TAMPA BAY, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – “To score or not to score, that is the question.”
Okay, so it’s a digression from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but the Tampa Bay Lightning need a huge stop or maybe a huge momentum booster to kick-start what has been a tough 4-3-1 start out of the blocks in the 2019-20 season.
Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy put a glove on Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang’s wrister as time ran out in regulation for a game-winning stop as Tampa Bay survived an ostentatious Penguins forecheck on the final shift of the game in securing a 3-2 win at Amalie Arena on Wednesday evening.
There was some question whether the puck crossed the line as the clock struck zero at the end of regulation. The officials ruled that it never crossed the line, which prompted a five-minute review–which seemed like five hours–out of the NHL’s command center in Toronto.
When referee Tim Peel came back to the ice, the eerily quiet arena broke into cheers as the ruling was confirmed and Vasilevskiy once again escaped with another major effort in a highly dramatic win.
The anticipation of the length of the review seemed like it eclipsed the lengthy two hours and 40 minutes that it took to play the entire three periods as all of the replay angles were inconclusive.
“You guys are all still here?” quipped Lightning coach John Cooper. “Just imagine if the puck crossed the line. They couldn’t tell with HD cameras, so I couldn’t tell from the bench.”
The dramatic ending came only 58 seconds after Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman struck a slapshot on the power play from about 52 feet in front of the goal. It went by Pittsburgh goalie Jerry Tristan, who stopped 45 of 48 Lightning shots.
“Once you get one, they usually follow,” Lightning center Steven Stamkos explained. “Especially for a player like Heddy who is up in the rush and it was good for our power play. We earned some breaks at the end, getting a couple of power plays, and it was nice to see one go in.”
The power play has been a missing entity for the Lightning so far this season as they have connected on only six of 25 odd-man opportunities through nine games.
“A little of an Achilles heel is not shooting enough and Heddy has to shoot it,” said Cooper. “It is another threat when Heddy is up there shooting it and he did and it went in.”
The Lightning went to the third period trailing 2-1, but center Cedric Paquette, playing in his first game since a preseason shoulder injury sidelined him for the first eight games, scored on a tip-in at 7:07 to tie the game at 2-2.
Paquette was elated to join the lineup as the injuries to both him and Brayden Point have hampered the Lightning in the middle of the ice early this season.
“It has been a long three weeks not being on the ice, and it feels good to be on the ice and helping the team,” said Paquette, “Every time our fourth line gets a goal, it’s nice and my first of the season, it’s huge.”
Vasilevskiy once again rebounded nicely as he had a tough outing on Saturday in a 6-2 loss where he had only 18 stops on 24 shots .He stopped 37 of 39 pucks on Wednesday evening.
“Vasy with another highlight reel save and it was good to get a good break there and I thought we deserved it,” noted Stamkos, who assisted Hedman’s game-winner. “We played hard for the most part and it was a comeback for us and it was good to see a call go that way.”
Ken Cross is a Tampa Bay Lightning reporter fro Florida National News. | firstname.lastname@example.org