Goal Box

MATTHEW PECA, LIGHTNING — FIRST NHL GOAL

2017-04-25T19:37:45+00:00 April 25th, 2017|Exclude From Main Feed, Featured Goal Box, Goal Box|

MATTHEW PECA, Lightning
FIRST NHL GOAL

Seventh-round draft picks, should they make it to the NHL at all, often have to kick around the bus leagues for several years before getting rewarded for their commitment with that coveted call-up. But Matthew Peca of the Lightning made it to the show just a year-and-a-half out of Quinnipiac University.

Peca became the first product of the southern Connecticut school to score in the NHL. It took him just four games to register his first goal — though it was the only one he would score in his ten games for Tampa Bay during the 2016-17 season.

It was pretty much a do-it-yourself goal for Peca, who collected an indirect pass off the boards from teammate Vladislav Namesnikov as he crossed the Winnipeg blue line.

From there, it was a simple burst to the faceoff dot and a quick release of a snap shot that beat goaltender Connor Hellebuyck cleanly and tied the game 1-1 in the second period.

Following the goal, Peca glided behind the net and pushed both hands down and lifted one leg up in a restrained display of emotion. The embrace from his teammates was unremarkable, though Namestnikov appeared pleased with the outcome, and the trip past the bench revealed little emotion beyond the ordinary.

1/3/2017 vs. Winnipeg

NIKITA KUCHEROV, LIGHTNING — MILESTONE

2017-03-19T22:40:59+00:00 March 19th, 2017|Exclude From Main Feed, Goal Box|

NIKITA KUCHEROV, Lightning
MILESTONE
  • Wrist Shot
  • Right Circle (Lower, Inside Dot)
  • Rebound
  • Power Play
  • First Period

Where would the Lightning be without Nikita Kucherov this year is an unavoidable question. Certainly not on the edge of qualifying for the playoffs. Though Steven Stamkos has missed the majority of the season, injuries have not been Tampa Bay’s ruination as in the past. A surprising lack of potency from their forwards provides most of the explanation.

Kucherov, however, has been brilliant. And last night he notched his 100th career goal in his third full season in the league while still just 23 years of age. Even with his 15 power play goals, Kucherov stands at plus-12 for the year. In addition to being tied for the NHL lead in power play goals, he’s also even with Max Pacioretty for most goals scored on wrist shots.

He got one of each on his 100th NHL goal last night against the Capitals.

Kucherov put home a rebound while sinking to one knee from the inside half of the lower right circle to achieve his milestone goal. Scoring from the circles has been his stock in trade this year, with 18 of his 31 non-empty net goals coming from there.

Later in the game Kucherov would get started on his next hundred when he scored after Tampa Bay had pulled their goalie for an extra skater. Even here, Kucherov has excelled, claiming a share of the league lead for goals scored with the goalie on the bench at the end of the game.

Chances are Kucherov won’t get a lot of consideration for the Hart Trophy, with the Lightning being on the outskirts of the playoff picture all year. But it’s difficult to imagine how any player has been more valuable to a contending team this season

3/18/2017 vs. Washington.
Highlight available at NHL.com.

YANNI GOURDE, LIGHTNING — FIRST NHL GOAL

2017-03-12T20:30:53+00:00 March 12th, 2017|Goal Box|

YANNI GOURDE, Lightning
FIRST NHL GOAL

Yanni Gourde of the Lightning went undrafted in spite of being named the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s MVP after leading the league in scoring in 2011-12. He was a little long in the tooth when he captured the junior scoring title at 21, which perhaps accounts for his being overlooked. Also affecting Gourde’s odds of getting drafted is his size. Gourde is 5’9″ and a touch under 170 pounds.

But “diminutive” is the last word that would come to mind if his first NHL goal last night against the Panthers was your introduction to Gourde.

On ice to kill a penalty, Gourde executed a brilliant poke check at the blue line as Florida’s Vinnie Trochek tried to carry the puck into the Tampa Bay zone. With no one back for the Panthers, a colossal two-zone battle ensued between pickpocket and aggrieved party.

To the red line they went, virtually joined at the hip as Gourde controlled the puck. Into the Panthers zone and Gourde had gained enough of a step that Trochek elected to two-hand whack him across his midsection to try to knock the puck off Gourde’s stick. No dice.

But Trochek fought mightily to prevent Gourde from escaping with what he believed was his. As they hit the middle of the slot — still locked up with each other — Trochek lifted Gourde’s stick with excellent technique. Surely the puck would now just dribble harmlessly to goaltender Kevin Riemer.

Just as surely, Gourde wasn’t about to give up a shot at his first NHL goal without a fight of his own. This was turning into Quint vs. Bruce the Shark on ice.

For a moment, both their sticks were raised high following Trochek’s deft maneuver. But Gourde managed to snap his down in time to collect the puck just as both were closing in on Riemer. With the Panthers goaltender on his knees expecting the puck to roll to him, Gourde managed to slip it just under his stick and between his pads.

Gourde zoomed right to the corner with a snarl on his face that rather resembled a panther’s — take that Trochek! — and slapped both hands against the glass. He soon found himself falling backward into a bear hug admistered by teammate Ondrej Palat.

The Lightning have been strangely without Bolts this season. For a night anyway, their prospects look as good as Gourde.

Gourde’s goal begins at the 50-second mark of this clip.

3/11/2017 vs. Florida

ADAM ERNE — FIRST NHL GOAL

2017-03-04T19:26:15+00:00 March 4th, 2017|Exclude From Main Feed, Goal Box|

ADAM ERNE, Lightning
FIRST NHL GOAL
  • Wrist Shot
  • Slot
  • Second Period

The Lightning, much to their surprise and to those who follow the game closely, are on the outside looking in on this season’s playoff chase.

Recognizing that the sum of the parts with the current group might surpass the whole, Tampa Bay has for the first time in a long time decided to shake up their roster a bit. Ben Bishop, Valtteri Filppula, and Brian Boyle were traded. This created an opportunity for some fresh blood to crack one of the NHL’s most tightly-sealed rosters.

Second-round draft pick Adam Erne from the 2013 entry draft is one of those called up for a look. And with the Lightning still having a shot at the postseason he scored the opening goal in a crucial game against Pittsburgh last night.

Though Erne delivered the goal with flair, it was one which had he not converted might have earned him a ticket back to the minors.

Vladislav Namestnikov fed Erne the puck in the low slot, with the nearest Penguin halfway to Youngstown. But Erne wasted no time, sweeping in a one-timer past Pittsburgh goaltender Matt Murray with precision.

Immediately after the puck rustled the twine, Erne celebrated with a touchdown dance. No, not like that. Just a spirited extension of both arms high into the air. He drifted into the corner boards in that posture and was given a mostly subdued series of congratulatory greetings by his Tampa teammates on the ice. The bench was businesslike too.

Celebrations have not come frequently to the Lightning this year, and with 54 minutes remaining in Pittsburgh to protect a lead, they kept their emotions mainly in check.

3/3/2017 vs. Pittsburgh.
Highlight available at NHL.com.

TYLER JOHNSON — BEST IN CLASS (CAROM OFF OWN SKATE OR BODY)

2017-03-02T23:03:36+00:00 March 2nd, 2017|Exclude From Main Feed, Goal Box|

TYLER JOHNSON, Lightning
BEST IN CLASS — CAROM OFF OWN SKATE OR BODY
  • Carom (Own Skate or Body)
  • Slot
  • Third Period

The tic and the tac of this scoring play by the Lightning was rather routine, but the toe was extraordinary.

There was an effective cross ice pass from one point to the other by Ondrej Palat once Tampa Bay had crossed the Hurricanes blue line. It enabled Jake Dotchin to fire a shot from the right point with Tyler Johnson poised for a deflection in front of the net.

But the puck was coming at Johnson’s mid-section, where it would difficult to position his stick for a tip-in.

So he tried to make way for the slap shot by leaping out of its way. And he almost succeeded. And in failing he achieved the greatest possible success.

With his right leg fully airborne and bent at the knee, the puck struck Johnson’s lower extremity, which by this time was about waist high.

The puck skimmed the toe of Johnson’s skate and headed straight down while Carolina goalie Eddie Lack looked ahead into the space the puck had vanished from.

One bounce later it was in the net and Johnson’s season had an unusual footnote to it.

3/1/2017 vs. Carolina.
Highlight available at NHL.com.

NIKITA KUCHEROV, LIGHTNING — HUMAN HAT TRICK RACK

2017-02-28T13:42:10+00:00 February 28th, 2017|Goal Box|

NIKITA KUCHEROV, Lightning
HUMAN HAT TREE RACK

Nikita Kucherov of the Lighnting came into last night’s game with exactly one goal scored on a slap shot this season. His performance on one-timers wasn’t much more impressive: two.

At the conclusion of a span of a little more than 14 minutes in the second period, the Ottawa Senators had to wonder whether they were being sand-bagged.

The scouting reports were good. Kucherov could be left to wander in the middle of the right circle on a Tampa Bay power play. Should he get the puck there, close quickly.

Three bolts later and the scouting report was well on its way to being in embers.

During three second period power plays, Kucherov scored three goals. All on slap shots. All on one-timers. And all from a radius on the ice not much wider than an apple pie.

It was either a stunning display of Kucherov’s skill set or of the Senators’ obstinance, but one thing is certain: The Tampa faithful had a hat toss contest on their hands. Closest to the right circle faceoff dot wins.

2/27/2017 vs. Ottawa

TYLER JOHNSON — GOOGLE 360 ON DROUIN’S HELMET?

2017-02-13T16:42:28+00:00 January 17th, 2017|Exclude From Main Feed, Goal Box|

TYLER JOHNSON, Lightning
GOOGLE 360 ON DROUIN’S HELMET?
  • Wrist Shot
  • One-Timer
  • Slot
  • Second Period
Jonathan Drouin of the Lightning is a singular talent. The seeming ease with which he executes difficult moves with the puck makes him a threat to score every time it’s on his stick. It’s as if he has eyes in the back of his head — or maybe just Google 360 on top of it.

He doesn’t score this goal against the Kings — Tyler Johnson does — but it’s Drouin’s effort, which at times borders on hockey anarchy, that makes it possible for Johnson to cash in.

Three Kings and two Lightning players are deep in the corner of the Los Angeles end. One of them is Drouin, who ultimately gains control of the puck. His awareness that two of his teammates are down there with him activates the sense that the best thing to do at the moment is buy time. But you can’t do that in the NHL by standing in one spot with the puck in a 5-on-5 situation.

So he skates it back to the blue line, while being checked tightly by Tanner Pearson. What’s he doing? The point is already being occupied by Lightning defenseman Jake Witkowski. A clearly befuddled Witkowski separates from him laterally and the Drouin does his thing. He slams on the brakes, shakes Pearson and heads right back toward the corner with the puck.

Given some room to operate, Drouin looks cross-ice when he hits the right circle. Standing all by his lonesome just inside the bottom of the left circle is Johnson, who has his stick cocked and ready to fire. Drouin is able to slide a soft pass right across the slot diagonally to Johnson, as the Kings defense by this point is in total disarray and Johnson slams it home, uncontested by defenders and goalie alike.

1/16/2017 vs. Los Angeles.
Highlight available at NHL.com.