Even though the Edmonton Oilers struggled as a team last year, finishing 28th overall, they played two very good games against the Lightning. If not for a spectacular performance by Ben Bishop, they might have beaten the Bolts in Tampa. Later in the year, they did win the rematch in Edmonton.
So the Lightning were expecting a spirited game from the Oilers in this early-season contest, particularly because Edmonton was desperate for its first win. As expected, the Oilers played another solid game against the Bolts – they defended hard and were able to create several dangerous chances off the rush, especially with their top line of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle.
Through the first two periods, the Oilers enjoyed an edge in play. They not only led the game, 2-1, they also had generated the better scoring chances. The Lightning had mustered only 15 shots after two periods, in part because they passed up a number of shots.
The Bolts turned it around in the third period, displaying more commitment to forechecking effectively, winning puck battles and getting pucks to the net. They tied the score with 6:05 left following a Tyler Johnson steal and setup for Brett Connolly.
But any potential points were lost just with under three and a half minutes left when the Lightning turned the puck over in their own end. Eberle batted a puck out of the air and Nugent-Hopkins rifled in a shot from the slot.
In all, it was a disappointing finish to an uneven Lightning performance. Compounding matters was a second period injury to Ryan Callahan, who did not return.
On the bright side, Jonathan Drouin had a solid NHL debut. He was a puck hound when he didn’t have it and very crafty once the puck was on his stick. He nearly scored on his first shift and almost tallied a wrap-around goal later in the game. He also repeatedly set up teammates throughout the game. It’s exciting to think that, now that the first game is under his belt, he’ll get even better.
And also, it was the best game of the season so far for Connolly. He was quick to loose pucks and hard on the forecheck. He had a first period goal disallowed following a borderline incidental goalie contact call on Brian Boyle. And at the time, his third period tally looked as though it would earn the Lightning at least one point. Unfortunately, that didn’t turn out to be the case.
The Bolts have a quick turnaround, facing Calgary on Tuesday. They may have to take on the Flames with only 11 forwards, depending on the statuses of Callahan and Alex Killorn, who was injured during Monday’s morning skate.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ GWG.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
1.Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Oilers. GWG.
2.Justin Schultz – Oilers. Goal.
3.Brett Connolly – Lightning. Goal. Plus two.