The Lightning Had Quite A Week In The Golden State
The Tampa Bay Lightning finished off a sweep of their three-game California road trip on Sunday night when they defeated the Anaheim Ducks 2-1 in a battle of a relentless offense against an excellent goaltender. Vladislav Namestnikov and J.T. Brown scored the Tampa Bay goals on the evening.
The Lightning controlled the action from the very start. Tampa Bay took sixteen shots on net in the first period, but John Gibson turned all of them away. That doesn’t count the missed shots, including a Nikita Kucherov breakaway chance that sailed wide of the net in a rare reminder that Kucherov is, in fact, human. The Ducks’ netminder stopped an Ondrej Palat opportunity off a centering pass among other shots to keep the sheet scoreless in the first period.
The great goaltending obscured a textbook period for the Lightning. The Bolts had the puck for almost the entire twenty minutes, holding the Ducks to just four shots on goal in the first period.
The second period was more of the same for the Lightning. Anaheim was able to provide a little pressure on Andrei Vasilevskiy, but the Lightning netminder was in full control. Meanwhile, the top line’s attack remained relentless, as Tampa Bay took shot after shot at John Gibson’s goal. They finally broke through on a rebound goal from Vladislav Namestnikov.
The goal was Namestnikov’s ninth of the season, and yet another point for that first Lightning line of Namestnikov, Steven Stamkos, and Kucherov. Both Stamkos and Kucherov had assists on the Namestnikov goal, bringing Stamkos to 30 points on the young season. The three continue to assert themselves as the finest offensive trio in the league, and in this case they staked Tampa Bay to a 1-0 lead entering the third period.
John Gibson held the Anaheim Ducks up through the first two periods. The Lightning led in shots 29-14 after two, but only 1-0 on the scoresheet. That’s the power of good netminding, it can equalize almost anything a hockey team can offer.
That great goaltending allowed the Ducks to even the game despite the wild disparity in shots. Jakob Silfverberg got one past Vasilevskiy close to the four minute mark of the third period to reset the game at the Honda Center.
J.T. Brown rectified the situation moments 7:18 into the third with a top shelf goal that went over Gibson’s left shoulder. With the Lightning back in control, it was Vasilevskiy’s turn to show off his goaltending prowess. Anaheim got increasingly aggressive late, and it put a lot of pressure on the Tampa Bay netminder. Vasilevskiy had to make a sprawling save with 9:13 to go in the third period that was put under review as it looked like the puck may have crossed into the goal. No camera angles could show one way or the other.
The final score will show that Vasilevskiy stopped all fifteen shots the Ducks took in the third period. In a game where his counterpart with the Ducks kept the Lightning from running away with the game, it was Vasilevskiy’s big third period that wound up being the difference in the game. In all, Tampa Bay’s netminder would have 28 saves against Gibson’s 35, and it was Vasilevskiy who came away with the win in the end.
It was a tremendously successful road trip for Tampa Bay, as they tore through some of the top teams in the Western Conference and controlled the action throughout. Were it not for a tremendous goaltending performance by John Gibson of the Anaheim Ducks, Tampa Bay would have blown out all three of their California opponents. Tampa Bay improves to 14-2-2 on the young season, good for 30 points to lead the NHL.
The final total score of the California road trip: Lightning 12 – Opponents 4. That lopsided score includes a back-to-back against San Jose and then Los Angeles. Namestnikov scored four goals across the three games, every member of the top line had a point in all three games, and the three combined for 18 points in the three games. When your top line averages six points per game, it’s a tough team to play against. What Tampa Bay has on the opening faceoff of every game is a special group.
The Lightning will get a much needed rest after a three game trip to California, coming home to play their next game on Thursday against the Dallas Stars. Dallas is an interesting team at 9-7-0, sporting one of the best penalty kill units in hockey along with the best power play so far on the season by percentages. The kind of team that plays better on special teams than they play 5-on-5 can be difficult to handle for a lot of teams, because teams like Dallas can play a looser style when evenhanded, knowing they can deal with penalties without much issue.