Lightning Score Quickly and Often at Kings

The Lightning scored four goals in 2:02 during the first period

Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov, of Russia, scores past Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker)

All three members of the Tampa Bay front line scored, Peter Budaj had 22 saves, and the Lightning took 43 shots as the Tampa Bay Lightning took their second win in two nights, beating the Los Angeles Kings 5-2 on Thursday night.

The Lightning were ready early. After waiting out some pressure from the Kings, Peter Budaj turned away a shot taken nearly behind him. That led to a breakaway for Nikita Kucherov, who buried a goal to put the Lightning ahead. Shortly after that, a textbook centering pass found Alex Killorn, who put it past Jonathan Quick for the Lightning’s second goal. After a goal by Victor Hedman, the Lightning were ahead 3-0 just 10:15 into the game.

That Hedman goal was challenged by the Kings, resulting in a Tampa Bay power play. On that power play, Alex Killorn found Steven Stamkos open for a shot, and Stamkos scored his eighth goal of the season for his thirtieth point of the year to put the Bolts ahead 4-0 in 11:29 of hockey. It was the kind of display that showed why the Lightning are among the early favorites in the NHL: They’re difficult to keep off of the scoring sheet.

Budaj had a strong opening period as well. For all the Lightning’s scoring, the Kings had their fair share of shots on goal. Budaj was up to the task, turning Los Angeles away. Throughout the course of a long season, that second goaltender can prove particularly important. If teams don’t have to sweat too much when they play on back to back nights, it makes the 82 game schedule a lot easier. So then, the better Peter Budaj plays in net, the more comfortable Andrei Vasilevskiy can be throughout a long hockey season. Budaj would end up with 22 saves on the night, some of them highlight reel material. He played well enough that performances like that moving forward could be great for Andrei Vasilevskiy’s workload.

Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Peter Budaj blocks a shot by Los Angeles Kings defenseman Alec Martinez (27) as left wing Yanni Gourde (37) defends during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker)

Nine players had points for the Lightning in the first, and a hot start like that can make the second game in two days a lot more comfortable for a hockey team on the road and across the country.

The rest of the game, for the Lightning, was largely about preserving the lead they had built in the first period. They couldn’t preserve the shutout in the second period, as Tyler Toffoli scored for the Kings to get Los Angeles on the board.

Close to the midway point of the final period, the Kings narrowed the lead to just two as Oscar Fantenberg scored to make it 4-2. Just over four minutes later, Vladislav Namestnikov scored for the Lightning to make the score 5-2 and all but finish off the victory.

The game showed the Lightning are capable of spending most of the game in their offensive zone. For all the Tampa Bay scoring prowess to this point in the season, they have tended to score quickly and not put a lot of prolonged pressure on the opposing goalie. Not so on Thursday night, as the Lightning were able to take over forty shots while holding the puck for most of the game. It proved an effective strategy, as Los Angeles fell behind early and never had much of a chance to come back.

Nikita Kucherov had three points for the second night in a row, getting assists on the Stamkos goal in the first period and the Namestnikov goal in the third. Steven Stamkos had two points of his own, a goal and an assist on the Kucherov goal. Another stellar night for that Stamkos-Kucherov-Namestnikov line that has been among the best in the league from the season’s opening faceoff.

Credit is also due to how the Lightning did not get dragged into a fight in the second period. The Kings took four penalties in the second, clearly frustrated with how the game was going. An immature team falls into the trap of fighting back and could change the game in doing so. The Lightning were not that team, using their power play opportunities to keep the puck away from LA and run time off the clock with a big lead. That presence of mind is admirable on any night, let alone the second night of a back-to-back set in California. Another positive sign for a team with championship aspirations.

The Lightning’s California road trip finishes up on Sunday night, as the Lightning head to Anaheim to take on the Ducks. Anaheim took a win from Tampa Bay on their trip to Amalie Arena on October 28, so the Bolts will be playing to avoid the sweep in the home-and-home series that are the NHL’s interconference matchups.

Tim Williams has been covering sports since his days as a student at Northeastern University covering events such as the Beanpot. In the thirteen years since, he has covered college hockey, the NFL, Major League Baseball, the PGA Tour, and the National Hockey League. A native of the Tampa Bay area, Tim has returned home after living much of his life in the northeast, including sixteen years in the Boston area. These days the Managing Editor of Sports Talk Florida can be found on Florida's golf courses when he's not working.