NHL Game Night: 10-20-11 Islanders at Lightning

Finally, the real Tampa Bay Lightning show up to play.

NYI-1
TB-4

Mathieu Garon allowed 1 goal on 17 shots for the victory. He didn't have a lot of work, but he made one or two key saves at key times in the game.

First Period
TB Malone (2), (Lecavalier, Bergeron)(PP), 16:32

Second Period
TB Lecavalier (3), (St. Louis), 15:14

Third Period
TB Stamkos (3), (Purcell), 5:25
NYI Grabner (2), (Streit, Rolston), 7:55
TB Clark (2), (Purcell), 16:59

Eric Brewer, Vincent Lecavalier, and Teddy Purcell were the game's three stars.

That was Lightning hockey, and the improvement started with Eric Brewer, who was questionable to even make it to the game. He's been subpar all season long, but he made better plays tonight and everything flowed from there. Some of the credit for that, I think, should go to Matt Gilroy, who played 17:15 and is starting to take some of the load that was an injured Mattias Ohlund's off of Brewer and Hedman's shoulders. He's starting to look plenty dangerous in the offensive third, too. I'm beginning to think Brewer, in particular, has a ceiling of ice time he can't go above and be effective, so it's essential other d-men like Gilroy step up until Ohlund returns.

Up front, the full energy effort from all four lines was finally there. It had been improving in each of the past couple of games, and tonight it finally came together. The forecheck was Lightning caliber, and that's how you keep a team down to a 30-17 shot disparity and you build a 3 goal lead in the final frame.

Brett Connolly was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 2 hits in 16:12. He's getting better along the wall and around the cage in every single game, and he's a viper of a playmaker with the puck on his stick. Tonight was his 7th NHL game, 2 shy of that magical 9th game when the decision on whether or not to send him back to junior needs to be made. Honestly, and folks know I'm not King Brett Connolly booster, I'm starting to lean toward keeping him in the NHL. He's doing things along the wall I didn't think he was capable or willing to do. The skill level was never the question for me. The question was whether he'd be a passenger on the forecheck, and in the past few games he's been anything but.

Blair Jones had 3 shots and 1 blocked shot in 10:31. He was inserted in the lineup to provide energy and that's just what he did. His skill level isn't terribly high and he's not pretty to look at, but he works his bag off, and that's infectious.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.