Connolly, Brett

NHL Game Night: 12-3-11 Rangers at Lightning

The Lightning are setting themselves up for a very difficult second half.

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Mathieu Garon allowed 3 goals on 35 shots for the loss.

First Period
TB Downie (3), (Stamkos, Purcell), 1:24

Second Period
NYR Fedotenko (4), (Richards, Callahan), 6:38
TB Pyatt (2), (Tyrell, Thompson), 17:42

Third Period
NYR Anisimov (3), (Stepan), 6:16
NYR Stepan (5), (Anisimov, McDonagh), 16:41
NYR Richards (10), (McDonagh)(EN), 19:34

Taylor Pyatt and Victor Hedman were the game's second and third stars.

I wouldn't say the Lightning have played poorly during this 3 game losing streak. Tonight, the frustration is that the team led most of the game and saw a third period lead slip away into a loss late. The unfortunate thing is that it's digging a hole that will eventually the require the Lightning to put together some sizable winning streaks in the second half to make the post season. I guess the only silver lining is that the Caps aren't running away with the division this year, so that may still be in play in the second half. Still, the Lightning need to mind those details that will tip the balance and turn these close losses into wins.

Brett Connolly had 1 hit in 9:54.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-30-11 Lightning at Red Wings

The devil is in the details.

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Dwayne Roloson allowed 4 goals on 35 shots for the loss. He made some key saves early to keep the Lightning in it, but the 4th goal was a back breaker that he should have made a better effort on.

First Period
DET Datsyuk (7), (Bertuzzi, Franzen), 4:58
DET Ericsson (1), (Filppula), 11:04

Second Period
TB St. Louis (7), (Purcell, Bergeron)(PP), 9:35
TB Stamkos (16), (Gilroy, Lecavalier), 19:46

Third Period
DET Holmstrom (4), (Lidstrom, Datsyuk)(PP), 4:22
DET Helm (3), (Kindl, Ericsson), 13:14

Martin St. Louis was the game's second star.

What tonight proved is that from a skill and athleticism standpoint, the Lightning can absolutely hang with the Detroit Red Wings. That bodes well for down the road. But, what it also proved is they're just a better team, detail-wise, than the Lightning, and that's why they got the 2 points. That's what these past two games proved to me. Tonight it was faceoffs. Monday night it was making some untimely mistakes. It's details, and it's a shame, because those were two pretty good efforts from the Lightning and they obviously didn't get the results. But, I'm sure Guy Boucher will emphasize that it's a process and they'll work on shoring up those areas.

Brett Connoly had 1 shot and 4 hits in 9:30. Coach Boucher's not stupid. He's not throwing a rookie out against the Wings for big minutes to let the young man get eaten alive.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-28-11 Lightning at Wild

Little mistakes can cost you a game.

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Mathieu Garon allowed 2 goals on 23 shots for the loss.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
TB Stamkos (15), (unassisted), 5:53
MIN Clutterbuck (7), (Koivu)(SH), 7:39
MIN Bouchard (3), (Johnson), 17:06

Third Period
MIN Koivu (4), (Spurgeon, Clutterbuck)(EN), 19:36

It's frustrating to see the Lightning play a really good first 27 minutes of hockey and see it unravel because of one puckhandling mistake by Eric Brewer. That's what happened tonight, though. The first half of the game the Lightning looked outstanding. That was the best their forecheck looked all season and the first time this Lightning team looked like it was playing the kind of Lightning hockey they played last season.

But, one mistake and you lose momentum. One mistake and the Lightning started turning over the puck. One mistake and before you know it you're behind the eight ball trying to go through a very disciplined team just to get a chance on a very good goaltender in Backstrom. It's a pity they didn't end up maintaining it and getting the result.

Bolt Prospects alumni Mike Lundin knifed his ex-team with a 3rd star effort where he played 19:35 in his first game of the season and blocked 5 shots. Not surprised. He's a very good regular season player.

Brett Connolly was -1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 16:19. He also missed 4 shots.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-26-11 Panthers at Lightning

We might call this home-and-home Spanks-giving weekend for the Lightning to their down-state, little-sister rivals.

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Mathieu Garon made 24 saves on 25 shots for the victory. He would've had the shutout were it not for a puckhandling gaffe in garbage time. Still, we might be able to say we're officially in the window of another Mathieu Garon hot-streak. I can't recall when the Lightning ever had 2 goaltenders this streaky on their roster.

First Period
TB St. Louis (6), (Connolly, Clark), 2:07

Second Period
TB Pyatt (1), (Bergeron), 3:49
TB Stamkos (13), (Purcell, Tyrell), 6:02
TB Malone (5), (Stamkos), 10:35

Third Period
FLA Matthias (3), (Skille), 17:43
TB Stamkos (14), (unassisted), 19:01

Steven Stamkos, Nate Thompson, and Martin St. Louis were the game's three stars. I loved that Stamkos added the 5th goal of the night for the punctuation mark to make sure there would be no silver lining for Florida. I'm a big believer in going out hard to get the first goal and the last goal, and typically what happens in between will take care of itself.

Unsung heroes were Tom Pyatt and Dana Tyrell. I was a little shocked that was only Pyatt's first goal, because he's dangerous on the forecheck almost every time out. And, Dana Tyrell is in full on junkyard dog mode right now. That third goal of the night scored by Stamkos was largely because Tyrell would not be knocked off the puck in the corner on the forecheck.

It's hard to know if this weekend is a turning point for this season, but I know Panther Nation (all three of them) were heading into this weekend very confident and ready to spread dirt on the 2011-2012 edition of the Lightning's grave. So, to scratch out a road win last night and then smack the taste out of the Panthers' mouths tonight was a major accomplishment, reaffirming the theological certainty that God still hates Panthers fans (especially Bill Lindsay).

Brett Connolly had a helper and was +1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 12:34. He's typically good for one really dangerous offensive shift a game, but he had two tonight, and I suspect that in the second half of the season he may have a spike in production similar to the second half of Stamkos' rookie season. Granted, Connolly's a year older than Steven was, but with Connolly losing his draft year to a hip injury, experience-wise he's at about the same point at 19 as Stammer was at 17-18.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-22-11 Maple Leafs at Lightning

Nope, THAT was probably rock bottom.

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Dwayne Roloson allowed 6 goals on 21 shots for the loss before Mathieu Garon allowed 1 on 5 shots the rest of the way. 7 goals on 26 shots is pitiful. Was goaltending the reason for the loss? No. But you can't win with a save percentage that's an eyelash above .750. Can't do it.

I'm tired of puckhandling mistakes ending up in the back of the net. I'm tired of play acting leading to pucks ending up in the back of the net. These guys need to be playing a very stripped down very focused style right now, and not circus hockey. It's a zoo between the pipes every other game right now.

First Period
TOR Macarthur (7), (Gardiner, Connolly), 00:41
TB Lecavalier (9), (Stamkos, Malone)(PP), 8:38
TOR Connolly (3), (Kulemin, Franson)(PP), 17:56
TOR Bozak (3), (Kessel, Connolly)(PP), 19:22

Second Period
TOR Colborne (1), (Frattin, Liles), 17:45

Third Period
TOR Bozak (4), (unassisted), 3:07
TOR Lupul (11), (Bozek, Phaneuf), 4:28
TOR Crabb (3), (Frattin, Gardiner), 14:28

It was pretty pitiful to allow a goal right off the bat. Then the team responded and looked as good on the forecheck and on the power play as I think I've seen them this season up until Victor Hedman whiffed on what probably should've been a goal off a Marty St. Louis feed, and then took an unlucky 4 minute minor, and the wheels came off. And then the wheels came off again when Roloson once again showed why he should never stray from his net. It's embarrassing. I felt like I was watching a Brian Lawton/Rick Tocchet team, not a Steve Yzerman/Guy Boucher team.

The situation is not improving to any extent I feel comfortable with. I don't think huge changes have to be made, but I don't think the old, "The answers are in the room," is working. You can't tell me the guys in Norfolk are so bad that they aren't at least worth a look to see if they can inject some fresh blood and enthusiasm into the lineup. This team just looks flat at the start of every game and I honestly wonder how anyone could argue that things would be worse with Carter Ashton or Radko Gudas or Mark Barberio getting an opportunity. You can't tell me that Blair Jones and Bruno Gervais are so much better than those players that it isn't worth even considering, and I don't give a damn how far away the organization thinks Gudas and Barberio are. If you believe they'll bite as dogs they'll bite as puppies. What's the worse that could happen? They'd give up 7 goals to the Maple Leafs?

Brett Connolly had 1 blocked shot in 11:28.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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