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NHL Rink Wrap: Lightning rally vs. Golden Knights, lead league into break

NHL Rink Wrap: Lightning rally vs. Golden Knights, lead league into break

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 21: The Tampa Bay Lightning celebrate after defeating the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena on December 21, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images)

NHLI via Getty Images

Top player from Lightning - Golden Knights

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning

With three goals allowed, this isn’t necessarily a “textbook” dominant night from Andrei Vasilevskiy. But in a close Lightning win over the Golden Knights, offense was spread out pretty evenly. At least, it was because Vasilevskiy kept the Lightning in Tuesday’s only NHL game when the Golden Knights were really pushing.

Despite the Golden Knights opening with a 17-5 shots on goal advantage, the score was 1-1 thanks to the Lightning goalie. Overall, Vegas more than doubled Tampa Bay’s SOG (41-19), but the Bolts won.

For a while, it seemed like the Golden Knights were breaking through Vasilevskiy and the Lightning. They built a 3-1 lead with two quick second-period goals, but the Lightning stormed back to win.

Steven Stamkos ended up with the game-winner on the power play.

Highlights from Lightning - Golden Knights

Check out highlights of the Lightning rallying back against the Golden Knights.

NHL takeaways from Tuesday

Multiple reports back up fears NHL players will miss 2022 Winter Olympics

As of this writing, the NHL hasn’t confirmed that players will not participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics. Sadly (for our entertainment, and the players’ Olympic dreams) and luckily (for safety?), it seems like a confirmation is a mere formality.

NHL holiday break/season pause begins after Lightning - Golden Knights

In case you missed it, the NHL’s next scheduled games are slated for Monday, Dec. 27. You may have noticed a certain bit of hedging with the phrase “are slated for.” That’s because, with this latest COVID surge, it’s foolish to assume that the NHL won’t need to make additional changes.

(Read more about the NHL season pause here.)

During this pause, it’s possible that more NHL players will echo thoughts from the likes of Connor Hellebuyck, Ryan O’Reilly, and Steve Yzerman about relaxing certain COVID protocols.

Frankly, that sounds like dangerous talk, but it’s not just the NHL that might reduce COVID testing.

If nothing else, between previously postponed games and this extended COVID break, maybe NHL teams can come back healthier. (Of course, if players are out and about a bunch during the break, then all bets are off.)

Lightning lead NHL after comeback win over Golden Knights

Yes, yes, games played skew things. Still, by sheer standings points, the Lightning head into the NHL holiday break/pause with 44 points, the most of any team, after rallying against the Golden Knights.

The Lightning are now on a three-game winning streak, while the Golden Knights saw their five-game run end. Zoom out, and the Lightning are now 8-1-1 in their last 10 games.

[No wonder the Lightning three-peat talk is revving up.]

The margins are small for the Lightning. That goes for the Atlantic Division, with the Panthers and Maple Leafs chomping at their heels. The top teams in the Metro also mean there could be serious competition for the top seed in the East.

But, considering the injuries the Bolts are dealing with, this is impressive -- if not exactly surprising. As an aside, it’s also a bit amusing that both the Golden Knights and Lightning are strong teams who could get even stronger once key players get healthier.

Wednesday’s big story

League likely to confirm NHL players won’t participate in Olympics

With the NHL holiday break extended in reaction to COVID spikes, games won’t drive stories. But there still could be announcements.

Most obviously, there’s again the likely confirmation of NHL players not participating in the 2022 Winter Olympics. Again, that may happen on Wednesday.

There are other bits of news to monitor, too. It’s possible that we may learn about additional tweaks to the 2021-22 NHL schedule. (Maybe some of the would-be Olympic break will get eaten up by some makeup games?)

With whatever happens, PHT will monitor the twists and turns. Maybe the NHL holiday break/pause will give us time to take stock of certain trends?

Lightning - Golden Knights final score

Lightning 4, Golden Knights 3

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.