As the Gasparilla festivities came to a close, fans sold out Amalie Arena for the 257th consecutive sell-out game to see the Tampa Bay Lightning take on the Las Vegas Golden Knights. The 2020 and 2021 Stanley Cup champions went into Saturday night sitting just two games out of first place in the Atlantic Division and winning their last three games at home.
The Lightning moved to 29-10-6 as they prepared for their final home game at Amalie Arena before the All-Star break. Their final home game is set for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 1, in the Amalie Arena against the San Jose Sharks.
Despite the loss, Tampa Bay was still able to grab their fourth straight point at home and only sit three points behind the first place Florida Panthers in the Atlantic Division. Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 25 of 27 shots, recording a save percentage of 93%. Pat Maroon and Corey Perry also recorded assists, ending their drought.
The Lightning came back strong after a two-goal deficit going into the third period only to lose in an exciting shootout after the regulation game ended in a tie. Vegas took an early 1-0 lead in the first period as former Tampa Bay prospect and first round pick Brett Howden netted the only goal of the period. Vegas was able to extend their lead in the second period as William Carrier gave Vegas a 2-0 with a goal off a deflection.
“We never really panicked,” said head coach Jon Cooper. “We’ve got a lot of good players and smart players who know how to score and battle their way back into the game.”
“Ross is getting more and more comfortable on that second unit,” said Cooper. “He’s got a heck of a shot and knows how to put the puck in the net at opportune times and we clearly needed that tonight.”
After falling to a two-goal deficit, the defending champs began to mount their comeback halfway through the third period when Stanley Cup hero Ross Colton netted a power play goal cutting Vegas’ lead to 2-1. Colton has had an immense impact of late, scoring five goals in his last six games with Saturday night’s goal matching his career high of nine.
With just over two minutes remaining, the Lightning were able to tie the game thanks to Corey Perry’s twelfth goal of the season, as he is now just two goals away from 400 on his career. As time expired in the third, the game moved to a shootout as the Lightning looked to earn their fourth consecutive point at home. The Lightning outshot Vegas 17-1 in the third period, which was their fewest shots allowed in a period all season.
“In the first two periods we were trying to make the cute pass and do one too many things, but in the third period we had a shot first mentality and I think shots were 17-1, but we can’t be waiting until the third period when we’re down by two goals,” said centerman Ross Colton. “We gotta do that right from the jump.”
The shootout went seven rounds with Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point and Ross Colton all connecting on their shootout attempts. The Lightning, however, fell in the final round when Vegas right winger Mark Stone netted the final goal, giving Vegas the 3-2 shootout victory.
Content written by Travis Politakis exclusively for Destination Tampa Bay™. Photo’s courtesy of the NHL and the Tampa Bay Lightning for editorial purposes only, all rights reserved.