What a win for the Lightning. They were playing the second half of a back-to-back against a rested opponent. Then they had to go the final two periods plus OT without Anthony Cirelli and the final period and OT without Nikita Kucherov. Down to 10 forwards, the Lightning navigated their way through the third period, a frame that included two successful penalty kills.
Certainly, their ability to hold the Penguins to one goal while shorthanded (both in terms of special teams and the number of available players they had on the bench) was a big key to their victory. Also, their power play, which had gone nine games without a goal, contributed an important tally. Mikhail Sergachev's goal early in the second period tied the game at one.
Even with the injuries, the Lightning managed to dictate play for stretches in the game. Particularly in the first period (before the injuries hit), they had the better of the five-on-five play. They outshot the Penguins, 17-8, and generated several good looks on Pittsburgh goalie Matt Murray. In the second period, without Cirelli, the Lightning did spend more time defending at even strength, but they were helped by three Pittsburgh penalties that led to Tampa Bay power play chances. Sergachev's goal came on the first of those three second period opportunities, but the Lightning were dangerous on the other two second period power plays as well. For the game, they posted 10 power play shots.
Not surprisingly, the Penguins owned more of the puck possession time in the third period. The Lightning's bench was short and they had to kill those two penalties. But the Lightning battled their way through that final period to keep the game tied. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 16 third period saves and was helped by two posts the Penguins hit.
In overtime, the Pens controlled the puck for the first two minutes. That put a lot of stress on the Lightning trio of Mitchell Stephens, Ondrej Palat, and Sergachev - they were stuck on the ice for an extended d-zone shift. Eventually, though, the Pens lost possession and Palat and Sergachev broke out on a two-on-one. Out of gas, Sergachev smartly waited to pass the puck to Palat until he was close to the bench. He changed for Victor Hedman, who jumped on to join Palat for the odd-man rush. Palat fed Hedman for a shot, which Matt Murray stopped. Palat needed to get off the ice, so when Hedman corralled the rebound, he came out of the offensive zone to maintain possession and allow Palat to change for Yanni Gourde (Brayden Point had come on for Stephens earlier in the sequence). Back at center ice, Hedman reversed his direction and countered on an attack, creating a three-on-two. Point fed Gourde at bottom of the left circle and Gourde roofed his shot over Murray's stick. What a relief for Gourde! He ended his 35-game goal skid and, in the process, gave the Lightning their eighth consecutive win.
In a way, the winning sequence in overtime summed up the Lightning's performance in the game. They managed to make the best of a tough situation and ended up getting rewarded.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
- Yanni Gourde - Lightning. GWG.
- Erik Cernak - Lightning.
- Evgeni Malkin - Penguins. Goal.