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Kucherov Ends His Scoring Drought, Bolts Handle Canucks 5-2 In Return Home
By Tyler Santana
The Bolts came into this matchup against Vancouver playing on home ice for the first time after an 8-game road trip looking to get back on track with their play. Coach Jon Cooper shook up the lines a bit to try and jump start the team, pairing Gourde-Stamkos-Johnson on the first line and Killorn-Point-Kucherov on the second. Winger Adam Erne was called up as well and played in his first game of the season. The Bolts played fast, skilled, and angry, dominating Vancouver most of the game, especially the 2nd period, and taking a 5-2 victory.
Unlike many Bolts games this year in which faceoffs were few and far between, this game saw many stoppages early. This meant we didn’t get to see a lot of these new forward lines coach John Cooper crafted. Vancouver earned the first powerplay about 6 and a half minutes into the game on a Johnson penalty, but Andrei Vasilevskiy made some very good saves and the penalty kill kept the Canucks from getting established in the zone. Then the Bolts started to kick it up a notch on offense, firing a lot of rubber to the Canucks net, but none of them quite beating Anders Nilsson. Then, with 5:24 left in the 1st period, Nikita Kucherov potted a backhander in the net and it seemed like a million pounds came off his shoulders as he broke his 11-game goalless streak and cellyed accordingly. The Bolts continued to pile it on the rest of the period with relentless skating and offense, seeing only a few Vancouver shot attempts. The Canucks took a holding penalty with 10 seconds left in the period and after one last shot by Vladislav Namestnikov, the Bolts ended the period with a 1-0 lead.
Shots 11-10 Tampa
Score 1-0 Tampa
The Lightning powerplay came out firing against the Canucks, who had two defensemen leave in the first period with injury, leaving Vancouver only 4. Yanni Gourde capitalized as he typically does, he parked in front and jammed in a rebound for goal number 20 on the season. The Lightning kept their foot on the gas, and Andrei Vasilevskiy made a fantastic save on Sedin and another on Jake Virtanen. Chris Tanev returned to the game for the Canucks just to see Markus Granlund injured on that play. The Bolts appeared to lay off the gas a bit as they allowed more Vancouver pressure and shots. This was all solved as Vancouver took a bad penalty and put the Bolts right back on the powerplay. While the powerplay didn’t generate a goal, it saw a lot of action, including a 2 on 1 for Vancouver which was nullified by Nikita Kucherov racing back and deflecting the pass away from the open Canuck. A big thing I noticed in this game that maybe I was not paying attention to as much as I should have been was the passing of goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. He made several long breakout passes on the tape and seemed a lot more confident handling the puck. I dare say he looked Ben Bishop like. The Bolts kept pressing down on Vancouver, never letting them get comfortable, and Adam Erne, playing in his first game of the season after tearing it up with Syracuse, buried a one-time shot with 6:20 left in the period. The Bolts just simply looked like a better team maybe a little angry after what happened in Edmonton, trying to show Vancouver they didn’t belong in the same arena, they weren’t even worthy of being in the same league as Tampa. This is how they should always play, angry, looking to embarrass their opponent. If they are the class of the NHL, they need to prove it night in and night out. The new line combos payed off again late in the period, Yanni Gourde was a pit-bull down low, spun it to Tyler Johnson in front of the net, who fed the Captain Steven Stamkos, who proceeded to absolutely rip it past Nilsson to give the Bolts a 4-0 lead. After a great shift in the offensive zone with several big chances for Kucherov, the horn signaled the end of the Bolts best period of hockey in a while.
Shots 28-19 Tampa
Score 4-0 Tampa
The Bolts kicked the period off with the same fire they had played the second with, playing with speed and attacking Vancouver. Vasilevskiy had to make a dew more saves including a nice blocker save on a Bo Horvat break away. Dan Girardi got tagged with a high sticking call and draws blood, putting the Bolts back on the kill. Brock Boeser fired a puck on net that hit Sustr’s stick and beat Vasilevskiy, who was in position but had no chance on the deflection. The Bolts were able to kill the second half of the double minor still leading 4-1. Vancouver picked up some momentum from the goal, as Sven Baertschi potted a pass to the slot to make it 4-2. The Bolts pushed back, and Anton Stralman caught the post clean, leaving the score 4-2. Then Vancouver took a hooking call to put the Bolts back on the powerplay with a chance to put the game to bed, and they capitalized. Victor Hedman, the Swedish Chef of this powerplay, cooked up a sweet one-time goal from the point to make it 5-2 Tampa. The game wound to a close and the Bolts closed the game down 5-2.
Shots 36-29 Tampa
Final Score 5-2 Bolts Victory
1st Star: Victor Hedman (1G, 1A)
2nd Star: Steven Stamkos (1G, 1A)
3rd Star: Adam Erne (GWG)
The Bolts will take on the LA Kings in Tampa on Saturday the 10th, with a special pre-game jersey retirement for Vincent Lecavalier.