GAME SUMMARIES (Home Team in CAPS)
LIGHTNING 6, Stars 1
GOALS: Stamkos 2 (10), Sergachev (5), Point (8), Dotchin (2), Kucherov (17)
SAVES: Vasilevskiy (27), 14-1-1
Islanders 5, LIGHTNING 3
GOALS: Gourde 2 (6), Palat (5)
SAVES: Vasilevskiy (27), 14-2-1
SEASON: 15-3-2, 32 points, 1st place in the Atlantic Division
- The Lightning’s ability to dominate all phases of the game were on full display in their 6-1 victory over Dallas on Thursday. The offense was firing on all cylinders, scoring six goals on 28 shots as nine different players made the scoresheet, including the top line of Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Vlad Namestnikov, who were responsible for three goals and five assists. The defense limited the Stars to one goal on 28 shots, killed all three of the Stars power play opportunities, including a 5-on-3 advantage and scored a short-handed goal to give the Lightning a 3-1 lead they never would relinquish. Meanwhile, goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was his usual stellar self, making 27 saves en route to his 14th win in 16 games played. The only disappointing aspect of the game was the onslaught came at the expense of former Lightning and current Dallas goalie, Ben Bishop, who was making his first visit back to Tampa since his trade last season. It was a performance that solidified the Lightning’s spot as the NHL’s best team so far this season.
- There were very few highlights for the Lightning in their 5-3 loss to the Islanders Saturday night but one bright spot was Tampa’s furious third period comeback. After trailing 4-0 early in the third period, the Lightning, led by Yanni Gourde’s two scores, closed the gap to 4-3 with under four minutes remaining. Even though the comeback fell short when the Islanders scored an empty net goal, coach Jon Cooper should be encouraged by his team’s effort in a game that looked like it was totally lost with less than a full period left to play.
- Despite their 5-3 loss on Saturday, the Lightning continue to have the NHL’s best record of 15-3-2 and 32 points. Here’s a glimpse of four other teams in addition to Tampa Bay that most consider one of the top five teams through the early stages of the 2017-18 season:
- St. Louis Blues–15-5-1, 31 points, 1st place in the Central Division, +15 goal differential, 7-3 in last 10 games
- Toronto Maple Leafs–14-7-0, 28 points, 2nd place in the Atlantic Division, +16 goal differential, 7-3 in last 10 games
- Los Angeles Kings–12-7-2, 26 points, 1st place in the Pacific Division, +14 goal differential
- Winnipeg Jets–12-4-3, 27 points, 2nd place in the Central Division, 8-1-1 in last 10 games
- Nothing much went right, especially in the first two periods, against the Islanders Saturday night and most of it stemmed from the Lightning’s very slow start. They trailed 2-0 midway through the first period due in large part to the fact that New York outplayed and outskated Tampa Bay from the outset. The Lightning never seemed to get their footing until the third period but by then they were down 4-0. It’s a start the Lightning have suffered from, but were able to overcome, in several of their games this year. Unfortunately, they’re good fortune in those earlier games caught up with them Saturday night.
- Saturday’s game also marked the end of the Lightning’s penalty killing streak. They had successfully killed their previous 19 penalties, including a 5-on-3 against Dallas on Thursday before the Islanders Anders Lee scored a power play goal at 1:05 of the third period.
- The Lightning continued their recent trend, at times, of sloppy puck handling and puck management. Tampa Bay averaged 11 giveaways per game last week, four of which directly resulted in or led to a goal.
THREE STARS OF THE WEEK
- Steven Stamkos–2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points, +2 rating
- Yanni Gourde–2 goals, 2 points, +2 rating
- Braydon Point–1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, +1 rating
THIS WEEK’S GAMES
- Wednesday–vs. Chicago
- Friday–at Washington
- Saturday–at Pittsburgh