A big key to this Lightning victory was their ability to win the special teams battle. Although they yielded a late power play goal to Calgary, the Lightning netted two power play goals of their own and also recorded one shorthanded tally.
Since the calendar turned to 2020, the Lightning had gone just 6-66 on the power play. That was prior to this game. Against the Flames, they scored on each of their first two opportunities and built a 2-0 lead in the process. But even during their final two chances - on which they didn't score - the Lightning applied pressure and generated momentum that carried over into five-on-five play. In all, they posted nine power play shots on goal.
And the penalty kill? The Lightning were shorthanded only twice, so in comparison to recent games, they reduced the overall number of kills. (On Thursday against Chicago, for example, the Lightning were shorthanded six times). And while the Flames did score on the second of those chances - late in the third as goalie David Rittich was getting to the bench for an extra attacker - the Lightning delivered a strong first kill. The initial Calgary power play came midway through the second period and the Lightning produced three separate shorthanded rushes. On the third of those, Yanni Gourde finished a shot from the right circle, snapping the puck inside the far post.
In terms of five-on-five play, both teams enjoyed segments when they hemmed the opposition back in the defensive zone. What the Lightning did well in this game - which marked an improvement over their play during the losing streak - was defend without the puck. The Flames did enjoy some sustained offensive zone shifts at different points in the game, but they often weren't able to translate that possession time into shots on goal and dangerous scoring chances. The Lightning blocked 18 shots and limited Calgary's Grade-A looks.
The Lightning only scored one five-on-five goal, but it was perhaps the most important tally in the game. The Flames had scored two goals within a 52-second span to cut a 3-0 Lightning lead to 3-2. But 53 seconds after the second Calgary tally, Alex Killorn finished an in-alone chance to re-establish a multi-goal lead. Killorn's goal allowed the Lightning to play with a two-goal cushion for most of the rest of the game (up until Calgary's late power play strike).
Of course, the news wasn't all rosy today. The team announced that Steven Stamkos will undergo surgery on Monday and will miss six to eight weeks. Without their captain for the next several weeks, the Lightning must reconfigure the line combinations and adjust their special teams configuration. Stamkos is not only a regular fixture on the power play, he takes important faceoffs during penalty kills. Against the Flames, the Lightning, as detailed in this article, managed well without Stamkos and were deserving of the victory.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Caley Chelios):
- Mikhail Sergachev - Lightning. Two assists.
- Yanni Gourde - Lightning. SHG.
- Alex Killorn - Lightning. GWG.