiple goal lead. They repeatedly made safe plays getting pucks out of their own end, neutralizing Anaheim’s attempts to build momentum. Instead, the Lightning spent most of the period in possession of the puck and had several long, sustained offensive zone shifts. One of those culminated in Brian Boyle’s goal at 5:29. The final tally came during another Lightning power play – Jonathan Marchessault followed his own initial shot and buried the rebound from the slot.
There haven’t been many games like this for the Lightning this year. Especially not in the past several weeks, as the team has struggled to score goals. So it was nice to see some pucks go in. And equally nice to see how well the Lightning played with the lead once they got it.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Stamkos’ first goal, which extended the Lightning lead to 2-0.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Ben Bishop – Lightning. 30 saves. First shutout win of the season. On his 29th birthday, no less.
2.Steven Stamkos – Lightinng. Two goals and assist.
3.Nikita Kucherov – Lightning. Goal and two assists.