101 reasons to be proud of their regular season.
Anders Lindback stopped all 18 shots he faced and 3 of 3 shooters for the SO victory to deliver the Lightning home ice in the first round of the playoffs against Montreal. His toe save on a Backstrom 1-timer on a Third Period penalty kill was the stuff of legend. Big Anders is definitely getting hot at the right time of the year.
Lindback was named the first star of the game. The Lightning needed a win of any flavor to get home ice in the first round and, for the most part, they remained patient and didn't get too loose defensively trying to get the W. Washington looked like they wanted no part of the game and the Lightning dominated possession and shots (32-18), but with Holtby playing pretty well there was a chance the Lightning would start freelancing outside of their system and allow the Washington skill players to capitalize. They did not, fortunately, and Matt Carle delivered the one finish they needed to get the Lightning back to Tampa Bay on Wednesday for Game One against the Habs.
The Lightning finish the season with 101 points. Triple digits is impressive for any team. For a team with so many prospects who established themselves at the NHL level this year, though, it's unbelievable.
Mike Kostka had 1 hit and 3 blocked shots in 15:41 and was denied dekeing to his backhand in the penalty shot session.
Cody Kunyk had 2 shots and 1 hit and was 20% on draws in 10:12. He nearly set up Kucherov for the winner in the Third Period off some forechecking work in the corner. First impressions: smooth skater who will work hard in the corners and along the wall. First step could use a little attention, but couldn't we all use a little first step improvement? Should be a good add for Syracuse next season.
Cedric Paquette had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 16:19 and was 47% on draws. He nearly set up Callahan for a nice deflection goal off the rush, but there were moments you could see his lack of speed could be a vulnerability on the backcheck.
One more to go.
Kristers Gudlevskis stopped 36 of 38 for the victory in his first NHL shot. He was impressive. His quickness and athleticism are striking, and he showed a competitiveness and unwillingness to give up on plays that is also the hallmark of great netminders.
3:55 TB Palat (23), (Killorn)(PP)
13:46 CBJ Jenner (16), (Johnson, Johansen)(PP)
14:54 TB Brewer (3), (Paquette)
18:06 TB Brewer (4), (Kostka, Panik)
16:37 CBJ Savard (5), (Jenner, Comeau)
Gudlevskis, Eric Brewer, and Ryan Callahan were the game's three stars. It wasn't the best effort the Lightning have put forward, but Gudlevskis played well and the team capitalized on some shaky netminding by Columbus' McElhinney at the other end of the rink. It wasn't without a price, as Victor Hedman left the game early with a lower body injury and Ondrej Palat left after getting his bell rung on an open ice hit, but at this hour their absence seems more precautionary than anything else (although that's always subject to change).
The Lightning now have 99 points with 1 game to go. Win and they get home ice against Montreal in the opening round of the playoffs. Win and they break the 100 point barrier. Win, and they'll cap off one of the best regular seasons in team history.
Mike Kostka had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot and 3 hits in 20:35. He was forced into extra ice time with Hedman out of the game early, and he handled it reasonably well, even getting his 3rd point in 2 games since returning. Win if you can, survive if Mike Kostka lets you.
Cedric Paquette had a helper and was +1 with 1 hit and 2 blocked shots in 12:46. He was also 64% on 14 draws, including several wins while the Lightning were trying to stave off Columbus with their goaltender pulled at the end of the game. Good debut by Dump Truck, and I thought the scorekeepers cheated him out of a few hits because I counted 2-3 more. The young man's got a future on the team's fourth line.
20 goals and counting for the Dump Truck.
Kristers Gudlevskis had a light workload, stopping 16 of 17 for the victory to get back on track.
ALB Pesonen, (13) (Urbom, Wedgewood), 11:30 (PP)
SYR Paquette, (20) (Erne, Gourde), 17:58
SYR Rankin, (14) (Sergeev), 8:21
Evan Rankin, Cedric Paquette, and Dmitry Korobov were the game's three stars. Tonight's goal puts Dump Truck at 20 in his rookie campaign. To put that accomplishment in perspective, here's three recent Lightning prospects who didn't make it to 20 goals as a rookie at the AHL level: Ondrej Palat, Richard Panik, and J.T. Brown. So, ponder that for a moment, and be impressed at what Paquette has accomplished in his first year of professional hockey.
Syracuse climbs back to 2 games under .500 for the season. I still contend a solid goal for the Crunch should be to get over .500 for the year, which will set the tone for a solid season next year.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Winning streak snapped. Point streak continues.
Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 3 goals on 28 shots before allowing 1 of 4 to convert in the penalty shot session for the SO loss.
BNG Grant, (8) , 9:13
SYR Marchessault, (17) (Connolly, Sustr), 18:13
SYR Nesterov, (4) (Connolly, Angelidis), 14:39 (PP)
BNG Pageau, (17) (Grant, Wideman), 19:19 (PP)
SYR Walker, (6) (Gourde, Korobov), 9:32 (PP)
BNG Grant, (8) (Puempel, Claesson), 14:46
Cedric Paquette was the game's third star.
Binghamton's the top team in the East Division, and Syracuse gave them all they could handle tonight. That's what I want to see right now. Even if this club won't make the postseason, I want to see them competitive with playoff caliber teams, and they've looked that way over the past 4 games.
Interesting to note: Brett Connolly has had multi-point nights in 5 of his last 11 games, and he has 5 goals and 14 points over that span. He's another guy, like Sustr, who could give Jon Cooper some options once he goes up top to Tampa Bay when Syracuse's season is over. Considering the way the Lightning occasionally have looked like they're running on fumes, they have to at least ponder what someone from Syracuse (or anywhere else, for that matter) could do to inject a little energy into their lineup.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Roller coaster Crunch back on the uphill slope.
Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 4 goals on 25 shots for the victory. Goal support remains a beautiful thing.
ADK Cousins, (9) (Eddy, Manning), 9:31
ADK Noebels, (3) (Akeson, Lamarche), 17:43
SYR Walker, (5) (Marchessault, Gourde), 7:49 (PP)
ADK Akeson, (21) , 11:54
SYR Paquette, (17) (DiSalvatore, Connolly), 14:46 (PP)
SYR Paquette, (18) (Sustr, Cote), 15:56
ADK Holmstrom, (12) (Delisle, Noebels), 0:59 (PP)
SYR Smith, (6) (Marchessault, Langelier-Parent), 3:35
SYR Langelier-Parent, (2) (Gourde, Witkowski), 9:16
SYR Marchessault, (16) (Connolly, Witkowski), 14:03
Andrej Sustr also returned from injury tonight after missing over a month on the shelf, and he was joined in the lineup by J.P. Cote who has only been healthy enough to see game action in 1 game in the last month. Both defensemen had assists in the game, and both add to the list of reasons to believe this 3 game winning streak the Crunch are on might be sustainable. Also, if Sustr can finish the AHL season strong, he might give the Lightning defensive corps a shot in the arm in the depth department once he goes back up to to Tampa Bay.
The opportunity to make the playoffs is long gone for Syracuse, but they improved to 2 games under .500 with tonight's result. With everything that's happened, if the team can post a record over .500 this year, that's going to be a moral victory at least, and will help lay a foundation for success next season.
Box score from TheAHL.com.