The game was actually a lot closer than the final score seems to indicate.
Sure, that's said quite a bit in the NHL, but in reality, the Bolts found themselves chasing the play a bit in the first and second periods. They were thoroughly out-possessed and outshot for much of the evening while the score was close, and though the Carolina Hurricanes pressed to try and score and Tampa sat on a big lead, newest Tampa Bay goaltender Ben Bishop was up to the task, making 45 saves on 45 shots for a shutout victory in his first game as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Carolina dominated the first period and ended with the final eight shots of the period to finish with a 16-9 shot advantage.
Alex Semin actually did slip one behimd Ben Bishop in the first period, but he did so with a distinct kicking motion and the goal was correctly overturned.
The second period saw a better effort than the first and the Lightning generating more scoring chances on Dan Ellis. Just 28 seconds into the middle frame, Teddy Purcell, who has been playing his best hockey of the season since head coach Jon Cooper took over, was rewarded with his 8th goal of the season after Matt Carle made a nice play at the offensive blue line to keep the puck in and then wristed it off Dan Ellis' pads to an open Purcell to make it 1-0 Tampa Bay.
The Purcell line struck again to make things 2-0 following an icing call against Carolina. Tommy Pyatt won the offensive zone draw, sending the puck back to Eric Brewer at the point who fed Alex Killorn on the right circle. Killorn hesitated and fired a shot aimed for Pyatt's stick that deflected behind Dan Ellis to give the Bolts the two-goal lead.
Keith Aulie extended the lead to 3-0 after taking a harmless feed to the point from Steven Stamkos. Stamkos went to the net and screened Ellis as Aulie lifted a long wrister past Ellis to the back of the net to make it 3-0.
With the Carolina Hurricanes visibly deflated due to strong play with nothing to show for it, they started to press further up in the offensive zone and got caught cheating a bit in their own zone. Tampa Bay exploited poor coverage twice in the third to make the final score 5-0 off tic-tac-goals by Martin St. Louis and Benoit Pouliot.
Ben Bishop was calm and controlled in his crease all night in making 45 saves for the shutout victory. While Tampa Bay played a fairly typical game, giving up several high quality scoring chances in close and a handful of odd-man rushes, Bishop never panicked and used his size and positioning well to cut down angles and stop shots.
While both Bishop and Anders Lindback are lauded for their size, Bishop uses his differently, relying on a more deliberate, positioning-based technique. Lindback seems to prefer to use his reflexes and athleticism, which often makes him look awkward in net.
While Tampa Bay was once again dominated in puck possession, some of that can be chalked up to a strong first period for Carolina and then score effects in the final frame as the Bolts were sitting on a large lead with little need to force plays up ice.
Matt Carle arguably played his best game as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning. He finished the night at +10 Fenwick when most of the rest of the team was getting outshot heavily. Carle was smart in his own zone leading breakouts, pinched along the blueline with quick, smart decisions, and put pucks towards the net to create scoring chances, which is everything you want out of a top-4 puck-moving defenseman. Tonight, the Matt Carle from Philadelphia that Steve Yzerman paid big bucks for finally showed up.
Part of that can certainly be attirbuted to coaching, as by all accounts Guy Boucher's system was particularly difficult to master for defenseman, especially with own-zone passing and breakouts. Mistakes while trying to play Boucher's way often resulted in turnovers at the own blue-line and scoring chances against. Under Cooper, smarter, simpler plays are being made, and Carle's play in particular has improved tremendously.
The Lightning lost Victor Hedman to an undisclosed lower-body injury. He did not return to tonight's game and is listed as day-to-day. His status for the Lightning's next game — at the New York Islanders on Saturday — is unknown.
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