When Matt Niskanen went down to an injury that may keep him out through the Trade Deadline, did Tampa decide to act too fast to rectify it?
Picture it: the Tampa Bay Lightning are on an 8-game winning streak. The team sits in the standings right around where they hoped to finish (climbing further up of course is welcome).
They found themselves in Nashville to take on the Predators. Nashville was coming off a 4-3 overtime victory over Dallas. Lightning goaltender MacKenzie Blackwood is having a solid season so far going 20-9-4 on the season. His previous backup was able to land just 3 wins in his 15 starts prior to being traded, something that's hopefully taken into account this offseason when league management looks at Blackwood.
He's tested early on in this one as off the opening faceoff Mark Scheifele wins it back to Jacob Chychrun who circles back to his own zone before spotting Scheifele up ice. He hits him with a pass. Scheifele dangles, pulls it back, and lets it go........kick save and a beauty!
Just over 3 minutes into the opening frame, faceoff in the Preds zone. Auston Matthews wins it over to Phil Kessel who gets the shot off quickly. Save! But the rebound comes right back to Kessel who tees it up and fires it - oh, what a blocker save!
Now late in the period, the Lightning are on the power play. Faceoff in the Nashville end. Matthews wins it back to Pavel Buchnevich (what a re-rate he will be folks). He fakes the shot, fakes again, looks to pass, fakes the shot, and goes around the defender, tees up a slapper...
GOAALLL!!!!! Bar down, what a howitzer, boy did he have some mustard on that one.
At the end of one, it's Tampa 1, Nashville nothing.
We pick thing up early in the 2nd, Tampa up 2-0 when a puck comes around the boards back to the Lightning defenseman Esa Lindell. He lets go of a slapshot that's redirected in the slot by Nashville's Travis Hamonic. It changes direction and.......GOAL!!!!
Up and over the shoulder of the Nashville netminder and puts Tampa Bay up by a score of 3-0 early in the 2nd.
Then, the scary moment for Lightning fans.
Matt Niskanen goes down to block a shot by Nashville forward Cedric Paquette, but takes it off the hand. Nashville capitalizes just 2 seconds later.
Tampa Bay would hold on for a 3-2 victory to extend their win streak to 8 games. However, it came at a huge cost as following the game, it was announced that Niskanen would be out for a whole month.
Niskanen eats up a lot of minutes for the Lightning and will be greatly missed. He plays on the team's 2nd pair and top PK unit.
A great panic immediately struck in the Lightning management office. GM and Team President Wes Mucyk started to make calls to other teams trying to fill the hole left by Niskanen's injury.
He will miss about 17 games, making him available for roughly the final 14 games of the season. Can the Lightning hold onto a spot in the standings roughly where they currently sit?
Spoiler: Niskanen was shockingly traded on Monday to Philadelphia for Anton Stralman, straight up. Philly will retain salary on Stralman, who will slide right into the lineup to replace Niskanen. Long term, does the deal make sense? That's up for debate.
But for right now at least, the train keeps moving and hopefully, so will the momentum.