This was an excellent bounce-back performance for the Lightning, who improved to 17-1-1 after a loss. Here are some key takeaways.
-Entering this contest, the Lightning wanted to tighten up defensively, as some loose play had snuck into their game recently. While it's true that the Senators had a few segments in which they applied pressure, those moments were isolated. For most of the night, the Lightning dominated possession. They defended hard without the puck, both in the defensive zone and on rush coverage. As a result, they not only limited the amount of time the Senators had the puck, they also held the Sens to only a handful of scoring chances. At the same time, the Lightning did well to protect the puck in the offensive zone - this led to long, sustained shifts in the Ottawa end.
-Jon Cooper shuffled his lines for this game. While all four lines played well, the unit of Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov and Yanni Gourde was the best line on the ice. They contributed three goals and at least two of those players were on the ice for four of the five Lightning tallies. Two of those goals came off beautiful passing sequences. But just as significant as their point production, the three players worked extremely hard to win puck battles. They spent most of the night in the offensive zone.
-Gourde matched a career-high with two goals and three points. His assist came off a slick pass to Point in the slot. His second goal was a breakaway tally - he did well to stay on-side as he collected a lead pass from Braydon Coburn and then he accelerated towards the net to keep ahead of the Ottawa defenders. He wristed a high shot off Craig Anderson's glove and in the net. That goal was one of the most important tallies of the night for the Lightning. It came less than a minute after the Sens had cut the Lightning lead to 3-2 early in the third. And finally, while he didn't receive a point on Mikhail Sergachev's goal, he provided a screen on it, taking away Anderson's view of the shot.
-Sergachev also had a strong night. He had two points, a game-high six shots and 10 shot attempts. He filled in well for Victor Hedman on the Lightning's first power play unit. While the Bolts didn't score on any of their three opportunities, they did move the puck around well and generated a few good chances.
The Senators had been playing well in recent weeks. They had gone 5-3-0 in their previous eight games and had posted wins over Toronto (twice) and St. Louis. But they are well out of playoff contention. Tuesday in Montreal, the Lightning will be facing a team in an entirely different situation. The Canadiens, currently in ninth place in the Conference and only one point out of the second Wildcard, will be a desperate opponent.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
1. Yanni Gourde - Lightning. Two goals and assist.
2. Nikita Kucherov - Lightning. Three assists.
3. Brayden Point - Lightning. Goal and assist.