GAME SUMMARIES (Home Team in CAPS)
Lightning 2 BLACKHAWKS 0
Goals: Kunitz (6), Gourde (15)
Saves: Vasilevskiy (40), Shutout (7), 28-9-2
Lightning 4 PREDATORS 3 (OT)
Goals: Kunitz (7), Namestnikov (16), Stamkos (18), Gourde (16)
Saves: Domingue (31), 2-0-0
Lightning 5 FLYERS 1
Goals: Point (20), Gourde (17), Callahan (2), Namestnikov 2 (18)
Saves: Vasilevskiy (36), 29-9-2
SEASON: 34-12-3, 71 points, 1st place in the Atlantic Division
- The Lightning put an emphatic end to their season long three-game losing streak by winning the last three games of their road trip and one of the key reasons was the play of forward Chris Kunitz. A four-time Stanley Cup winner who signed a free agent contract with the Lightning during the off-season, Kunitz was primarily acquired to bring veteran leadership and successful playoff experience to the Tampa Bay locker room. This week, however, it was Kunitz’s offense that sparked the Lightning and turned a potentially disastrous pre-All-Star break road trip into a momentum building three game winning streak. Paired with Steven Stamkos and Vlad Namestnikov starting with the game in Chicago, Kunitz scored two goals, including the game-winner against the Blackhawks, had two assists and finished the week with a plus/minus rating of plus 3.
- Over the last three weeks, the Lightning have completely turned around their issues of having more giveaways than takeaways and the end result, especially this week, has been a tighter and better defensive effort. In their last seven games, Tampa Bay has effected 66 takeaways compared to 42 giveaways, including a margin of 33-17 last week in which they went 3-0-0 and allowed only a total of four goals.
- If there was any doubt that the city of Tampa and the surrounding area was a hockey town, those were erased this past weekend when the city hosted the NHL All-Star Game. It was abundantly clear while watching the coverage of the event that the hockey fans of Tampa are on par with any other city in the NHL. In fact, given the recent attendance at Red Wings games, maybe it’s time to name Tampa “Hockey Town” instead of Detroit.
- The mood was sour following the Lightning’s loss to Minnesota a week ago Saturday because it was the team’s third straight loss. It only got worse the following day when it was announced that forward Ondrej Palat will miss the next six to eight weeks due to a lower-body injury caused by a slash to the back of his lower right leg from the Wild’s Jared Spurgeon. It was an injury head coach Jon Cooper believed was a cheap shot, stating the next day he “didn’t like the way he (Palat) got hurt.” More importantly, Palat’s absence is a tough one to overcome. “Of all the success we’ve had in the last few years, he’s a big part of it,” Cooper said of Palat, arguably the team’s best defensive forward. “It’s unfortunate, because he’s a guy that plays the game the right way.”
- Tampa’s recent struggles with their power play continue to mount. The Lightning went 0-5 on the power play in their three games last week and have scored only two goals in their last 15 power play opportunities. It is one of the areas where the absence of defenseman Victor Hedman is significantly felt. Help may soon be on the way as Hedman was skating in full equipment and without any noticeable issues this past weekend during the All-Star break in Tampa.
- Much to everyone’s surprise, rookie defenseman, Mikhail Sergachev, was a healthy scratch in the Lightning’s last two games against Nashville and Philadelphia. While no official explanation has been given, the Lightning apparently benched Sergachev because he has been a minus-6 in his last eight games and for taking a bad cross-checking penalty against Chicago on Monday which he complicated by arguing with the referee and throwing a towel, resulting in an additional two-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Much to his credit, Sergachev is using the benching as a learning experience. “Obviously I’m struggling,” Sergachev said prior to Thursday’s game against Philadelphia. “Now I’m just trying to work my way out of it.”
THREE STARS OF THE WEEK
- Yanni Gourde–3 goals, 3 points, 2 game-winning goals
- Andrei Vasilevskiy–2-0-0, 1 shutout, 0.50 GAA, 76 saves, .987 save percentage
- Chris Kunitz–2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points, 1 game-winning goal
THIS WEEK’S GAMES
- Tuesday–at Winnipeg
- Thursday–at Calgary
- Saturday–at Vancouver