PHILADELPHIA — Sometimes, it’s not all about the goals.
The Lightning needed only one as they recorded their second straight shutout Saturday, 1-0 against the Flyers, for their 10th straight win, tying the franchise record set last season in February.
This game was more about the shots the Flyers didn’t take. For the third game in a row, the Lightning (27-13-4) kept the shots against to 25 or fewer.
“It’s all five guys on the ice really clogging the ice and allowing (Andrei Vasilevskiy) to see more of the pucks,” defenseman Victor Hedman said. “It’s just really being cognizant of your own end.”
The Flyers put only 23 shots on net in the game (interestingly, they were credited with that many blocks on the other end). And of those 23 shots, Vasilevskiy didn’t have to make many big saves in what was also his second straight shutout, the only two the Lightning have this season.
The score wasn’t typical of some Flyers-Lightning games of the past. Last year, twice the Flyers overcame three-goal deficits only for the Lightning to come back and win in overtime. Hedman remembers an 8-7 game from 2010.
The only goal in this game was a fluky one by Pat Maroon. He exited the penalty box and went straight for the net. Behind him, Anthony Cirelli chipped the puck into the Philadelphia zone. Maroon and Flyers defenseman Matt Niskanen reached up to bat the puck down. It landed between them, and Maroon popped it in.
Coach Jon Cooper called it funny that that was the goal that was scored in a game with better chances than that. He credited Maroon with awareness to go to the net and being the only player to know exactly where the puck was.
If this game wasn’t a typical one between the teams, this Lightning team isn’t the kind the Flyers are used to seeing. Forward Jakub Voracek said the Lightning played differently defensively than they had in the past few years. He described a team that was patient in the neutral zone and didn’t allow the Flyers much room.
“They were waiting for us, and they have a lot of puck-movement defensemen that are mobile with the puck,” Voracek said. “Every time we were dumping (the puck) in or we chipped it in, they just turned around and made the play, and then we had to backcheck.”
That turns into offensive-zone time for the Lightning, which further limits chances against.
The fourth line of Yanni Gourde, Mitchell Stephens and Carter Verhaeghe spent most of their about 11 minutes of ice time in the offensive zone. They attempted a total of 10 shots, five of which were on net. That pressure comes from what Gourde called a relentless attitude in the defensive zone.
“We’re always in their face, and they probably feel like we’re six guys on the ice all the time,” he said of the Lightning’s play.
Nothing the Lightning are doing is groundbreaking. It’s all the things they said they needed to do when their season started inconsistently, the things they were mostly doing but without the lapses that were becoming goals against.
“Sometimes it’s easy to say, but we have to do it all the time,” Gourde said. “If that one time our forwards aren’t tracking while our (defensemen) are gapping, then they might bypass our (defensemen) and have an odd-man rush.”
Cooper called it a commitment from the team and attention to detail in the defensive zone. This is a team that scored nine goals against the Canucks on Tuesday and then was happy with a one-goal game Saturday; both games started with the defensive effort.
“We knew what we had to do to get back into this (playoff) race, so now we’re back in it,” Cooper said, referring to the Lightning’s climb from sixth in the Atlantic Division to second. “We want to keep this roll going, and it starts with your own end, and the boys are committed right now, and it’s been fun to watch.”
Contact Diana C. Nearhos at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @dianacnearhos.
First Period—None. Penalties—Stephens, Tam (Holding), 2:48; Hagg, Phi (Holding), 6:58; Konecny, Phi (High Sticking), 13:43.
Second Period—1, Tampa Bay, Maroon 6, 7:27. Penalties—Maroon, Tam (Slashing), 5:08.
Third Period—None. Penalties—Hayes, Phi (Hooking), 1:47; Shattenkirk, Tam (High Sticking), 14:25.
Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 8-13-7_28. Philadelphia 7-6-10_23. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 0 of 4; Philadelphia 0 of 3. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Vasilevskiy 22-9-2 (23 shots-23 saves). Philadelphia, Hart 14-11-3 (28-27). A—19,866 (19,543). T—2:23. Referees—Marc Joannette, Justin St Pierre. Linesmen—Bevan Mills, Derek Nansen.