Tampa Bay needed but four defensemen on Tuesday night to stifle the LA Kings and win 6-4. Six weren’t enough to defeat the Ducks on Friday, though they once again let in just four goals (plus an empty netter). The game featured the return of Corey Perry to Anaheim, his first game since he left the Ducks. In between, he was with Dallas, but he was suspended when the Stars visited Anaheim. Even he wasn’t enough to pull Tampa Bay to the win.
The Ducks played a stronger game in all aspects than Tampa Bay. Early on, they were way ahead in shots, for example holding a 7-2 advantage with half of period one over, and a 26-13 lead with the game at its halfway point.
The Ducks, by the way, were playing without their coach, Dallas Eakins, behind the bench. He is in Covid protocol. Mike Stothers was in his place. He has plenty of head coaching experience in the OHL, WHL, and AHL, though none at the NHL level before this. As a player, he got into 30 NHL games, with no goals and two assists.
Also missing on the night was Troy Terry, along with Josh Manson and Cam Fowler. Some less-familiar names on the Anaheim roster included Buddy Robinson and Grey Pateryn.
Defending the Anaheim net was John Gibson, back for his second game since he was in Covid isolation. He faced 33 shots and got all but one. With the early disparity of shots in favor of Anaheim, he faced some good tests. Early on, with a power play just over, he stopped one with an arm that had been launched by Kucherov. In the same early period, he stopped one right off a face off on a puck that went Hedman to Stamkos and was arm saved again. More great saves were to follow, detailed below.
The Ducks exited period one with a 2-0 advantage on goals by Derek Grant and former Lightning player Kevin Shattenkirk. That second goal happened with 6.5 seconds left on the clock.
Period two saw the Ducks add a goal to their lead, Grant again. This was punctuated by masterful work by John Gibson, such as a backhand chance by Colton at the left side of the net that Gibson stretched over to get. Grant nearly got is hat trick goal with about six minutes left in the second on a rush with Jamie Drysdale that went wide to the left side.
Play in the second period was punctuated by minor penalties, totaling three each for six minutes, none coincidental. Anaheim’s third goal was the only one that was credited as a PPG for all of that.
The Ducks opened the lead to 4-0 when Vinny Letieri got one low on the blocker side that eluded Vasilevskiy. Not the best goal of all time, but there was a defenseman in the way. At this state, the Lightning had closed the shots to 29-23, Anaheim’s favor.
Tampa Bay got one back after John Gibson made a fantastic save after Kucherov fed Point, who broke through on the net and got a puck behind John Gibson, who put an arm out behind him to take it off the goal line. The goal came on the ensuing play, the Lightning passing the puck all around the zone and Colton scoring on a one-timer. A power play had just ended.
The march to the penalty box continued, and on that next PP, Stamkos hammered a one-timer from Kucherov and Gibson got over with a blocker save that was way more spectacular than that sounds. He had to dive over to get the glove out. He did it yet again, again on Stamkos, with a big sweeping glove save and a nearly full splits with ten minutes to go. The shots were within one by this stage, 32-31 in Anaheim’s favor. The score could easily have been tied at four goals rather than having the Ducks up by three, 4-1.
Obviously penalties and power plays were a big factor. The Ducks took yet another, and with 7:45 left and trailing 4-1, Tampa Bay pulled their goalie. Nick DesLauriers took advantage, poking a puck free to center and beating a guy to shoot it from center and in.
The game’s sin bin stayed full, as the Ducks took another penalty, and then with a few seconds left, Robinson fought Foote after the latter initiated with a cross-check. This was pay off for an earlier hit.
The stats at the end, aside from the shots, showed the Lightning winning the face offs at 56%. They were 0/7 on the PP, while the Ducks were 1/5. Hits and blocks were about even.
Gibson said after the game that Hampus Lindholm had made a huge difference with other key defensemen out of the lineup, though, “We got key contributions from everyone.” He added, “Whatever lineup we go in with we go in with, but we play with confidence either way.”
When asked about playing Vasilevskiy, Gibson said, “I always want to play a good game, no matter who I’m playing against. I’m worried about just winning hockey games.”
The Lightning go upstate (actually nobody says that here) to play San Jose tomorrow night. The Ducks are out on a five-game road trip starting Monday in Boston.
Brian Kennedy is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association