NHL Game Night: 11-26-11 Panthers at Lightning
We might call this home-and-home Spanks-giving weekend for the Lightning to their down-state, little-sister rivals.
Mathieu Garon made 24 saves on 25 shots for the victory. He would've had the shutout were it not for a puckhandling gaffe in garbage time. Still, we might be able to say we're officially in the window of another Mathieu Garon hot-streak. I can't recall when the Lightning ever had 2 goaltenders this streaky on their roster.
TB St. Louis (6), (Connolly, Clark), 2:07
TB Pyatt (1), (Bergeron), 3:49
TB Stamkos (13), (Purcell, Tyrell), 6:02
TB Malone (5), (Stamkos), 10:35
FLA Matthias (3), (Skille), 17:43
TB Stamkos (14), (unassisted), 19:01
Steven Stamkos, Nate Thompson, and Martin St. Louis were the game's three stars. I loved that Stamkos added the 5th goal of the night for the punctuation mark to make sure there would be no silver lining for Florida. I'm a big believer in going out hard to get the first goal and the last goal, and typically what happens in between will take care of itself.
Unsung heroes were Tom Pyatt and Dana Tyrell. I was a little shocked that was only Pyatt's first goal, because he's dangerous on the forecheck almost every time out. And, Dana Tyrell is in full on junkyard dog mode right now. That third goal of the night scored by Stamkos was largely because Tyrell would not be knocked off the puck in the corner on the forecheck.
It's hard to know if this weekend is a turning point for this season, but I know Panther Nation (all three of them) were heading into this weekend very confident and ready to spread dirt on the 2011-2012 edition of the Lightning's grave. So, to scratch out a road win last night and then smack the taste out of the Panthers' mouths tonight was a major accomplishment, reaffirming the theological certainty that God still hates Panthers fans (especially Bill Lindsay).
Brett Connolly had a helper and was +1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 12:34. He's typically good for one really dangerous offensive shift a game, but he had two tonight, and I suspect that in the second half of the season he may have a spike in production similar to the second half of Stamkos' rookie season. Granted, Connolly's a year older than Steven was, but with Connolly losing his draft year to a hip injury, experience-wise he's at about the same point at 19 as Stammer was at 17-18.