Paul’s Late Goal Lifts Lightning Over Vegas

by | Dec 24, 2023

Paul’s Late Goal Lifts Lightning Over Vegas

by | Dec 24, 2023

TAMPA – After the Tampa Bay Lightning connected with goals four times in the second period, Vegas winger Jonathan Marchessault connected on a power play goal, and then center Paul Cotter tied the score at 4-4 at the 9:44 mark of the third period.

Finding ways to win and bouncing back have been key nuances of the growth of the demeanor of the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey since coach Jon Cooper took over the squad in late March of 2013.

After the rebound by the Golden Knights, enter Tampa Bay winger Nick Paul.

He took a deflection off a Brayden Point shot at the bottom of the left circle and drove a deep shot past Vegas goalie Jiri Patera on the right side to give the Lightning a 5-4 lead at 18:47 in the third period.

Point skated into the right circle with the puck and Patera made the stop before Paul could give the Lightning the win.

“It started with ‘Heddy’ (Victor Hedman) winning a battle going up the wall there and threw it to the right guy,” explained Paul. “He had lots of speed there. I beat the guy and saw the guy going to the net and I figured this late in the game, he was going in there.”

Paul consulted the art of geometry in hockey as he mentioned the angles that the game-winning goal was made from.

“The angle he shot it on, I was gonna go wide,” said Paul. “I went wide there and it ended up on the stick. Take those along the ice all day.”

The win pushed the Lightning into a 16-13-5 record with two wins in a row and also the ability to take the win when the momentum shifted back to the Knights in the third period.

The Vancouver Canucks and the Golden Knights continue to possess the most points in the league as they are tied with 47.

“We were comfortable in the game,” said Cooper. “On the bench, it was like, ‘the game’s tied; we aren’t behind.’ So it was disappointing to give up the lead.”

Marchessault scored on a power play goal to cut the lead to 4-3 at 5:31 in the third. The biggest question was an unsportsmanlike conduct call on Nikita Kucherov that set the Golden Knights up with the momentum shift.

“Probably an uncharacteristic call by the ref,” noted Cooper. “We needed to kill it off and we didn’t. You get leads for a reason so you don’t have to come back, so if you get pushed a bit, you get pushed for a reason.”

The Lightning were in disbelief of the call on Kucherov and looking back, how it changed the flow of the game.

“Literally, like four words said and none of them were profanities or anything,” said Cooper. “Unfortunately, it went against us but we got through it.”

Center Brayden Point followed goals by Alex Barré-Boulet and Kucherov with his 15th and 16th markers of the season as the Lightning tabulated four goals in a 10:25 stint in that second period for a 4-2 advantage.

As the Lightning were in a struggle, Brandon Hagel picked up a five-minute major for fighting and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty at 12:44 in the second.

Hagel flipped that elusive momentum to the Lightning, who trailed 2-1 at that point and received the push from Hagel’s toughness.

“‘Hags’ fight lifted us up and BP then scores and like we talked, (we were) around the net with point shots and P.P. took over,” Cooper commented. “Everything started going our way in large part because ‘Hags’ pulled us out.”

Paul’s game-winning goal renewed recent memories for the Lightning in being able to score in the clutch and play make under pressure.

“We have gone around this league year after year after year with a bullseye on our back whether a finalist, a Stanley Cup Champion, or measuring stick games,” said Cooper.  “We have been on the side where everybody is measuring against us. Now maybe the table has turned a bit because Vegas is the reigning champs.”

Cooper felt the meaning of the game picked up with the early deficit; then, the four-goal second period before Paul answered the two late Golden Knights goals with the game-winner.

“It went from a Game 33 to a playoff game atmosphere,” explained Cooper. “You look at our team and you want your guys to show emotions and that’s what ‘Hags’ brought in the fight tonight.”

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