Michael Stuart: Lightning Dominate Stars, Cruise to 5-1 Victory

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Fresh off a victory over the Dallas Stars at the Amalie Arena late last week, the Tampa Bay Lightning traveled to Texas for a rematch. This time, in front of a crowd at the American Airlines Center, the Bolts walked away with a 5-1 victory.

With Kari Lehtonen injured, the Stars turned to Anders Lindback in net. Lindback, who spent the last two years with the Lightning, took us all on a trip down memory lane.

Only 37 seconds into the hockey game, Richard Panik scored with help from Jonathan Marchessault and Cedric Paquette.

Everyone remembers those early goals against from Lindback? Anyone miss them? Ah, memory lane.

That early marker gave the Lightning the momentum they needed to control the first period. As the Stars’s play-by-play crew noted, Tampa did a great job of “[closing] the ice” on Dallas. The new-look Lightning defense didn’t give Dallas’s potent offense much room.

While that hard work didn’t result in a second first period goal, it did result in an early second period tally. Just less than eight minutes into the middle stanza, J.T. Brown scored to give the Bolts a 2-0 lead. After hitting the post on a self-created breakaway earlier in the contest, Brown was gifted his goal when Lindback coughed up the puck. Alas, another trip down memory lane.

The two goal lead turned into a three goal lead less than seven minutes later, as Nikita Kucherov wired the puck past Lindback on the power-play. Assisted by Vlad Namestnikov and Valtteri Filppula, Kucherov’s goal was yet another beauty from the electric youngster.

Dallas’s offense finally interrupted the party at the 14:50 mark of the second period, 45 seconds after Kucherov scored to make it 3-0. Jamie Benn popped the puck past Ben Bishop with help from Valeri Nichushkin and Sergei Gonchar. Just like that, the Stars had a bit of life heading into the final frame.

That opening was short-lived, however, as the Lightning extended their lead only 2:30 into the third period. After Brett Connolly brought the puck into the Dallas zone with speed, he went hard to the net and helped create a rebound for Cedric Paquette to bang home.

With the 4-1 goal in their back pocket, the Lightning cruised to the finish line. Connolly whipped home his first of the year with about 13 minutes left to make it 5-1, and from there it was calm sailing. The Stars’s interest level went from average to non-existent, and the game slowed to a crawl. You can’t blame them; it can’t be easy to get up for preseason hockey. Regardless, the Bolts held on for the win.

And it was a good victory. That was a Dallas team with names like Jason Spezza, Ales Hemsky, Valeri Nichushkin, Tyler Seguin, and Jamie Benn, among others, in the lineup. The Lightning were missing Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Ryan Callahan, Anton Stralman, and more. It’s only preseason, but there is a number of positives to take away from this one. Credit Tampa’s young players for driving the bus and claiming victory from a very good opponent. As the Dallas broadcast crew noted, it’ll be fun whenever these two teams get together moving forward.

Moving on from the boxscore-like recap, here are some observations: 1. Richard Panik, who opened the scoring, continues to impress early here in 2014-15. As Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times notes, we’re seeing a different Panik here in the exhibition season than we saw last season.

#tblightning Richard Panik has played a more engaged, physical game this preaseason, something he didn’t do enough of last year

— Joe Smith (@TBTimes_JSmith) October 1, 2014

He’s completely right. Panik is using his size to create opportunities. That’s what the Lightning need from him. There’s a reason I put him on a line with Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat in my ‘Build a Lineup’ series. He’s making his statement right now. 2. Nikita Kucherov had another fantastic game. The chemistry that he displays with Vlad Namestnikov is something special. Kucherov is a creator. He generates things whenever he’s out on the ice. He’s a special prospect. Even with his waiver-eligibility, it’s hard to imagine a situation in which he gets sent down. He’s been too good in the preseason. He looks NHL ready and better than he did last year. 3. I think it’s probably fair to describe Brett Connolly’s preseason as quiet. He hasn’t been bad, but he hasn’t been as noticeable as a guy like Kucherov, for instance. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Teams need guys who go about their business quietly. Tonight, Connolly scored his first of the preseason and added an assist. If he can continue to be a responsible player in all three zones and add a bit of offense like that, I do like his chances to make the opening night roster. He’s proven a lot in the AHL over the last two seasons. Now it’s time to give him a chance in the best league on earth. 4. I know it’s only preseason, and I know the sample size here is small, but it’s really hard not to like what’s going on with the team’s penalty kill right now. To understate things, it was a disaster last year. So far in the preseason? It’s been perfect. Perhaps this will give the unit some confidence heading into the regular season.

#TBLightning kill off another penalty. 21-of-21 through four preseason games. Bolts lead 5-1.

— Bryan Burns (@BBurnsNHL) October 1, 2014

The Lightning have two games left in the preseason, both against the Florida Panthers. Catch the Bolts in action on Thursday on the road and then at home on Saturday. After that, the real grind begins.

As always, thanks for reading.

This post originally appeared on www.hockeybuzz.com and we thank them for permission to rebroadcast it here.

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