In a close game, quality goaltending matters.
Mathieu Garon allowed 3 goals on 30 shots tonight. He looked rusty and struggled, in my opinion. Rebounds were being kicked all over the place, he had trouble following the puck, and the last two Ranger goals were not his best efforts. Even the first goal was off a favorable rebound left on the doorstep.
04:22 TB Stamkos (6), (Carle, St. Louis)(PP)
09:50 NYR Stepan (1), (Pyatt, Haggelin)
03:04 NYR Nash (2), (Richards, Staal)
14:47 NYR Haggelin (1), (Pyatt)
19:39 TB Stamkos (7), (Carle, Malone)
Steven Stamkos was the game's third star.
Would the outcome have been different with Lindback in net? Perhaps. Would the outcome have been different if the Lightning were not in a back-to-back against a fresher Rangers team? I think so. Either way, this was an early stress test of the Lightning's ability to handle a more tight checking style, and while they didn't outright fail it, there are some questions left open.
Cory Conacher was -1 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 16:17.
Lambs meet slaughter.
Anders Lindback allowed 3 goals on 29 shots as the Lightning defense got too loose and allowed three cheapies in garbage time.
07:57 TB Conacher (4), (Carle, Pouliot)(PP)
14:11 TB Stamkos (5), (Purcell, Lindback)(PP)
16:55 TB Lecavalier (4), (St. Louis, Stamkos)(PP)
00:26 TB Conacher (5), (Brewer, Lecavalier)
04:43 TB Thompson (1), (Crombeen, Brewer)
05:43 TB Purcell (2), (Stamkos)
05:34 WPG Enstrom (2), (Postma, Ladd)
06:35 WPG Postma (1), (Enstrom, Little)(PP)
08:46 TB Malone (4), (Lecavalier, Conacher)
09:49 WPG Ladd (3), (Postma, Enstrom)(PP)
18:35 TB Pouliot (2), (Pyatt, Hedman)
Going in, the game was pretty simple to call. The Jets PK was in the low-60% range and the Lightning are over 30% with the man advantage. If Winnipeg got in the box, it would be a bloodbath, especially with Byfuglien out, and that's exactly what happened. Good job by the Lightning not to play down to the opposition.
Cory Conacher had 2 goals, 1 assist, and was +3 with 2 shots in 13:53. Standard Conacher line so far this year.
Part game recap, analysis and scouting report, the Day-After Digest appears after every Lightning game.
By defeating the Panthers, the Lightning extended their divisional lead to three points as Winnipeg fell in regulation to Montreal. After taking a 2-1 lead into the first period, Tampa Bay put together its best middle frame of the season, outscoring Florida 2-0 in the process, before closing out the visiting state rivals. The Panthers were visibly frustrated for much of the final twenty minutes of action and took three misconduct penalties, including a ten minute infraction on Tomas Kopecky.
Steven Stamkos opened the scoring with a power play marker shortly after the first period midpoint and Cory Conacher followed with a tally of the highlight reel variety. Tom Pyatt, Dana Tyrell and Vincent Lecavalier also scored for the Lightning. Lecavalier finished a beautiful passing sequence set up initially by Victor Hedman, who carried the puck into the Panthers end, banked a pass off the end boards to Cory Conacher who sent a drop-pass to a trailer, Benoit Pouliot, who wasted no time firing a cross-ice feed through a soft spot in Florida's defensive coverage to the opposite hash and directly into the Lightning captain's wheelhouse.
Despite the lopsided result and with the Lightning much more sound and consistent defensively, the Lightning were still far from flawless. The Panthers managed several breakaways, one of which they scored on, and other quality scoring chances as a result of no-look passes, poor reads and, in one instance, an Anders Lindback turnover after stopping a dump-in, holding the puck too long and attempting a last-second clear. The puck sailed right into hard-charging Peter Mueller, leaving Lindback vulnerable behind his own net and caused him to scramble back into position. The miscue ended costing Tampa Bay its early lead just fifteen seconds after earning it at the other end of the ice as Mueller was able to jam in his own rebound after trying to bank the puck in the net off of Lindback.
In his postgame remarks, Boucher wouldn't admit to being concerned about Lindback's tendency so far this season to allow a weak goal or two, stressing instead the need to "have patience" with the goalies, especially a young netminder like Lindback who is still developing.
"He's got to feel he's allowed to make mistakes," Boucher added. "We have his back because he has the players' backs very often."
Bailing out the skaters in front of him Lindback did do, delivering some key saves in the match, including a stop on a shorthanded breakaway attempt by Scottie Upshall early in the first period. On the play, Upshall went to his backhand and, with the entire bottom portion of the net taken away by a tremendously extended left leg, tried unsuccessfully to lift the puck over the Lindback's glove.
One of the other promising developments to date this season has been the return of scoring depth as it is not only the top lines but also the bottom lines that are producing. Through six games, the Lightning have nine forwards who have found the net.
Last night it was speedy wingers Tyrell and Pyatt chipping in and, while they were on the ice together, looking like a dynamic duo as they worked feverishly and threw their bodies around at both ends while leading rapid, north-south counter-rushes and continually driving the net.
Benoit Pouliot, too, was also a force as he matched a physical presence that led to several punishing checks with consistent back-checking and efficient (and sometimes flashy) puck movement be it by skating or passing it. Even accounting for an egregious turnover at mid-ice while on a power play that resulted in a shorthanded goal against, Pouliot had what was, so far, probably easily his best showing as a Bolt.
"That third line gets on and they're very difficult to stop because of their speed," Boucher said in praise of the unit. "They play deep, 200-feet hockey. They tire the other team out."
Sinking rivals thrown anchor...
Anders Lindback stopped 26 of 28 for the victory. He had a bone headed puck handling gaffe that cost him the first goal he allowed. If he can clear up some of the mistakes, his numbers are going to start looking quite nice.
11:09 TB Stamkos (4), (St. Louis, Lecavalier)(PP)
11:24 FLA Mueller (2), (unassisted)
12:49 TB Conacher (3), (Hedman)
03:18 TB Pyatt (3), (Tyrell)
15:39 TB Tyrell (1), (Pyatt, Pouliot)
14:13 TB Lecavalier (3), (Pouliot, Conacher)(PP)
14:31 FLA Fleischmann (2), (unassisted)(SH)
With the Panthers already off to a 1-4 start, this was an opportunity for the Lightning to really put their rivals behind the 8-ball in a 48 game shortened season and they capitalized on it big time. Killer instinct. You also have to like how the shots against and goals against are creeping to acceptable levels.
Keith Aulie was +1 with 3 hits in 12:24. Tonight was Aulie's 82nd NHL game, graduating him from prospect status on the website. Aulie becomes a Bolt Prospects Alumni joining the likes of the afore mentioned Tyrell.
Conacher had 1 goal and 1 assist and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes and 3 shots in 13:05. Standard Honey Badger stat line. He was also hosed on a holding call chasing a loose puck that would have resulted in a breakaway goal.
Part game recap, analysis and scouting report, the Day-After Digest appears after every Lightning game.
The Lightning got off to a rocky start falling behind at the tail end of the game's opening shift but after seeing Vincent Lecavalier drop his mitts and go toe-to-toe with Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn and surviving four-minutes down a man after B.J. Crombeen was charged with three minors on the same shift and only drew a single penalty, Tampa Bay took control, seizing a 3-1 lead heading into the second period. The Flyers regrouped in the middle frame, earning two additional power plays and peppering Lindback with eleven shots while mostly holding the Lightning offense in check, but were unable to convert any chances. Tampa Bay scored early in and nearly midway through the third period to put the game out of reach and leave the visiting bench and their supporters in the crowd stunned.
"After the emotion came down, our players stayed focused for the rest of the game," Boucher said.
The Lightning got plenty of production out of their key forwards as Vinny Lecavalier, Teddy Purcell and Steven Stamkos all scored and Marty St. Louis racked up four assists. Purcell tied the game late in the first period when he skated into a feed from Stamkos, who, trying to find Purcell, took a quick pass in tight space from St. Louis in the slot, wheeled around and sent the puck into open space towards the right hash. Lecavalier cranked a vintage one-timer from the left circle high that beat Leighton high to extend the Lightning's lead to 3-1. Eric Brewer and Victor Hedman, who's been much more decisive about and aggressive in heading up ice to lead or join rushes than he has been in seasons past, also scored for Tampa Bay. Boucher touched on this progression in Hedman's play, crediting the presence of Carle and Salo as relieving some of the pressure on both the young defender and the vet Brewer, suggesting that they particularly allow Hedman some "freedom" before clarifying that when Hedman is making reads, he's now "not as scared to see the opening and take advantage of it."
"We're a very, very different team. We're big now, we're tough and we're committed to defense," Boucher said before elaborating, "You add that to our offense and it certainly makes for something positive right now."
Aside from allowing a bad angle goal when Sean Couturier sent a "shot" from the boards near the goalline to his right than snuck in between his skate and the post just 0:59 in, Anders Lindback managed to keep his composure and was otherwise superb tonight. He stopped the remaining twenty-four shots he faced, including high-quality scoring chances that came from a few odd-man rushes and several attempts from prime real estate. In particular, it was a sprawling left pad save on Matt Read nearly midway through the first with the Flyers still on the power play that seemed to turn momentum in the Lightning's favor.
"At some point he just shuts the door," Boucher said in praise of the young Swede, adding, "That's the mark of good goaltenders. He battles, he's got talent, has an amazing attitude and never gets nervous. That's a good mix."
With Boucher opting to skate twelve forwards and six defensemen, Dana Tyrell was back in the lineup at the expense of Marc-Andre Bergeron. Brendan Mikkelson and P.C. Labrie were the other scratches. Despite not playing since last Monday's away tilt against the Islanders, Labrie was in high spirits and eager to share how excited he is to be a part of the big club and eagerly awaits his next opportunity. He made sure to mention how refreshed he feels after playing nearly half of a season with Syracuse, adding that the short training camp helped him re-focus and boosted his confidence since he wasn't able to display what is such a big part of his game: hitting and fighting. He also touched on how being called up and sticking with the Lightning has provided the opportunity to learn from B.J. Crombeen, whom the young forward says he watches intently during games to soak in and learn as much as he can from the veteran grinder.