With the first half of the 2014-15 season complete, we took the opportunity to reflect on some of our favorite memories from a wildly entertaining and successful start to the regular season.
So, without any further ado, here they are, the top 10 plays/moments from the first 41 games of 2014-15.
1. The Triplets are born
Unremarkable at the time, the formation of the Triplets Line -- Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov -- at Winnipeg on Oct. 24 has been the major development of the first half of the season. The combination has been, arguably, the best line in the NHL this season.
2. Johnson hat trick downs Pittsburgh
Tampa Bay had lost six of its previous eight entering a mid-season showdown against the Metropolitan Division-leading Penguins, but Tyler Johnson broke the Lightning out of their slump, providing the scoring punch with his second career hat trick in a 4-3 win over Pittsburgh (Dec. 23). The Bolts have since won five of six.
3. Tampa Bay’s three-game sweep of the Rangers
We couldn’t differentiate between three meetings with the New York Rangers, so we combined all of them into one. Ryan Callahan, Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman made their triumphant return to Madison Square Garden in a 5-1 win (Nov. 17). Former Bolts’ captain Marty St. Louis was shutout in his first game back in Tampa Bay, a 4-3 Lightning win (Nov. 27). The Lightning completed the sweep with a 6-3 dismantling of New York at MSG (Dec. 1).
4. Lightning rout Montreal 7-1
Tampa Bay still had visions of the Canadiens’ four-game sweep in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals from six months earlier in its head when it met up with Montreal for the first time in 2014-15. The Lightning pounded the visitors 7-1, serving notice the Bolts would be no pushover this season.
5. 4-3 shootout win in Detroit caps a six-game win streak
Tampa Bay’s only shootout victory of the first half of the season put a bow on an impressive 13-day stretch for the Lightning in which they scored 30 goals to win six-straight games.
6. Vasilevskiy impresses in NHL debut
Rookie goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy was recalled from Syracuse on Dec. 16 after an injury sidelined Ben Bishop, and the Russian made his NHL debut later that night in Philadelphia, stopping 23 shots to win his first game in the league. Vasilevskiy went on to win three of his first four starts in the NHL.
7. Drouin scores first NHL goal
It didn’t take highly-touted Lightning prospect Jonathan Drouin long to make an impact after joining the Bolts on Oct. 19. In his third NHL game (Oct. 24 at Winnipeg), the No. 3 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft rifled a shot from the left circle past Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec for his first league goal.
8. Nabokov makes an unreal save against Devils
Backup goalie Evgeni Nabokov provided the Lightning with the best save of the first half of the 2014-15 season. Nabokov, a 14-year NHL vet, slid over to deny New Jersey’s Michael Ryder of a sure goal, using the narrow shaft of his goalie stick to keep Ryder’s doorstep shot out of the net.
9. Stamkos’ super score sinks Sens
In the final game of the first half of the season, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos took possession of the puck in the offensive zone against Ottawa, skated behind the net and came all the way around in front through the left circle before depositing the puck past the Senators’ Robin Lehner at the far post.
10. Paquette pushes two past Hiller
Cedric Paquette became just the third player in Lightning history to score his first two NHL goals in the same game -- joining Stamkos (Oct. 30, 2008, vs. Buffalo) and Mark Barberio (Jan. 19, 2014, at Carolina) – after beating Calgary goalie Jonas Hiller twice in a 5-2 win over the Flames on November 6.
Did we miss your favorite moment? Feel like one should be ranked higher (or lower)? Let us know in the comment section below.