Given the circumstances, this was one of the Lightning's most impressive victories of the season. They had to play on Saturday night in Ottawa, while the Hurricanes hadn't played since Friday. For most of Saturday's contest, the Lightning had only five defensemen available (after Ryan McDonagh's first period injury). So their D played a lot in the Ottawa game. After clearing customs, flying to Raleigh, and getting to their team hotel, Lightning players didn't get to bed until almost 3:00 AM. The game in Raleigh started at 5:00 PM.
When he met with the media on Friday before the Ottawa game, Jon Cooper was asked about how a team can find success in the second half of a back-to-back when the travel circumstances are challenging. He said that it helps to get the lead early.
The Lightning were able to check that box tonight. They netted two goals before the game was even five minutes old. Up until the final six or seven minutes of the first period, the Lightning, with solid puck management and an aggressive forecheck, were able to dictate play. But momentum shifted in those final minutes of the first. The Lightning committed several icing infractions and Carolina dominated puck possession. The Canes finished the first with 13 shots on goal - many of those came in those final third of the period.
In the game between the teams in Carolina on October 6, the Lightning, who were similarly playing the second half of a back-to-back on that night, built a 3-1 first period lead. But a strong Carolina push, coupled with poor Lightning puck management, tilted the ice in the final two periods and overtime. The Lightning managed only two shots on goal after the first period.
So following the rough finish to the first, the Lightning regrouped in the second and changed the script from the October 6th meeting. A dominant offensive zone shift from the line of Brayden Point, Steven Stamkos, and Nikita Kucherov ended with Point finishing an open chance from the front of the net. Point's goal, which extended the Lightning lead to 3-0, came at 5:19. It buoyed the Lightning and cut short Csrolina's momentum. The Lightning ended up outshooting the Hurricanes, 17-5, in the second, and owned a 24-12 edge in shot attempts. It was an ideal script - they had the lead and were playing with the puck.
The narrative again changed in the third. The Hurricanes made a final push and the Lightning ceded most of the possession time. It was a tough final 20 minutes, a period that included three Carolina power play chances (two of those came in the final 2:26 and the Hurricanes pulled Petr Mrazek for a six-on-four advantage). But the Lightning, who received several key blocks during that late penalty kill, gutted their way through it.
The team will receive a much-deserved off-day on Monday before Tuesday's home game against Vancouver.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
1. Andrei Vasilevskiy - Lightning. 28 saves.
2. Brayden Point - Lightning. Goal.
3. Steven Stamkos - Lightning. Goal and assist.