Quality Shots Key in Lightning Win

Tampa Bay was outshot Thursday night, but still pulled away

On a Thursday night in the middle of a long road trip, hockey teams sometimes look to irregular places to get the spark they need. For the Tampa Bay Lightning against Calgary, it wasn’t the vaunted first line with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov that led the action, but rather Alex Killorn’s third line that tallied four of the seven goals the Lightning scored.

“If you’re gonna win in this league, you need a little depth of scoring. You can’t have the same guys doing it every night, and when some the guys who are used to scoring a lot go a little bit cold—or cold for their expectations—you need other guys to step up.” Coach Jon Cooper was right in his assessment, and with two goals from both Killorn and Cory Conacher the Lightning are back to their winning ways.

Tampa Bay trailed by as much as 4-2 in the second period at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, but the Lightning found more opportunities as they pressed on. It would be a four goal third period that sparked the win, while netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy tallied 42 saves on a very busy night.

The Lightning defense continues to adjust without Victor Hedman. They have been out-shot in every game since they lost their star blue liner, which is leading to a team that has to play off their style.

Adding to that, the Calgary Flames are not the team you want pressing the action. They can score pretty well in their own right, particularly when Johnny Gaudreau is on the ice.

The good news here is that a team shows its true mettle when they’re forced to play off their game and work from a Plan B. The Lightning have proven capable of doing that, playing above the .500 mark in Hedman’s absence and still finding their opportunities even when they’re not able to get out and run like their preferred style.

The problem is that it all puts a lot of strain on young goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who faced 46 shots on Thursday night in the Saddledome. Vasilevskiy has of course been one of the finest goalies in all of hockey throughout the year, with his stats rivaling the best in the game, but now he’s in a position where he has to bail out the defense at times and sprawl out just to keep the Lightning in a position to win.

The shooting disadvantage really reared its head in the third period after the Lightning had started to pull away. Calgary took 19 shots in the third, peppering Vasilevskiy as they tried to get back in the game. Coach Jon Cooper said after the game: “It’s funny though; a game like that, you score four in the third, and you’re borderline disappointed on how the period went because we ended up giving up 19 shots and a plethora of scoring chances.”

“We have to close this game down instead of inviting our goaltender into a shooting barrage.”

On Saturday, the Lightning will continue their long road trip with a late night affair at Vancouver. The puck will drop at about 10:00 Eastern on Saturday night as the Bolts get a regular season look at All Star MVP Brock Boeser, the stellar rookie out of the University of North Dakota. Boeser has been the best part of a rebuilding Canucks team. Vancouver is typically one of the tougher places in the NHL to go get a road win, but this year the Canucks have a losing record in Rogers Arena.

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Tim Williams has been covering sports since his days as a student at Northeastern University covering events such as the Beanpot. In the thirteen years since, he has covered college hockey, the NFL, Major League Baseball, the PGA Tour, and the National Hockey League. A native of the Tampa Bay area, Tim has returned home after living much of his life in the northeast, including sixteen years in the Boston area. These days the Managing Editor of Sports Talk Florida can be found on Florida's golf courses when he's not working.