TAMPA, FL. – After killing off all four power plays during Thursday night’s 4-2 win over Vancouver at Amalie Arena, the Lightning have successfully killed the last 19 man advantage situations over the course of the last six home games.
Overall, the Bolts’ PK has not allowed a goal in 15 of the 16 last chances over the last five games. The only power play goal allowed in that stretch was in a 6-1 win at Buffalo and was scored when the Lightning had a 5-0 lead.
The fine work by the penalty kill units, backstopped by some 10-bell saves courtesy Andrei Vasilevskiy, has mightily contributed to the Lightning winning four of their last five games.
“We have been aggressive, our timing has been better, and we have had some good bounces,” said Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, following Thursday night’s game. “Obviously, our best player has been our goalie and that’s kind of what you want. (Opposing power play units) are going to get their chances, but you don’t want to give them the Grade-A (opportunities).”
From a timing standpoint, some penalty kills potentially carry more weight than others. With the Lightning leading 2-1 with five seconds remaining in the first period of Thursday night’s game, Brayden Point tangled with the Canucks’ Conor Garland and was given a double minor for roughing to Garland’s two minutes. That meant a fresh sheet of ice for Vancouver’s power play to open the second period with a chance to tie the game. The Lightning succeeded in killing it off.
“If they get a goal in the first minute, they are feeling good about themselves and they have momentum,” said Bellemare. “If you kill those two minutes, suddenly our guys are going to be buzzing. On the bench, everybody is happy with the kill, so it’s a momentum swing. That’s kind of the most important part of the game that you want to keep all of the time. It’s tough to keep momentum, but those moments are crucial, at the beginning of a period or at the end of a period.”
The second period remained scoreless and the Lightning got what proved to be the game-winning goal when Boris Katchouk finished off a pretty give-and-go with Ross Colton at 11:24 of the third period for a 3-1 lead.
Thursday night was Nikita Kucherov’s fourth game in the lineup since missing 32 matches due to a lower-body injury. The wing had a pair of assists, giving him three multi-point efforts in the four games during which he 3-4-7. The three goals since his return came in the form of a hat trick at Buffalo on Tuesday night, the fourth hat trick of his star-studded career.
“We all know how good he is,” said Steven Stamkos, following the matchup with the Sabres. “We see it every day. You give him time and space, that’s what he’s going to do. That’s why he is one of the best in the world.”
Stamkos is certainly one of the best in the world, though it will come down to a fan vote to determine if he will be part of all-star festivities in Las Vegas on the first weekend of February.
Stamkos, whose 45 points (18-27) are sixth in the NHL entering play Friday, was not among 11 Atlantic Division players selected to participate. Teammates Victor Hedman and Andrei Vasilevskiy were selected, so it is not as though the Lightning are not well represented for the three-on-three division-based format.
The 31-year-old center can still make his way to Vegas through the league’s “Last Men In” ballot, which will be live through Monday.
Stammer and the Lightning host Dallas on Saturday night (7 p.m.) before embarking on a three-game trip to the Golden State that begins Tuesday in Los Angeles and will also take them to Anaheim and San Jose.
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