This path to victory for the Lightning was filled with speed bumps. Vegas, which was coming off two impressive wins (including a dominating 3-0 victory over Nashville on Saturday), played another strong game. The Golden Knights were tenacious on the forecheck and attacked the Lightning with speed. They owned most of the puck possession in the game.
As well as Vegas played for much of the game, the Lightning conversely struggled. They dealt with puck management issues, which forced them to defend without the puck for long stretches. It was their first home game back after a long road trip (and those can be tricky games to play). Also, an early injury to Jan Rutta forced the Lightning to play with only five defensemen for the bulk of the night.
Having written all of that, the Lightning managed to improve in each period. In the first, they not only yielded most of the possession time, they allowed a number of Grade-A scoring chances. In the second, while Vegas continued to dominate puck possession, the Lightning reduced the number of scoring chances allowed. Then in the third, particularly after Steven Stamkos gave the Lightning a 3-2 lead with 9:24 remaining, they played their best hockey. They spent the majority of the final half of the third period with possession of the puck in the offensive zone. At the same time, they continued to limit Vegas' scoring chances.
Obviously, Andrei Vasilevskiy played a big role in the victory. His work, especially in the first period when he faced a high volume of chances, was terrific. Also, the Lightning made the most of the time they spent in the offensive zone. On all three of their goals (excluding Alex Killorn's empty netter), they had a net front presence and screened Marc-Andre Fleury. Two of those goals came on tips, including a double deflection on their second tally. And finally, the Lightning deserve credit for defending hard without the puck. On a night when the wind was blowing in their face for most of the game, they hunkered down and battled to keep pucks away from dangerous areas of the ice. After the leaky first period, they were mostly successful in preventing Vegas from translating offensive zone possession time into scoring chances.
Next up on the schedule is another team playing well right now - Pittsburgh. The Lightning will look to clean up some of the puck management problems that plagued them tonight.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
- Andrei Vasilveskiy - Lightning. 27 saves. Ties franchise points record, going 14-0-2 in last 16 games.
- Mikhail Sergachev - Lightning.
- Brayden McNabb - Golden Knights. Two assists.