Tampa Bay brings the special effects on Star Wars Night
On Saturday night in front of a packed and raucous Amalie Arena crowd, the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Colorado Avalanche 7-1 in a game that was never in doubt.
It was Star Wars Night at Amalie, and that wasn’t the only reason fans came in looking for a bit of a laser light show. Colorado came into Tampa as a team known for lightning the lamp, much like the Lightning themselves. The Avalanche led the Western Conference in goals per game, good for second in the NHL overall only behind Tampa Bay.
Led by left wing Mikko Ratanen, who came into Saturday the NHL leader in points, with centerman Nathan MacKinnon second on both the team and in the league, a powerful top line that has the Avalanche competing on the highest level. Colorado came in tied for first in the strong Central division out west with the Nashville Predators.
Tampa Bay got the scoring started early in the first, with Steven Stamkos scoring a signature power play goal from the left faceoff dot, his specialty, just 3:05 into the hockey game to give the Bolts the early lead. While the two teams had similar statlines coming into the game, the Lightning made sure early on that it would not have the feeling of a meeting of equals. Tampa Bay controlled the puck throughout the first, with Stamkos adding a second goal off a near uncontensted breakaway, and Tyler Johnson adding a rebound goal. Colorado did get one back, with MacKinnon narrowing the gap on a quick shot between the legs of Louis Domingue.
The second period was more of the same, with the Lightning starting to pile it on as Alex Killorn, Ondrej Palat, and Anthony Cirelli all notched goals to extend the lead to 6-1. After the fifth goal, the first from Palat, goalie Seymon Varlamov headed back to the bench, chased and replaced by Philipp Grubauer. This did not stop the Lightning from adding to their tally, notching Cirelli’s goal and a second from Palat to extend the lead to 7-1.
The win was Tampa Bay’s sixth straight. They have won nine of their last ten, including the last two against a Boston team that had their number last regular season and an Avalanche team among the top in the Western Conference.
Vasilevskiy up and skating again
It was a very good sign for Tampa Bay on Saturday when Andrei Vasilevskiy spent some time on the ice during morning skate, an indication his fractured foot is healing as expected. The Bolts should look to get their top goaltender back close to the new year if not just before the end of 2018.
Up next for Bolts
The Lightning continue their four game homestand on Monday night as the New York Rangers come into town. The Rangers are entering a period of transition after a number of years of contending, with first year NHL coach David Quinn fielding a young roster around Henrik Lundqvist.
While the times in Madison Square Garden are changing, Quinn’s squad is still competitive in the wide-open Metropolitan division, with their 29 points entering Saturday night’s game in Sunrise against the Panthers good for a virtual tie with the crosstown rival Islanders and the perennial contender Pittsburgh Penguins. Thus far the Rangers have been a bit of a streaky team, winning games in bunches and losing multiple in a row for a roller coaster of a season. They come into Amalie Arena Monday a bit cold, having lost their previous three games before Saturday night’s narrow shootout victory in Sunrise.