NHL Game Day: 2-26-12 Lightning at Devils

Still the pound for pound champ...

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Mathieu Garon allowed 3 goals on 22 shots in the victory. He made a few good stops at key times in the game to make sure the Lightning stayed in the game.

First Period
NJ Ponikarovsky (12), (unassisted), 12:07

Second Period
TB St. Louis (20), (Stamkos, Garon), 6:39
TB St. Louis (21), (Purcell, Stamkos)(PP), 14:55

Third Period
NJ Sykora (15), (Bernier, Zubrus), 2:28
TB Gilroy (2), (St. Louis, Purcell), 3:09
TB St. Louis (22), (Purcell, Brewer), 10:18
NJ Parise (23), (Kovalchuk, Elias)(PP), 17:25

Martin St. Louis and Ted Purcell were the game's first and second stars. For Marty, that's 9 straight 20+ goal seasons. While it's not as long a streak as Vincent Lecavalier's, a lot of the same praise applies to Marty. He played the bulk of his career in an era where mugging players was legal, and the amount of training and preparation work he had to put in to stay healthy enough to have 9 straight seasons of 20 goals is why he's arguably the most respected player in the NHL. It's especially true when you consider his size. Think of how hard he's had to work to maintain durability when he's the smallest player on the rink most nights. Truly impressive.

For Purcell, who had a slow first half, that's 18 points in his last 13 games. Will next year be the year he puts it together for a full 82 games and becomes a superstar? He was awesome in the playoffs last season and he's been awesome in the stretch run of this season, so far. If he dedicates to play a full 82 like this, he'll be an All-Star.

Today's game was indicative of the kind of style of game the Lightning have to embrace to win now that the bench has been shortened up by trades and injuries. They've got to play opportunistic, which means the goaltender's got to make saves to keep the team in the game, and the team's got to bury the chances they get when they come along, especially on the power play. That's the formula, and it's really the New Jersey formula, ironically. They're not going to run anyone over with talent. They've got to manufacture wins the hard way.

Tampa Bay crawls back to within 6 points of 8th place Winnipeg with 2 games in hand on the Jets. The Lightning really have to still be a little sick about that 4-3 loss in Winnipeg. A W there and the team would be sitting 3 points out of 8th and 4 points out of the division lead (pending the outcome of the Panthers' game). Finding ways to win those 4-point games is going to make or break the season. They can't afford to lose anymore of them.

Tim Wallace had 3 hits in 6:33.

Trevor Smith was +1 with 2 penalty minutes in 10:37.

J.T. Wyman had 1 hit in 11:49.

Evan Oberg was +1 with 1 hit in 11:25. The ramblin' man, making it happen.

Mike Angelidis had 1 shot and 2 hits in 7:29.

Pray for the rest of the AHL if the Lightning ever get healthy enough to send some of these guys back to Norfolk.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.