The Lightning faced a spirited opponent tonight. The Ducks played a hard, hungry, aggressive game. Anaheim's forecheck created problems for the Lightning and the Ducks were successful at forcing turnovers in the offensive zone.
For much of the night, however, the Lightning recovered well after those d-zone turnovers and kept their structure. They held the Ducks to 26 shots on goal and blocked 19 others. Anaheim also missed the net with 24 attempts. When the Ducks were able to generate scoring chances, Andrei Vasilevskiy produced a number of key saves. He did so under difficult circumstances, as the Ducks repeatedly created traffic in front of him. Vasilevskiy was screened on both of Anaheim's two first period goals. But there were a number of other instances when he made tough stops with traffic all around him.
So it was a game in which the Lightning ceded a fair amount of possession. (That includes much of the final three minutes, when the Ducks, who were down 4-2 at the time, pulled John Gibson for an extra attacker.) But the Lightning's committed play without the puck and Vasilevskiy's goaltending helped offset the good work Anaheim did to earn that possession advantage.
At the other end of the ice, the Lightning, as the Ducks did in the Tampa Bay defensive zone, were able to force Anaheim into d-zone turnovers. One of those came early in the first period, when Anthony Cirelli knocked Hampus Lindholm off the puck behind the Ducks net. Cirelli set up Ondrej Palat in front for the first goal of the game. Later in the frame, Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Brayden Point teamed up on a quick passing sequence off the rush. Point eventually fed Erik Cernak, who jumped into the play and attacked the net. He was rewarded with a tap-in goal.
Late in the second period, Cirelli established body position in front of the net and deflected in Jan Rutta's point shot. That goal gave the Lightning a 3-2 lead after two. Kucherov's spectacular breakaway goal in the third extended the advantage. He took a seam pass from Stamkos, absorbed a check as he split the two Anaheim defenders, and finished a backhander over Gibson's glove. That goal turned out to be the game-winner after Troy Terry's sixth attacker tally in the closing seconds.
In the end, the Lightning picked up a win against a motivated, physical opponent. They did it by defending hard, getting excellent goaltending, and making some high-level plays.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
- Anthony Cirelli - Lightning. Goal and assist.
- Andrei Vasilevskiy - Lightning. 23 saves.
- Michael Del Zotto - Ducks. Goal and assist.