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Tampa Bay Lightning show familiar process to reach the familiar result in Washington





by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
October 14, 2021

WASHINGTON, D. C.  – .What the Tampa Bay Lightning showed through the first two games of the season looked like a team looking for some sort of symmetry and chemistry instead of a veteran team coming off consecutive Stanley Cup titles.

The compete level wasn’t high enough to start. Passes were off target. Goaltending was sketchy. Defense was downright offensive.

But in the previous game in Detroit, there were signs of familiarity. Little parts of Tampa Bay’s game that felt like it was on the verge of coming out of a brief summer hibernation.

On Saturday in Washington, the Lightning looked an awful lot like the Lightning. But after seeing two more players exit due to injury, it might mean a different look by the time they take the ice again on Tuesday.

{mprestriction ids=”1,2″}Facing a Washington team still showing they are a formidable force three years after wining a Stanley Cup, the Lightning need to bring their style of game to the ice inside the Capital One Arena. With Alex Ovechkin chasing NHL immortality and a championship pedigree up and down the roster, nothing like getting the taste of a high quality opponent to snap your game back to high levels.

And that’s exactly what took place as the Lightning look a lot more like a version of themselves in a fast-paced, tight-checking, intense matchup in which the Lightning dictated the pace of play for a good portion of the game. More importantly, they did not stray from the game plan when the reward for their play was not coming on the scoreboard.

All throughout the past two playoff runs that ended with the Lightning lifting the Cup, there was a phrase heard over and over from the coaching staff in media sessions and in the behind-the-scenes videos – process over outcome. While the obvious misnomer in that statement is that the outcome, the end result on the scoreboard dictates the truest measure of success.

But the true value in that mantra is that if you trust the process and you stick with that, it provides a much better opportunity to reach the desired outcome. 

Perhaps with everything that took place on Saturday, even if it was just the third game of the season, that was the best result that came out of what transpired. But the result, yeah, that was the bonus on top of the process, which is the reward for staying the course and sticking to the game plan.

“I liked a lot about our game,” Cooper said. “I thought to be down one nothing was a little bit of a disservice after two periods because I thought we had ample chances and it was just it was one of those games where it was the process that had to take over. I just told the guys don’t chase the game. We are totally fine. And that was it, we stuck with it.”

Through two periods, Tampa Bay had a significant advantage in scoring chances – 20-to-10 – and in high dangers chances, 11-to-1 – yet were down by a goal on the scoreboard when just after a Lightning power play chance ended without a shot on goal, a bit of a broken play ended with the puck on the stick of Ovechkin in the high slot with only Victor Hedman in front of him. Ovechkin, as he’s done now 733 times in his career, he put a shot around Hedman and through Andrei Vasilevskiy with 1:09 left in the second to grab the lead.

And only the quick reaction of Vasilevskiy prevented it from being 2-0 seconds later when Ovechkin put a shot off the post that caromed off Vasilevskiy and appeared to cross the goal line, which it was ruled on the ice. But video review showed that Vasilevskiy was able to stab back with his glove and clear it just before it completely crossed the line.

That proved key because Tampa Bay was finally rewarded for their play early in the third when Steven Stamkos fed a puck back to Mikhail Sergachev at the left point for a half-slapper on a one-timer that found the inside of the far post to tie the game 4:23 into the period.

“I haven’t scored in a while so, it felt like vintage me scoring one from the blue line like I did three years ago,” Sergachev said. “It felt great getting on the board and score one, so it was huge for me.”

Of course, the testing didn’t end there. One of the most dangerous power play units in the league had to glorious chances to take the lead and win the game. The first when Ondrej Palat was called for interference with 5:10 left in the game, but the penalty kill was up to the task not allowing the Capitals to seize uncontrollable momentum despite the six shot attempts and four scoring chances they generated.

Then, in overtime, Sergachev was whistled for cross checking – which has a lower level of tolerance for the officials this season – that gave Washington a full two minutes of a 4-on-3 power play opportunity. But the PK unit was up to the task once again, limiting the Capitals to two scoring chances.

“The big one was in overtime . . . well, let’s be honest that there was one with five minutes left,” Cooper said. “But you got to kill it off and then obviously the one in the overtime. Some big blocks, some big saves and then in the end we got rewarded for it.”

The reward came courtesy of Stamkos, who dug a puck out of the faceoff dot in the defensive zone in the final minute of overtime, raced up ice and reached the right circle in the offensive zone before zipping a puck over the pad and under the blocker of Vitek Vanecek with 14.2 seconds left for his ninth career overtime goal, tying Vinny Lecavalier for most in franchise history, one behind Marty St. Louis for the franchise record.

“I put my head down skated hard ,” Stamkos said. “I didn’t know exactly how much time was left, I knew it was probably the last rush of the game so I was going to shoot it, and it’s nice to see it go in.”

It was the result coming from the process.

“This is what we’re more accustomed to, it’s more our style of play,” Stamkos said. “I mean we can run-and-gun for sure, we’ve done that in the past but what’s made us successful the last couple of years is the ability to play in these types of games, in close games, rely on our good goaltending, rely on our special teams, rely on our solid five-on-five play. We saw a lot of that tonight.”

But there is genuine concern on the injury front after Nikita Kucherov left in the third period with an apparent groin/lower abdominal injury that left him hunched over and grabbing his left inner thigh area as he left the ice. In addition, defenseman Jan Rutta did not play after the second period.

Tampa Bay is already down defenseman Zach Bogosian, who is out 4-6 weeks, while Cal Foote remains sidelined for at least another week while still recovering from surgery before training camp to repair a ligament in his finger.

The primary concern is for Kucherov, who missed all of last season after undergoing hip surgery. The former league MVP has lead all players in playoff scoring the past two seasons and is one of the top offensive players in the game.

Cooper did not have a definitive update on either player after the game.

“I’m not a doctor . . . so I have no way to answer what’s going on with him,” Cooper said. “He’ll be evaluated when we get back. He’s a tough kid. So hopefully this isn’t too bad. … Let’s not hit any panic buttons yet. Let’s see what the evaluation is when we get back and go from there.”

Postgame notes: Stamkos has three consecutive multi-point games to open the season. … The two points by Stamkos move him within one point of tying Vinny Lecavalier for second most in franchise history. … Pierre-Edouard Bellemare picked up the assist on the game winning goal to record his first point with the Lightning. … Rookie Boris Katchouk made his NHL debut, logging 6:22 of ice time with two missed shots and one block. … D Ryan McDonagh left the game temporarily in the second period after the blade of Erik Cernak’s stick got caught under his visor. McDonagh missed nine minutes of game time. … Tampa Bay will have the day off on Sunday.

My three stars:

1. Lightning C Steven Stamkos – Game winning goal, assist, four shots, 58-percent on faceoffs

2. Lightning G Andrei Vasilevskiy – Stopped 32 shots, all 12 he faced in the third period

3. Capitals G Vitek Vanacek – Stopped 22 shots, was 6-for-6 in high danger chances against


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