Each and every one of the Lighting's first eight games was a close contest. Six were decided by a single goal. One other was a one-goal game with an empty-netter. And Thursday's Lightning victory in Columbus was 2-0. So this was the first lopsided one. How did it unfold?
There were several key moments early in the game. The first one came on the opening shift. Brayden Point's line went head-to-head against Sidney Crosby's line. The Point line held the puck in the offensive zone for the entire shift. At the end of it, Crosby committed a cross-checking penalty on Yanni Gourde. The Lightning converted on the ensuing power play, using quick puck movement to set up Nikita Kucherov's goal from the right circle. An incensed Crosby came out of the penalty box and, after engaging one of the referees, was given a 10-minute misconduct. So in the opening two minutes of the game, the Lightning had a 1-0 lead and the Pens were going to be without Crosby for more than half the first period. He was not available to the Penguins during Pittsburgh's first power play chance, which came while he was still serving his misconduct.
Shortly after Crosby's misconduct ended, the Lightning received another power play and scored again. It was a terrific cross-ice pass from Vladdy Namestnikov at the side of the net to Steven Stamkos. It was nearly a replica of a passing sequence they used on Stamkos' PPG against Pittsburgh on October 12. This goal was Stamkos' 113th career PPG and set the franchise record.
The score remained 2-0 until the final minute of the first. After icing the puck, the Lightning had a defensive zone faceoff against Crosby's line. The Pens won the faceoff and applied pressure. Jake Guentzel slid a cross-ice pass to the back post, where Carl Hagelin had an open-net look. But Andrei Vasilevskiy moved to his left quickly and stopped the Hagelin attempt with a remarkable save. Off the ensuing faceoff, the Lightning cleared the puck to center ice and Gourde stole it from Evgeni Malkin. Gourde eventually put in the rebound of a Braydon Coburn shot with two-tenths of a second left in the first. (This was eerily similar to the October 12th meeting, when Victor Hedman scored a first period goal with one-tenth of a second left). Thanks to that sequence, the Lightning took a lead of 3-0 - and not 2-1 - into the first intermission.
Those were significant moments in the first. The fact that the Lightning popped in three more goals in the first 7:12 of the second (including Point's rebound goal thirty seconds into the frame) put the game out of reach.
Once they had their big lead, the Lightning did a nice job in the second half of the game managing that advantage. They didn't get sloppy and they limited Pittsburgh's Grade-A scoring chances.
Most games aren't going to be so lopsided - just look back at the first eight of the season. But it's nice to get one of these every once in a while.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Jassen Cullimore):
Vasilevskiy's save on Hagelin followed by Gourde's goal late in the first.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Jassen Cullimore):
1. Steven Stamkos - Goal and three assists. Set Lightning franchise record for PPG. Tied career-high with three assists and four points.
2. Andrei Vasilevskiy - Lightning. 28 saves.
3. Yanni Gourde - Lightning. Goal and assist.