Lightning solve a dilemma en route to victory.
Ben Bishop stopped all 31 shots he faced for the shutout. He didn't have much work until the last 5 minutes of the game when, inexplicably, the Lightning became sieve-like and were allowing the Canes to run Bishop. Shame on the skaters, and good on Bishop for keeping his goose egg in tact anyway. That there was some (U of) Maine Justice!
9:54 TB Hedman (2), (Thompson, Crombeen)
11:38 TB Stamkos (10), (Killorn, St Louis)
17:14 TB Killorn (3), (St Louis)
The Lightning managed to turn this from another clunker into something extremely positive to build on. They were flat as a pancake again in the First Period and half of the Second Period until Justin Peters decided to kick a Hedman shot that was wide off the end boards into his own net. And, then it was on, with the top line leading the way with the notable change of Alex Killorn running with the big guns instead of Ryan Malone. The impact of that change was obvious, and that should seal Malone's fate from here on out. He's too slow for the top line and that needs to be Killorn's spot. Malone needs to embrace what he is this season. I'd like to see him start to take on more of an Andreychuk-type spot with the team. Commit to being a strong checking liner. Try to get your points when you can on the PP. Let the young guys who have wheels get the big minutes.
Radko Gudas was +2 with 3 hits and 4 blocked shots in 21:08. He was much more under control in this game than against New Jersey and the results of that were obvious. He was solid as a rock tonight.
Mark Barberio had 4 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 15:17. I liked the decision to spot him in this game. It gave Sustr the chance to settle down a little in the press box and Barberio a chance to get some playing time in a game where any mistakes he made weren't going to necessarily be fatal. There was bad and good. I thought the was excellent offensively in the first half of the game. Early in the Second Period, he was about the only Lightning player taking shots (had 4 blocked and 1 missed the net) and he nearly had an assist on one play in the First Period. The critique, though, is the same. He terrifies you in his own end because of how soft he is on the puck. A stiff breeze gets him off the puck clean. A stern look gets him off the puck clean. And, then, obviously there's the issue of the two penalties taken in a close game. It was his best game of the year so far, in my opinion, but there's still considerable room for improvement.
Tyler Johnson had 2 shots and 1 blocked shot and was 30% on draws in 15:26. He was guilty of overpassing in the First Period. It's just that simple. He's got one of the best shots on the team. If I had his shot, you couldn't stop me from shooting the puck. I'd start shooting the puck from the parking lot. I'd be shooting pucks from the bench. There's be pucks going on net from the restroom in the intermission. If I had a shot as good as Johnson's, there's nothing in the world that would make me give up a clean look and pass it off. He's got to get greedier.
Killorn had 1 goal and 1 assist and was +2 with 3 shots and 1 hit. 3 takeaways for Killorn, too. That spot on the top line needs to be his. Period. The discussion ended tonight.
Ondrej Palat had 1 shot, 3 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 13:04. That's a great stat line for a guy that didn't seem to do much other than squander a 2-on-1 shorthanded in the First Period with Johnson.
Richard Panik had 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 11:01. My thought was Cooper's decision to put him on the fourth line was an attempt to get Panik to play chippier. One of the problems with Panik's game so far is he's not being the instigator he was at times in the AHL. Ultimately, it doesn't pay that Richard looks like a Bond villain if he plays like a Bond girl. Unfortunately, I didn't see that edge. He's lucky Connolly didn't set the world on fire tonight, but the Lightning have his spot under the microscope. They have to.
Lightning take their first bad loss of the season.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 22 shots for the loss.
1:36 NJ Henrique (4), (Elias)(SH)
10:54 NJ Jagr (3), (unassisted)
15:23 TB Stamkos (9), (Purcell, R. Malone)(PP)
When I say "bad loss", I mean a loss against a team you expect to have a good chance to get a point or two against. Yes, the Lightning played poorly getting beat 5-0 by Boston and they left at least a point on the ice with their late loss to Pittsburgh, but this was the first time they really allowed themselves to fall behind schedule by losing to a team they could've gotten points from. You hate losing games like this because it starts to put pressure on you to steal more points out of games against top flight opponents, and that's a dangerous spot to be in.
The energy level was pretty poor. The puck handling and passing were pretty clumsy. Just a soft effort where the team really didn't appear to be bearing down and focused on the task at hand. At best, that led to an anemic 17 shots on goal. At worst, that led to turnovers, and turnovers by Carle and St. Louis led to New Jersey's two goals. Two flat games in a row now (I partly blame the Panthers game hangover for this one), and they should consider themselves fortunate to have gotten 2 points out of the 2 games, to be honest.
Radko Gudas had 3 shots, 2 hit, and 2 blocked shots to go with 2 penalty minutes in 23:05. I really didn't like his game tonight, although the coaches rewarded him with some late PP time. Got caught out of position more than once, took one bad penalty, and I didn't like the incident at Brodeur's cage at the buzzer. That's pointless and stupid when you just beat the wrap from the Panthers game incident. Cooper's got to calm him down, because he's getting out of control again.
Tyler Johnson had 3 shots and was 41% on draws in 16:30. He was stopped on a breakaway and had another clean look from the RW circles later in the game where he missed the net.
Alex Killorn had 2 shots in 15:45. This, actually, might have been one of his better efforts. He got robbed on one chance by Brodeur.
Ondrej Palat had 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 13:49. He made an amazing pass to spring Johnson on his breakaway and got stung blocking a shot on a pretty big Third Period PK.
Andrej Sustr was -1 with 2 penalty minutes in 12:30. After a very good game against Florida, he might've been a little too big for his britches in his approach tonight. Not as much care with the puck in his own end and maybe a little out of control jumping into the play on the offensive end.
Richard Panik had a hit in 13:12. He had a couple of looks in a Third Period power play and he just didn't do anything with them. I worry about his confidence getting shot at some point.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie was -1 in 7:16. I'm going to ask an honest question and leave it right here. Two straight games where the team came out flat. Did anyone see Labrie trying to get in a scrap? I didn't. I question the logic of having a guy on the roster that's there for an obvious reason, dressing him, and then not seeing that role carried out. I saw Crombeen trying to get something going. Maybe I've missed it, but I haven't seen that from Labrie.
Lightning survive another wild/weird game.
Anders Lindback allowed 3 goals on 32 shots in regulation and OT before stopping 3 of 4 in the penalty shot session for the win. I thought he looked pretty shaky the first half of the game and got stronger as it wore on, even though he allowed the 2 in the Third Period.
0:41 TB St Louis (7), (Stamkos, R. Malone)
04:35 TB Stamkos (8), (Malone, Carle)
13:48 FLA Matthias (1), (Winchester, Goc)
9:58 TB Gudas (1), (Panik, Killorn)(PP)
5:39 FLA Bjugstad (1), (Upshall, Kulikov)
8:51 FLA Boyes (5), (unassisted)
TB- Filppula, Stamkos
Steven Stamkos was the game's first star.
I thought the Lightning really sleepwalked through most of the first two periods and were fortunate that the Panthers were loose with the odd man rush to start the game and the bad Markstrom rebound that staked them to the 2-0 lead. Things were at 3-1 and the Lightning were still looking a little lethargic when the whole bizarre Radko Gudas/Scottied Upshall incident happened.
For those who missed it. Gudas was spilled at the opposing blueline and down on his butt with his back to the Panthers bench when Upshall displayed his classlessness by shooting Gudas with water from the bench. Radko got up and broke the blade of his stick over the top of the boards (Upshall looked terrified) and next thing you know Gudas was tossed from the game, leaving the Lightning down to 5 d-men on the second half of a back-to-back. For the record, I think the officials overreacted. Kicking Gudas out implies Radko intended to injure Upshall. Upshall was sitting on the bench with nowhere to run to. If Gudas wanted to use his stick to injure Upshall, he most assuredly would have. Players bang their sticks into the boards and glass all the time, and whenever it is called (typically for trying to show up the refs) it's a 10 minute call but not a match penalty.
The weirdness then ratcheted up another notch, because I thought the whole incident actually woke the Lightning up and they started to play their best hockey early in the Third Period. But, they didn't get the payoff and Nick Bjugstad got a very nice tip in goal followed by Ondrej Palat making a horrible, uncharacteristic puckhandling gaffe in his own end that resulted in the tying goal. Fortunately, Lindback kept Florida out the rest of the way, and the Lightning continued to look pretty good in the shootout, partly thanks to the infusion of Valterri Filppula.
Honestly, I'd just as soon not play the Panthers because even though the Lightning are now 9-1-1 in their last 11 against the Panthers, something about the Panthers gets the Lightning out of their structure and into a weird emotional dynamic I don't like. I think there's a hangover after these games that bothers me. It's especially true when the team goes down to Sunrise, which is like playing a hockey game in a mausoleum it's so empty. Seriously, I get that moving franchises is typically a bad thing, but how is the 5 people that were in the stands today preferable to an energized fan base in Quebec City? It's such a night and day difference in support between Tampa Bay and South Florida, where they evidently stayed home to celebrate the Dolphins' loss to the Patriots that they got to watch on TV.
Gudas had 1 goal and 22 penalty minutes to go with 4 shots and 3 blocked shots in 12:32. Scottie Upshall is a dead man the next time these two teams play. I can't say it plainer than that. Upshall's a dead man. Gudas does't forget stuff like this (neither does Jon Cooper, btw).
Tyler Johnson was -2 with 2 hits in 18:07. He was also his standard 54% on draws. Markstrom nearly kicked the game winner right onto his stick late in the Third Period.
Alex Killorn had a helper and 1 hit in 17:04. He was very active on the forecheck again and very good handling the puck. I remain concerned he's not getting shots on goal lately.
Ondrej Palat was -2 with 1 hit in 15:44. His mistake on the Boyes goal was bad and he should feel bad.
Andrej Sustr was +1 with 2 shots, 3 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 18:46. For everyone who was trying to tell me about the quality of Mark Pronger-io's game last night, please refer to Sustr's game tonight to see where the bar is set. He was fantastic at both ends of the rink. Good one on one and strong on the puck. Good passing it out of his third. Good keeping pucks in at the point on the attack using that big reach. Just, flat out, good.
Richard Panik had a helper and was -2 with 2 penalty minutes and 2 hits in 13:38. He was a non-factor after taking a First Period boarding call. It's like all the aggressiveness just bled right out of him.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie had 3 hits in 5:21. It did not escape notice that Cooper put Labrie and Crombeen out to start the Third Period, and that there were no takers from the Panthers side of the ice.
Lightning end the home stand with another two points the hard way.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 22 shots for the victory.
12:48 TB Johnson (3), (Filppula, Carle)(PP)
12:58 BUF Flynn (2), (McCormick, Leino)
12:46 BUF Vanek (4), (Foligno, Girgensons)
14:09 TB St Louis (6), (Stamkos, Gudas)
15:55 TB Palat (3), (Johnson)
I Tweeted (I have one of those now) Friday night that beating teams like Chicago is nice, but it doesn't do you any good if you drop points to teams like Buffalo and Florida. The Lightning responded really well in terms of effort tonight, but ran into a quality, experienced, franchise goaltender in Ryan Miller, who made them work hard for their win. The First Period was a clinic, and most of the Third Period was, as well, but Miller had the forcefield up and denied numerous quality chances by the Lightning. The Sabres capitalized by taking advantage of some sloppiness by the Lightning in the Second Period and an ill-advised Radko Gudas forecheck in the Third Period coupled with a sleepy Stamkos backcheck to build a 2-1 lead late in the Third Period.
What you had to like is that Gudas and Stamkos made great plays to atone for their mistake, setting up St. Louis for the tying goal. And, then, Jon Cooper decides, "What the hey?" He puts Palat/Johnson/Panik back together and they reply by getting the winning goal.
14 points in the first 10 game segment of the season is 2 more than what I thought they needed to set pace. It's wonderful. It should prove to them, athletically, they're capable of competing at this level. But, being athletically good enough doesn't get you to the playoffs. To get to the playoffs, you've got to consistently master the grind of the season and churn out those points. You got the minimum 12 you needed in the first segment? Awesome. Now you've got to do it seven more times to get to the tournament. And, that challenge starts immediately in South Florida tomorrow.
Gudas had a helper, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 16:11. Minutes were down a bit with the Lightning rotating 7 defenders.
Mark Barberio was +1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 12:03. In the offensive third he looked dangerous. In the defensive third he looked... also dangerous (in a bad way). I saw improvement tonight and I'd be less scared to put him out the next game than I was after the Boston opener. He can be a useful player for the Lightning if he can just develop into an average player in the defensive zone. He showed the offensive instincts tonight.
Tyler Johnson had 1 goal and 1 assist, 3 shots, 1 hit, and was 55% on draws in 21:09. I think that stat line and that ice time figure pretty much sums it up.
Alex Killorn played 17:33. I'm a little worried, given the nature of his game, that he's not getting shots although he's working very hard on the forecheck.
Palat had the game winning goal and was +1 with 4 shots and 3 hits in 15:25. He's magical with the puck. He's responsible without the puck. He's the straw that stirs the drink on whatever line he plays. You wonder if Cooper will start to creep his minutes up now that Palat seems to have his legs underneath him in the NHL.
Richard Panik had 4 shots and 1 hit in 13:39. He's become the man on PP2 in front of the net and showed good hands deflecting pucks all night. You get the sense his breakthrough could come at any time. I say, why not tomorrow?
Some things you just have to see to believe.
Ben Bishop allowed 5 goals on 43 shots for the victory. He played about as good a game as you can play allowing 5 goals. He made several key saves at key points throughout the game to allow the Lightning to stay in the contest and eventually take the 2 points.
6:28 TB Carle (1), (Filppula, Panik)(PP)
1:24 TB Thompson (1), (Crombeen, A. Sustr)(SH)
9:00 CHI Bickell (3), (Kruger, B. Seabrook)
10:36 CHI Hossa (4) , (Sharp, Toews)
17:21 TB Stamkos (6), (Hedman)
18:53 CHI Kane (5), (unassisted)
1:33 CHI Shaw (1), (Kane, D. Keith)(PP)
11:03 TB Hedman (1), (St Louis, Stamkos)
17:31 TB Stamkos (7), (Filppula)(PP)
18:11 CHI Toews (4), (unassisted)
1:16 TB St Louis (5), (Stamkos, R. Gudas)
You can't buy experience more valuable than what the Lightning got themselves tonight as a young club trying to overcome tilted ice against a very good, very polished Chicago team. The first half of the game I thought they played to the blueprint of what they needed to do almost perfectly. They were limiting odd man rushes to practically nil, getting good goaltending, and they were opportunistic as heck when their chances came. I mean, you have no complaints about scoring when 2/3 of the Bluetooth Line decides to cash in a fairly pretty shorthanded goal.
And then the first wave of adversity came. A bounce went against them on the Bickell goal, Hossa makes a nice tip-in goal, and then Gudas gets himself thrown in the box immediately after. At that point the wheels very easily could have come off, but Bishop made a couple of key saves (without a stick, as I recall) to settle his team down. Then Stamkos makes a tremendous individual play to blow down the ice and rip a laser beam past Khabi to regain the lead. Happy days are here again! Nope. Kane takes the third pair to school and the teams go into the intermission tied 3-3.
Chicago comes out and almost immediately retakes the lead and with a young team you can't help but think there's no way they can scrape themselves off the mat a second time, now trailing for the first time in the game. They did. Bishop again made a couple of quality saves to keep the Lightning alive and then Hedman jumps into the play and makes a really patient goal slipping the puck 5-hole to tie it up and then Stamkos buries another laser off the faceoff on a power play late in the Third Period. We win, right?
Not yet, because then we got into the theater of the absurd. Matt Carle flings a hard pass down the middle of the ice back into the D zone to Gudas which riccochets off Gudas past Bishop and into the net to tie the game. I don't think anybody within a 1,000 mile radius of the Forum expected that to happen, and at that point you expect the team has to come unraveled. Given how poorly the team responded the previous two waves of adversity, needing Bishop to really bail them out, getting a point out of the game was in serious doubt. But, you know, the Johnson and Palat line showed the maturity of grizzled vets the next shift out and settled it down. 1 point secured, we head to OT.
And, in OT, after some harrowing early moments, Gudas takes off those goat horns and helps the Lightning get some good possession going and next thing you know Marty St. Louis is putting the dagger in Chicago's heart. Wow. 3 waves of adversity, and they overcame each of them to get the 2 points.
1. Ben Bishop did what #1 goaltenders do. He kept his team in it and gave them a chance. Just keep your young team within 1 goal, and with some of the weapons they have, particularly Stamkos, they have a puncher's chance.
2. After floundering to handle adversity the first 2 times, the kids figured it out the 3rd time. Palat and Johnson diffused an atom bomb at the end of the Third Period and then Gudas, after getting caught in some unfortunateness twice over the course of the night, is a prominent part of the winning goal.
3. This is the really big one: when the chips were really down in the Third Period, the young bluechippers really stepped it up. Stamkos and Hedman were bad against Boston. Stamkos not as much as Hedman, but he wasn't the factor you needed him to be to lead his team against a better club. Stamkos made a great individual goal to get it to 3-2 and a PP goal to get it to 5-4 at separate points in this game. Hedman, my gosh, he went from -5 and his worst game of the season against Boston to looking like a Norris Trophy candidate at times against Chicago. Assertive. Strong. Leading his team from the backline. If Bishop, Stamkos, and Hedman all hit their stride together this season, this team's going places faster than anyone's original timetable.
My goal for the first 10 game segment of the season was 12 points. 9 games in they're already there. That's an advantageous spot going against Buffalo in the homestand finale with the chance to get 2 insurance points to close out the segment heading into the next 10. Looking at the schedule of the first 10 game segment, they should feel pretty good about what they accomplished, especially when you consider they left at least a point on the ice against Pittsburgh.
Radko Gudas had a helper and was -1 with a bad minor penalty, 3 shots, 4 hits, and 4 blocked shots in 19:16. The penalty he took right after Chicago tied the game at 2 was really cringe-worthy, but he got it back on the final sequence of the game. He atoned.
Tyler Johnson was -1 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 16:59. He was also 59% on draws. He blew an open net in the Third Period that would have tied the game at 4-4 just before Victor Hedman went into beast mode. That was a little cringe-worthy. But, the work he helped do to settle things down shortly after the own goal tied it at 5-5 more than made up for it. Like Bishops big saves, that shift was a game-saver.
Alex Killorn was -3 with 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 18:40. Cooper shuffled the lines a bit to put Killorn with Stamkos at one point and Malone down with Filppula. I must say, I preferred it.
Ondrej Palat was -1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 15:35. He damned near created 2 goals on his own with his puckhandling ability and was smooth and poised in all three zones as usual. It's getting a bit like it was when he was in the AHL now, where you feel good anytime he has the puck because good things are probably about to happen.
Andrej Sustr had a helper, 1 shot, and 1 hit in 14:41. He was on the ice for that undressing by Patrick Kane, but with that said, he was pretty good tonight. Good breakout passes and assertive in the offensive third. I'll take that performance most nights from Sustr.
Richard Panik had a helper and was -2 with 1 hit in 15:48. I thought he was more assertive and more active tonight, helping to screen Khabi on the opening goal by Carle. It's coming along. I wish the stat line was a little more reflective of it. I keep hoping Panik can get that first goal and breakthrough, because it feels like it's coming along and it could be floodgates once he gets it.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie had 1 hit in 3:46. You feel for Nacho being the 1/3 of Bluetooth Line that didn't get a point.