Day-After Digest: Game 3 (Lightning 4, Hurricanes 1)

Part game recap, analysis and scouting report, the Day-After Digest appears after every Lightning game.

By Mike Gallimore

The Rundown

After sluggish starts against the Capitals and Islanders, the Lightning came out of the gate with a far better first period showing against the Hurricanes. Despite playing the second match of a back-to-back and for the third time in four days, the Bolts seemed surprisingly spry as they kept pace, avoided early penalty trouble and seized much of initial momentum en route to securing a 2-0 lead before heading into the middle frame. Jeff Skinner narrowed the gap early in the second when he managed to possess and backhand, in a terrific display of dexterity, a rebound up and over a down-and-out Mathieu Garon while leaning away from the net, but a day after being picked apart defensively, Tampa Bay stayed far more structured in all zones, executing cleaner exits and entries and found an extra gear to put the game out of reach with another strong showing in the third period.

"We want to wear teams down," Boucher remarked after game. "We know we've got the offense, we know we can punch at any moment but we don't want to force it."

Tom Pyatt, Cory Conacher, Keith Aulie and Ryan Malone scored for the Lightning, whose forwards buzzed Carolina's net all night long. Aside from the Pyatt goal, which came upon his reading Lecavalier pulling up and looking for a play, then slipping by a defender and deflecting a feed out of midair and past Hurricanes netminder Cam Ward, all came as a result of getting numbers near the paint. On the Lightning's second goal, Lecavalier brought the puck out of the corner and into the crease for a stuff-in attempt before Conacher followed up and put the loose rebound through Ward. The third goal saw Pyatt and Nate Thompson parked in front of Ward, screening him, as Aulie drifted in from above the circle to the face-off dot, spied a lane and fired the puck on and into the net. The final goal had three forwards down low on a late power play when Sami Salo cranked a long-range rocket that skittered to Martin St. Louis before Malone was finally able to chip in the rebound.

Boucher commended Lecavalier for "setting the tone" Tuesday night with his efforts in the offensive zone as well as for being "the first guy back defensively." Boucher added Vinny "is doing terrific work as the captain."

Mathieu Garon was spectacular in his season debut, even if he got a bit lucky being bailed out by his post and Alex Semin flubbing what appeared to be a sure goal. He wasn't beaten at even-strength and, whatever breaks he did get, he put on a show last night.

Dana Tyrell and Brendan Mikkelson also made their first appearances this season. Tyrell saw the least amount of action of all Tampa Bay skaters but still nearly double the ice time that Labrie, whom he replaced, did Monday afternoon. Mikkelson, in for Brian Lee, was effective in the 14:09 he played, taking no penalties, blocking several shots, landing a couple hits and moving the puck quickly to his outlets. He also made the cross-point pass on Aulie's goal that earned a primary assist.

Prospect Watch

Keith Aulie

  • Game Stats
    1 0 +1 1 0 11:13 0:47 0:20 12:20

  • Season Stats
    3 1 1 +2 2 0 11:38 0:31 0:06 12:16

Aulie most notably scored his first goal (second point) of the season, but while the production, which is gravy, should be savored while it lasts, the physicality isn't going anywhere and there's no reason to think, with controlled minutes, the young blueliner can't sustain the confidence, efficiency and snarl he has shown so far. Aulie is only getting brief looks right now but there should be opportunities to earn a bit more ice time killing penalties as the season progresses. With the lineup as it is, that seems like the realistic possibility for expanded duties.

Cory Conacher

  • Game Stats
    1 0 +1 2 2 10:53 0:06 3:13 14:12

  • Season Stats
    3 2 3 +3 5 4 10:50 0:30 3:20 14:41

Conacher's second goal of the season was his fifth point in just three games, making for a historic start to what, with any luck to complement his own determined effort, will be a long and productive NHL career. Given his size, skill and knack for scoring, comparisons to Martin St. Louis are flattering and to be expected, but one only has to look at a replay of Conacher, anticipating a move up-ice and unable to delay waiting for a shoulder to lay into, plowing Skinner face-first into the glass to know that, though there are similarities, he is not from a carbon copy of his elder teammate.

By the Numbers

  • Looking at the Lightning's face-off numbers so far this season, Thompson, currently at 63%, and Lecavalier, at 59%, have gotten off to a hot start at the dots and are up about 13% and 11%, respectively, from their rates last season. On the other hand, Adam Hall, who has been the go-to guy for key draws, is currently at 50%, which is about 9% off his 2011-2012 mark so far. Lecavalier might be expected to regress to somewhere close to 50%, which is where he's ended up over the past six seasons, but last year was a bit of a drop-off for Thompson after posting two seasons at around 54% so it should be interesting to see where how he and Hall continue to trend.
  • Tampa Bay's goals for and against in the first period: 4-1. In the second period: 1-6. In the third period: 8-1.
  • The off-season additions of Carle and Salo probably raised plenty of eyebrows but the first impressions (or second, in the case of Carle) have been impressive. The Lightning are paying Carle like a top-pairing defender and, so far, he's played like one as he's looked entirely comfortable skating in all situations. The Lightning desperately needed another high-end defender who could efficiently retrieve and move the puck and so far, apart from a couple hiccups, Carle has done just that. Salo, too, is seeing a good chunk time on both sides of special teams in addition to his even strength assignments. He's been poised with and without puck in all zones but it's his cannon and right shot that, as he demonstrated last night, gives the Lightning a point-man presence on power play it has lacked since Kurtis Foster.

Best of Boucher

"Today was all about patience. Doesn't mean you can't work when you're patient, doesn't mean you're soft or on your heels. It means you're in the right places and sometimes you don't need to work as hard to get the better result."

Looking Ahead

After playing three games in four nights, the Lightning (2-1-0, 4 PTS) return home to play host to the Senators (2-0-0, 4 PTS) Friday night. A potential edge for the Lightning, who will have had several days to recuperate, will be the fact that Ottawa will have traveled from Sunrise after playing the Panthers the night before.

Ottawa shipped Nick Foligno off to Columbus and signed former Wild and Canadiens forward Guillaume Latendresse during the off-season. The other most significant change up front is the promotion of 22-year old winger Jakob Silfverburg who has already tallied his first NHL goal. Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson are still the headliners but Milan Michalek and Kyle Turris, last season's revelation after being acquired from Phoenix, might as well be considered such, too. Look beyond Ottawa's star forwards and you see a fairly young ensemble cast.

After parting ways with Matt Carkner, a more capable tough guy than defender, the Senators looked to boost their defense by obtaining Marc Methot, who was acquired in the trade with Columbus, and signing former Bolt Mike Lundin. Methot has gotten off to a solid start with his new club, averaging nearly 23 minutes of ice time and already registering an assist. Lundin broke his hand in December and has yet to play. Ottawa has also promoted 22-year old Patrick Wiercioch, who last saw NHL action in 2010-2011, and Mark Borowiecki from Binghamton. Chris Phillips and Sergei Gonchar are still eating key minutes for the Senators but the offense-minded Erik Karlsson, of course, is the star of the defensive corps. The 22-year old put up 78 points in 81 games last season and is already off to a hot start (1 goal, 2 assists in 2 games played) this season.

Craig Anderson has started and won both of Ottawa's games so far in convincing fashion, allowing just one goal and stopping 58 of 59 shots for a 0.50 goals against average and .983 save percentage. Anderson should start again Friday against the Lightning and, since he's been used a workhorse in seasons past, will probably see a large portion of the games with a condensed schedule. The Sens returned highly-regarded prospect netminder Robin Lehner to Binghamton where he can continue to start regularly but when Anderson does rest, the Senators have a more-than capable backup in Ben Bishop, the 6'7" goalie acquired from the Blues last season whom the Lightning were reportedly interested in at one point, to step in.