NHL Game Night: 12-17-11 Lightning at Blue Jackets

Almost a must-win.

TB-3
CBJ-2

Mathieu Garon allowed 2 goals on 28 shots for the win. He made it harder on himself than it needed to be. Columbus' two goals came on wrap-arounds that should not have been an issue for Garon or the Lightning defense.

First Period
TB Jones (2), (Purcell), 7:27
TB Brewer (1), (Stamkos, Malone), 18:12

Second Period
CBJ Umberger (6), (Prospal, Tyutin)(PP), 5:43
TB Stamkos (20), (Lecavalier, Tyrell), 10:05
CBJ Nash (10), (Carter, Prospal), 12:14

Third Period
NO SCORING

Mathieu Garon and Steven Stamkos were the game's first and third stars.

They had to win this game. To get back in the race, they have to win against the handful teams below them in the standings when the opportunity arises and they have to get positive momentum going over the next week or two. They've set themselves up now with the opportunity to have that positive momentum going into the holiday break if they can split their last 2 road games in San Jose and Colorado. Then, presumably, they can get Martin St. Louis back in practice and back into the games by the end of December, and then really start to put together some bigger winning streaks.

I like Dana Tyrell on a scoring line with Stamkos, a lot. I think it creates matchup problems for the opposition to have two burners like that out at once, and Tyrell can be first man in on the puck, letting Stammer come later and be the finisher he is. It's a good combo. I'd even be interested to see Marty added as the third on that line just to see how that much speed could work together.

The Lightning's power play is dreadful. It's somebody-needs-to-be-fired-if-it-doesn't-improve-soon dreadful. Some of Columbus' most dangerous opportunities of the night came shorthanded and the Lightning could not even get into the Blue Jackets' zone, let alone get scoring chances. That's bad, because Columbus is statistically near the bottom of the league in PK. It just feels like the Lightning don't have any identity on the PP right now. They don't know how to gain entry into the zone (it used to be with Stammer or St. Louis carrying it) and they don't really know what they want to do when they get there (other than feed overly telegraphed one-timers to Vinny). There's too many weapons on this roster to be this bad and to be zero-dimensional on the power play. It's unacceptable.

Blair Jones and Lightning fans; reunited and it feels so good. He got his second goal of the season and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 1 gigantic hit in 10:13. He got more ice time with Nate Thompson going out hurt early, and he did something with it. So, I guess we're back in love with Blair Jones.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.