TAMPA BAY-- Forward Jason Zucker scored his first career hat trick & goalie Devan Dubnyk made 25 saves as the Minnesota Wild beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-0 at Amalie Arena on Thursday night.
Minnesota, who were visiting Tampa Bay for the first & only time this yr, entered the game with two straight losses, each in a shootout. And the visitors got the best scoring chance in the first three minutes of the game, when center Joel Eriksson EK broke in behind the Lighting defensemen. But his low shot was stopped by Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.
The Wild were first to get a man advantage in the game after a holding penalty called on Lightning center Tyler Johnson. And although they falied to score on the power play, the Wild did get the first goal of the game after forward Jason Zucker redirected a shot by center Ryan Donato high over Vasilevskiy.
The first period ended with Zucker's 18th goal being the one score of the period. The Lightning did have their chances to tie the game before the first 20 minutes were over including a nifty display of puck handling by forward Nikita Kucherov in the offensive zone. But he was unable to get the puck thru the pads of Dubnyk during a shot attempt.
After the first period, Tampa Bay, who entered the game having won 14 of their last 17 games, owned a shot advantage over Minnesota, outshooting the Wild 11-10. And the Lightning had a chance to tie the game up when they went on the power play for the first time in the game. With just over a minute gone in the second period, Wild center Luke Kunin was called for holding. And on the man advantage, Tampa Bay controlled the puck in the offensive zone for the majority of the two minutes but were unable to get any quality chances.
The shots on goal in the first 10 minutes of the second period were five to three in favor of the Lightning. And the period remained scoreless with the best chance for both teams coming when Lightning center Anthony Cirelli sped up to the red line, picked up a loose puck & was able to come in along on Dubnyk. But the Wild goalie lunged & the shot by Cirelli glanced off his right shoulder.
The third period started with the Wild applying pressure in the first five minutes of the period. And after a blocked shot by Lightning forward Adam Erne deep in their own zone, the Lightning were unable to control the puck leaving the Wild with a good scoring chance. The Wild got one shot from defenseman Jonas Brodin & after a loose puck left Vasilevskiy scrambling to get back into the net, Zucker tipped in a shot into the net. Initially the play was ruled no goal with the referees ruling that Zucker's stick was above the cross-bar. But before the referees used replay to confirm the goal, they met at center ice & changed their ruling agreeing that the goal was a good goal. Once that ruling was done, the referees used replay but were unable to change the call because replay proved to be inconclusive.
Now trailing 2-0, the Lightning had just under 14 minutes to work on the two goal deficit. But the Wild continued to mount the pressure in the offensive zone & with just over 10 minutes left, in an desperate attempt to keep the Wild from getting another goal, Kucherov took a slashing penalty in their own zone.
After a minute into that penalty, the Lightning took another penalty when center Cedric Paquette went to the box for hooking. But the Lightning were able to survive that two man disadvantage & even had a power play opportunity. But there were no quality scoring chances on the man advantage.
Desperate to get on the scoreboard, Tampa Bay pulled Vasilevskiy & that led to Zucker scoring an empty net goal to complete his hat-trick.
Tampa Bay will look to get back to their winning ways & get closer to clinching a playoff spot when they host Detroit on Saturday. Coverage begins on News Radio WFLA at 6pm with puck drop scheduled for 7pm.
1. MIN- Zucker 16th Goal (Donato, Suter)- 10:50
1. MIN- Zucker 17th Goal (Donato)- 6:04
2. EN- MIN- Zucker 18th Goal (Staal, Fehr)- 18:14
!. TBL- Johnson (2 Min Holding)- 7:11
1. MIN- Kunin (2 Min Holding)- 1:11
2. TBL- Joseph (2 Min Hooking)- 12:26
1. TBL- Kucherov (2 min Slashing)- 9:50
2. TBL- Paquette (2 min Hooking)- 11:13
3. MIN- Spurgeon (2 min Slashing)- 14:53