In their first game against the Flyers last season, played during November in Philadelphia, the Lightning surrendered a 5-1 third period lead before prevailing in overtime. It was a similar story during the second meeting, a contest in December at Amalie Arena. On that night, the Lightning blew a 5-2 third period lead, but again won in overtime.
Contrast those two games with this victory and it's clear how the Lightning have effectively adjusted how they are defending. They held the Flyers to 23 shots and only a couple of dangerous scoring chances for the entire game. That effort, coupled with a Pat Maroon second period goal, was enough to provide the Lightning with their franchise record-tying 10th consecutive win.
The first period featured four power play chances (three for the Lightning), so nearly half of the frame was spent with one team on the man advantage. Both clubs were strong on the PK and the power play units didn't generate much pressure. (One of the Flyers' best chances in the game came shorthanded during Travis Konecny's high-sticking double minor, but Andrei Vasilevskiy made the save). In terms of five-on-five play, the Lightning, after a couple of early turnovers, held a possession advantage. But the Flyers defended hard in front of Carter Hart - they blocked 11 first period shots - and limited the Lightning's dangerous looks.
But the possession trend that favored the Lightning continued into the second - and became more pronounced. The Flyers had an early second period power play, but after that unsuccessful chance, the Lightning took over. The second was a period of "one-and-done" entries for the Flyers, who had virtually no sustained pressure in the offensive zone. At the other end, the Lightning continued to face a Flyers team that protected the front of the net well. But Tampa Bay kept up the pressure and eventually did generate some good looks. The line of Carter Verhaeghe, Yanni Gourde, and Mitchell Stephens produced some of the Lightning's best opportunities and narrowly missed finishing on several occasions. Pat Maroon didn't miss though, when he scored the game's only goal at 7:27. From center ice, Anthony Cirelli flipped the puck high in the air. It landed in the Philadelphia slot, where Maroon snapped a quick shot past Hart.
The Flyers made a strong push in the third and owned more possession time. But the Lightning, just as the Flyers had done earlier in the game, protected the front of the net. The Flyers had a hard time translating their increased possession time into shots and scoring chances. That's due to the Lightning's commitment to playing sound team defense.
Vasilevskiy now has posted back-to-back shutouts. He's faced a total of 48 shots over the two games and only a few Grade-A scoring chances. He's benefitting from the Lightning's strong, structured play in all three zones. Tonight, they shut down a team that, prior to playing the Lightning, had lost only two home games in regulation all season.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
- Carter Verhaeghe - Lightning.
- Andrei Vasilevskiy - Lightning. 23 saves.
- Pat Maroon - Lightning. GWG.