In many ways, this game resembled the previous three contests for the Lightning. Once again, the Lightning played well in what was a closely-contested contest. The big difference tonight, of course, was that they were rewarded with a win.
In terms of five-on-five play, the Lightning delivered a solid performance. (More on that shortly). The special teams story was more complicated. Similar to last week's games against St. Louis and Washington, the Lightning lost the special teams battle. They went 0-3 on the power play and yielded a Nashville power play tally in the third period. The lowlight was their five-minute major power play in the second period. They repeatedly failed to enter the offensive zone with possession, posted only one shot during the five-minute major, and surrendered five shorthanded shots to Nashville. One of those shorthanded shots came off a three-on-one Nashville rush. But the other two Lightning power play chances, both of which occurred in the third period, were crisp. If not for Pekka Rinne, they might have scored on one or both of those opportunities and won the game in regulation.
The penalty kill did allow the tying goal to Kyle Turris in the third period. But the other three kills - all successful - were strong. That includes a crucial kill that came in the third period after the Preds had tied the game. So in the end, the special teams were a mixed bag for the Lightning. They had some good moments. And some not-so-good moments.
On the other hand, their five-on-five play was mostly good. It's true that the Lightning endured some first period struggles with turnovers in their own end. But their team defense in front of Andrei Vasilevskiy was solid throughout the night. So even though the Preds enjoyed the majority of the puck possession during the first period, they failed to translate that possession time into dangerous shots.
The Predators best five-on-five looks for the game came off the rush. But those were isolated chances. Vasilevskiy may not have been under siege in this game, but he gave his team big saves when they were needed. His stop on Nashville's three-on-one during the Lightning major power play was one such instance. His back-to-back saves on Kyle Turris and Mattias Ekholm late in the third was another.
Rinne similarly provided his club with crucial stops, but his "tough-save" volume was higher than Vasilevskiy's. That because in the second and third, the Lightning cleaned up their d-zone outlets, so they spent more time with the puck in the offensive zone. And as they have done regularly over the past several weeks, they created plenty of dangerous scoring chances.
In the overtime, the Lightning were patient with the puck and didn't force plays that might have led to turnovers. At the same time, they weren't passive - they had a few good opportunities around the Nashville net before Nikita Kucherov's eventual game-winner.
The Lightning felt that in the games against St. Louis, Washington, and Carolina, they had played well enough to earn more than one total point. Tonight, their positive overall performance did yield the desired result.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
- Nikita Kucherov - Lightning. GWG in OT, assist.
- Andrei Vasilevskiy - Lightning. 30 saves.
- Pekka Rinne - Predators. 28 saves.