Vlad Namestnikov received the unexpected news earlier this month.
The Syracuse Crunch center went through a range of emotions when he learned he would be making his National Hockey League debut with the Tampa Bay Lightning Feb. 8.
“It was an unbelievable feeling,” Namestnikov recalled. “Nerves, excitement -- everything together.”
During the first 31 games of his sophomore season, Namestnikov accumulated 13 goals and 30 points to earn the look from the Lightning. Despite already eclipsing his rookie season output of 28 points in 62 games, the first step onto the NHL ice seemed imposing.
“The first period I just couldn’t believe I was there,” Namestnikov said. “Everything seemed so fast and everyone was so big.”
Lightning manufactures a huge win when the absolutely had to have one.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 33 shots for the victory. As with the victory against Montreal, if this doesn't get you fired up about Ben Bishop nothing will. The guy's hurt, and Cedrick Desjardins was telling everyone who would listen he was going to start tonight. Bishop showed physical bravery and mental toughness outlasting Howard and the Wings in a game the Lightning had to have. They couldn't lose this game. Their backs were against the wall and, depleted or not, they had to win this game. Bishop willed them over the finish line to the Olympics break. Simply inspiring.
17:18 DET Alfredsson (14), (Datsyuk)
1:44 TB Palat (13), (St Louis, Hedman)(PP)
11:19 DET Jurco (3), (Sheahan, DeKeyser)
17:14 TB Pyatt (1), (Salo, Brown)
16:49 TB Killorn (14), (Purcell, Pyatt)
18:57 TB Palat (14), (Johnson, Salo)(EN)
Bishop and Ondrej Palat were the game's first and second stars.
Was that the Lightning's best game of the season tonight. No. Absolutely not. There were several stretches in this contest where they were owned, territorially, by the Wings. But, the effort was there. They scratched, they clawed, they held on by their fingernails, and they got the break they needed on the Pyatt goal to have a tie game going into the Third Period before they manufactured Killorn's greasy goal.
It's huge. I can't tell you how different this feels being at 71 points in 3rd in the East, 8 points up on 9th place going into the break as opposed to 69 points and being in a Wild Card spot by just 6 points. The win tonight gives the Lightning 8 points 8 games going into this segment of the season. They still would have to win both remaining games in this segment to hit that magical 12 points you'd like them to have, but they had 3 insurance points going into this segment, so they just need 1 more point in the next 2 games to be where they want to be heading into the stretch run of the season. That's a stretch run where, once the 3 weeks of the Olympics break is up, they should get back a healthy Anders Lindback, a healthy Valtteri Filppula (who had a fractured ankle and not a hurt hip, as I speculated after the Leafs game), and knock-on-wood a healthy Steven Stamkos, to say nothing of Bishop getting an opportunity to heal (his back must be incredibly sore from carrying this team). So, they'll be rested and healed and have a ton of home games to play, especially in March. Catching Boston for the Atlantic Division title may be extremely difficult now after this last little slump, but pinning down the 3 seed and sailing into the playoffs in solid shape is now entirely do-able.
Young team. Flagging health. Flagging confidence. They had to have the win. Great win. Big win. Huge win.
Mark Barberio was -1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 18:13. I wasn't thrilled with his game tonight. When the possession tilts against the Lightning, Barberio becomes a liability and not a plus. But, you know, he's one of those guys who fought and clawed his way through the game. So, there's that.
J.T. Brown had a helper and was +1 with 5 shots in 14:57. Sooner or later shots are going to start going in for J.T., and then watch out. Teams have no answer for his speed and work ethic. None. And, he showed his skill a bit tonight undressing Brian Lashoff to create a First Period breakaway. He just can't seem to find the finish.
Vladislav Namestnikov had 1 hit and was 50% on 6 draws in 11:55. It seemed to me like he needed to make a quick adjustment to the size/strength at this level in the NHL in the First Period, but once that sunk in he looked fairly comfortable, even landing a huge hit on Brendan Smith in the Third Period. Namesy's not quite there in terms of his play without the puck, especially on the defensive end, but you could clearly see he's going to be an NHLer in the cup of coffee he got tonight helping the team get a huge win.
Nikita Kucherov had 3 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 12:06. He did just about everything, along with Brown, but score tonight including drawing a penalty shot where he was stopped on a deke to his backhand. Like Brown, when they start going in for Kucherov he's going to go nuts.
Overmatched Crunch make a game of it.
SPR Sedlak, (8) (Smith), 13:00
SPR Skille, (5) , 15:51
SYR DiSalvatore, (5) (Mormina), 15:24
SPR Jacques, (6) (Weber, Marchessault), 1:56
SYR DiSalvatore, (6) (Paquette, Nesterov), 7:40
SPR Chaput, (11) (Marchessault, Jacques), 14:13
Jon DiSalvatore was the game's second star.
The team was without an AHL level goaltender and its top center, arguably, with Vladislav Namestnikov also being recalled earlier in the day. It just continues to be too much of a mountain for the team to climb, unfortunately.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Costly night in Ottawa.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 1 shot before leaving the game with an injury. It was a bizarre play where Bishop left his crease to try to play a puck that he had no chance of getting to, and after diving to the ice to get to it he was kneed in the back of the head by his teammate, Kucherov. If it's a concussion, that's probably a week, minimum, without Bishop, but early reports have Bishop passing his concussion test. Lindback allowed 4 on 27 shots the rest of the way for the old backdoor loss.
1:49 OTT Methot (5), (Zibanejad, Spezza)
19:34 OTT Karlsson (13), (Spezza, Michalek)
3:10 TB Killorn (13), (Kucherov, Hedman)
6:25 OTT Smith (10), (unassisted)
18:40 OTT Turris (18), (Ryan)
6:55 OTT Ryan (20), (Turris, MacArthur)
12:54 TB Johnson (17), (Palat)(SH)
17:08 TB Hedman (11), (St Louis, Palat)
Compounding the injury to Bishop was Valtteri Filppula leaving the game with some sort of ailment that limited his mobility after getting hit away from the play. I'm going to go with a hip injury as my guess. If his injury is of any severity, then I'm just going to throw the name Vladislav Namestnkov out there as a possible recall.
The Lightning's effort level really sagged after losing Bishop early in the game, and they looked like they were skating in quicksand until late in the game when the score was well out of hand. Between that and the copious number of turnovers that have ended up in the back of the team's net lately, it's not a good look. In particular, Radko Gudas has really struggled over the last month and he's had turnovers lead to important goals in each of the last two Lightning losses. Against the Leafs, he allowed the GWG. Against the Sens, his mistake led to the Smith goal that destroyed a fledgling rally from the Lightning after they'd cut the deficit to 2-1.
Mark Barberio was -2 with 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, and 2 blocked shots. He was responsible for Turris' goal with an ill advised step up in the neutral zone where he missed the puck to surrender a breakaway to Bobby Ryan, which he compounded by failing to pick up the trailing Turris. There was no atonement for his mistake like the last game against Toronto, either.
J.P. Cote had 6 hits and 1 blocked shot in 9:35.
J.T. Brown had 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 11:11.
Nikita Kucherov had a helper and was -1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 14:59. He got some luck on his helper with a pass that ricocheted off a skate to Killorn in prime scoring position in the slot for the goal.
Syracuse follows suit and wastes a Connolly hat trick.
SYR Connolly, (10) (Paquette), 5:59 (PP)
BNG O'Brien, (6) (Schneider), 11:46 (SH)
BNG Petersson, (14) (Wideman, Pageau), 14:26
BNG Puempel, (14) (Da Costa, Hoffman), 15:45 (PP)
SYR Connolly, (11) (Namestnikov), 17:26
BNG Prince, (8) (New, Pageau), 15:28 (PP)
SYR Connolly, (12) (Namestnikov, Taormina), 4:01 (PP)
BNG Cowick, (7) (Claesson, Hamilton), 9:36
BNG Petersson, (15) (Pageau), 17:40 (EN)
Brett Connolly and Vladislav Namestnikov were the game's first and third stars. It's unbelievable the organization had hat tricks at the NHL and AHL levels today and neither team won. That's got to be incredibly rare.
Syracuse is still 3 points back of St. John's for 8th in the Eastern Conference, but the loss allows Hershey and Worcester to jockey for position ahead of the Crunch in the standings. With the hole they've dug, every loss will have that effect from here on out.
Box score from TheAHL.com.