Things got messy on the way to the Lightning’s franchise-record 11th straight win late Monday night. Most of the 4-3 overtime win over Colorado was played with a clean physicality, maybe more than expected from two teams known more for their skill.
There was one questionable play early when Erik Cernak tripped up Mikko Rantanen near the boards, and the Avalanche right wing ended up with an injury that will keep him out weeks. But things really got interesting in the third period.
Avalanche forward J.T. Compher bowled over goalie Curtis McElhinney, helped by a push from Mikhail Sergachev, and all heck broke loose temporarily.
Hockey players don’t like when their goalies are sprayed with too much snow, never mind touched. So, yeah, seeing McElhinney flip over himself, then slow to get up struck a nerve with the Lightning.
Scrums broke out, everyone grabbed a partner, and Sergachev went hard at Compher. No one actually fought, but clearly emotions were heightened.
About five minutes later, Ondrej Palat lined Nathan MacKinnon up for a hit but ended up on the receiving end instead. It was a clean hit, but looked big and left Palat on the ice. So things started up again.
Anthony Cirelli went for MacKinnon, delivered a cross-check and ended up with Ryan Graves, which escalated the whole thing from a few players shoving to something resembling a group wrestling match. Cirelli was the only one penalized for the pig pile though.
Twice in a row, the Lightning’s games have devolved into the messy kind of physicality. Twice in a row, they’ve pulled out wins.
Notes and thoughts from the game
* The Lightning are now the third team in NHL history to be the fastest team to 40 wins in three or more consecutive seasons. The Oilers did it with Wayne Gretzky from 1983 to 1986. The Canadiens did it twice, 1959 to 1961 and 1975 to 1978.
* The Lightning gave up a two-goal lead to the Avalanche and let the Flyers cut a three-goal lead to one on Saturday. They allowed three goals in each game, after keeping teams to two or fewer for seven straight games.
They said they let the Flyers pull them out of their style, into a chippy game and got away from their defensive principles. There was no such excuse on Monday.
The Avalanche just scored. The Lightning got caught puck-watching on the first goal, got beat by a sharpshooter in MacKinnon on the second and allowed a deflection in front of the net in the third.
* Brayden Point assisted Steven Stamkos’ second-period goal to extend his point streak to 11 games, the longest active run in the league.
* The Lightning went down another defenseman. Braydon Coburn took line rushes, then left morning skate early and was ruled day-to-day, according to team reporter Bryan Burns.
Cameron Gaunce, who played as a forward on Thursday, stepped into Coburn’s spot on the third pair with Luke Schenn. He landed his first goal of the season in the second period.
There is some good(ish) news here. Jan Rutta skated solo after the team skate, which is the start of something, though not a sign of his imminent return. Ryan McDonagh is also on the trip, which means he could be skating sometime this week.
* The penalty kill has been on point the past four months. But Colorado found a way through Monday.
Stopping three of four opportunities is a solid night for any kill. But Andre Burakovsky’s first-period goal followed up two power-play goals by Philadelphia on Saturday. This is the first time since Jan. 16 the Lightning have given up power-play goals in consecutive games.
I’d view this more as a statistical anomaly than a reason to worry about the penalty kill at the moment, though.