The indicator arrow on the Golden Knights’ gas tank floated almost empty on Saturday at the end of their exhausting four-game road trip. That’s a dangerous place to be against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions.
Despite running on fumes in the third period, the Knights had enough in reserve to go home on a high note.
Mark Stone scored in the seventh round of the shootout and followed with an emphatic celebration as the Knights defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 at the Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida.
“We knew at the start of the year that this (trip) was one we were looking forward to,” said Brett Howden, forward. “I thought we played a really good game. They had a big push in the third, but for us to come out on top on this road trip (is) a big statement for us.”
Howden and William Carrier each finished with a goal and an assist to help the Knights take five of their possible eight points from their swing through the Southeast with three of the NHL’s top four teams.
Nicolas Roy, Shea Theodore and William Karlsson were successful in their shootout attempts.
Goalkeeper Robin Lehner took a shutout in the third period before Lightning striker Ross Colton scored with 6:48 to go. Corey Perry equalized at 17:12 after a goalmouth scramble.
Tampa Bay had three power plays in the third period, beating the Knights 17-1. Evgenii Dadonov’s drive from 22 yards with a minute to go was the only shot the visitors registered, despite a handful of odd-man rush opportunities.
Brayden Point, Steven Stamkos and Colton scored in the shootout for the Lightning.
”Really proud of our group. That is quite a road trip for us”, says coach Pete DeBoer. “You play against good teams on the road like that, you get into the third period, they’re going to open it up to try and get back in the game. And the only thing I’d like to do better is make sure we put them away when they look at us like that.”
Here are three takeaways from the game:
1. Depth Scores Continue
Howden returned to the lineup after making a healthy scratch against Florida and continued his revenge tour when he opened the scoring at 5:25 of the first period after goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevskiy left a rare rebound.
The Lightning’s 2016 first round roster has six goals this season, half of them against its former teams (Tampa Bay and the New York Rangers). Howden has goals in two consecutive appearances and points in three straight.
Carrier gave the Knights a 2-0 lead with 5:04 remaining in the second period, while fourth line outmaneuvered Tampa Bay and his shot bounced off a Lightning defender.
The Knights’ fourth line produced five of the seven goals scored during the trip.
“We’re trying to be an energy line,” Howden said. “The way we work, the fights we have in the corner, we come out with pucks and go hard to the net.”
2. Goalkeeper duel
Lehner praised Vasilevskiy and called him “without a doubt” the best goalkeeper in the league for the past five years. But he went on to battle the Lightning’s All-Star, finishing 27 stops for the ninth win in his last 13 decisions (9-3-1).
Lehner made his first start against Tampa Bay since November 8, 2018, turning Steven Stamkos away twice in the second period. He stopped Colton on a break early in the second period and denied Mikhail Sergachev late in extra time.
Before the trip, Lehner went 2-1 with an average of 1.30 goals conceded and a save rate of 0.957. He also improved to 3-1 in shootouts this season.
“It was pretty fun,” Lehner said. “They had some nice goals (in the shootout), and the guys stepped up and scored a bunch for me.”
3. COVID strikes again
The Knights were left without two players for the final of their journey.
Center Chandler Stephenson, the team’s top scorer, and defender Dylan Coghlan were unavailable due to COVID-19 protocol, the team announced. It was the second game Stephenson has missed this season.
The Knights won’t play again until Tuesday when they receive Buffalo.
With Stephenson out of the lineup, center Nolan Patrick was handed the keys to frontline after his recent hot streak. Patrick finished with one shot on target and went 10-5 on face-offs, but missed his try in the shootout.
Contact David Schoen at email@example.com or 702-387-5203. To follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.