For the Lightning, this was a complete, dominant performance. And they did it against the Arizona Coyotes, who not only are one of the top defensive teams in the league, but also entered the game atop the Pacific Division.
The Lightning were crisp in all three zones, both with and without the puck. Let's start with how they played without the puck. In the Tampa Bay defensive zone, they didn't give the Coyotes any time or space to make plays. When the Coyotes brought the puck through center ice, the Lightning had "back pressure" from their forwards, so there were no outnumbered situations and, at best, Arizona often was forced to dump pucks in. In many cases, though, the Lightning simply took the puck away. In the Arizona end, the Lightning's forecheck was relentless. The Coyotes struggled to execute clears - either the Lightning stole pucks and held them in or Arizona just managed a clear before the Lightning retrieved it at center ice and put it right back in.
With the puck, the Lightning were equally sharp. They managed it well, both coming out of their own end and through the neutral zone. In the offensive end, they enjoyed long shifts in which they maintained possession. But they weren't just playing "keep-away". They produced some high-skill plays that created dangerous scoring chances and goals. At the same time, the Lightning avoided high-risk plays with the puck that might have left them open to counter-attacks.
The Coyotes finished with 23 shots, but most of those were routine saves for Andrei Vasilevskiy. In recording the shutout, he only had to face a couple of scoring chances - his best save came on a Taylor Hall partial breakaway in the first period when the game was still scoreless.
It wasn't a perfect night for the Lightning. They finished the game without Pat Maroon and Ondrej Palat, both of whom left with injuries. But their ninth consecutive victory was a resounding one over an excellent opponent.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
- Nikita Kucherov - Lightning. Two goals.
- Cedric Paquette - Lightning. Two assists.
- Andrei Vasilevskiy - Lightning. 23-save shutout.