In the first meeting between the teams back in October, the home Senators outworked the Lightning for the majority of the game and scored a late third-period goal to break a 2-2 tie. In the second contest of the season series, which was played last month at Amalie Arena, the Lightning outworked the Senators for the majority of the game - a couple of isolated mistakes led to Ottawa goals and a tie game through regulation - but the Lightning, who ended up winning on an Anthony Cirelli OT goal, decisively were the better team.
This third matchup, unlike the other two, was much more evenly-played. Like the other two contests, though, the score again was close. And on this night, the Lightning flipped the script from that October game, scoring late in the third to break a tie game.
Under first-year head coach D.J. Smith, the Senators bring a consistently-high compete-level. That was the case again in this game. The Sens forechecked aggressively and battled hard to win 50-50 pucks. But the Lightning competed equally tenaciously on loose pucks - and they had to do it for most of the night with only five defensemen. That's because Ryan McDonagh sustained an injury and didn't play in the final two periods.
The scoreless first period featured a couple of strong penalty kills for the Lightning, some timely saves from Curtis McElhinney, and an unlucky break for Brayden Point. Point redirected a puck over Craig Anderson's shoulder, but it hit off the knob of Anderson's stick and stayed out.
The second period contained two significant momentum swings and five combined goals. The Sens had the run of play in the opening minutes. They began the period with a shorthanded goal from Chris Tierney. Moments later, with the penalty over, Tierney had a clean breakaway with a chance to extend the lead. But McElhinney stopped him, keeping the deficit at one. Shortly thereafter, the Lightning received a strong shift from the line of Mitchell Stephens, Carter Verhaeghe, and Yanni Gourde. They cycled the puck in the offensive zone and got rewarded when Victor Hedman passed to Verhaeghe in the slot. Anderson was out of position, prepping for a potential Hedman attempt, so Verhaeghe put the puck into a vacated net.
That goal sparked the Lightning, who dominated possession for the next eight minutes. Kevin Shattenkirk gave the Lightning a 2-1 lead when he trailed Point and Ondrej Palat on an entry and collected a loose puck in the slot. He wristed it into the top of the net.
The Lightning continued to press the attack, but weren't able to translate their offensive zone time into shots and chances (despite owning the majority of the possession time in the period, they finished with only seven shots on goal). The Sens grabbed momentum back when they received a power play at 10:55 and scored the tying goal. In the closing minutes of the frame, the Sens created some dangerous offensive looks, including a breakaway for Rudolphs Balcers and, in the final few seconds, a goal for Mark Borowiecki. It was 3-2 Ottawa after 40 minutes.
There were three important moments in the third period. First, the Lightning killed a penalty at 5:48 - the successful kill including some key saves from McElhinney. Less than a minute after the penalty ended, Point scored off the rush, finishing a shot from the inner part of the left circle. Then, with 90 seconds left in the third, Hedman set up Tyler Johnson at the top of the crease for a redirection goal that proved to be the game-winner.
Beyond those three big moments, there were other notable aspects to the third period. For the second time in the last three games, Jon Cooper shuffled his forward line combinations - and once again it paid off. The Lightning, as they did in the second period, owned the majority of the possession time (especially after Point's goal tied it), but unlike in the second, they put more pucks on net. They fired 14 shots on goal in the third, doubling their output from the first two periods combined.
The Lightning won't have much time to savor this victory. They play Sunday in Carolina at 5:00 PM with a chance to complete a perfect road trip.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
1. Victor Hedman - Lightning. Two assists.
2. Brayden Point - Lightning. Goal.
3. Connor Brown - Senators.