NHL Game Night: 12-26-09 Thrashers at Lightning

Steve Downie doles out coal to the visiting team.

ATL-3
TB-4

Mike Smith allowed 3 goals on 27 shots for the win.

First Period
ATL 11:48, Antropov 10 (Kovalchuk, Afinogenov)
TB 13:34, Downie 7 (Lecavalier, Ohlund)

Second Period
TB 4:44, Lundin 1 (Lecavalier)
ATL 16:54, Reasoner 3 (Hainsey, Bogosian)

Third Period
TB 5:04, Tanguay 5 (Downie, Lecavalier)
TB 6:45, Malone 19 (St. Louis, Stamkos)
ATL 16:50, Kovalchuk 22 (Antropov, Bogosian)

The Lightning played a near flawless third holding the Thrashers to 0 shots for over 3/4 of the final frame before giving the obligatory cheap goal to Kovalchuk. Fortunately they'd already staked themselves to a two goal lead, thanks in part to the play of Steve Downie, who had 1 goal and 1 assist. Downie also made a key clear with a little under a minute left in regulation. He's starting to come on now, and if he keeps it up he could find himself with a nice little 40-50 point campaign at the end of the year. Future looks bright.

Speaking of which, Matt Smaby: 7 hits. He's not fancy. He's not pretty. He's a blunt instrument, like a hammer, and you need to have guys like that to be successful. I'll take one Matt Smaby over a dozen smallish figure skaters like Lukas Krajicek, because Smaby can change the tone of a game with the way he plays. For instance, he folded up Evander Kane's shoulder like an Oragami crane in the third simply by locking up Evander, leaning on him, and finishing his check with authority. It was not a flashy play. He didn't break the glass. But he knocked Kane out for a couple of shifts.

Zenon Konopka was -1 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 2 blocked shots.

Paul Szczechura had 1 shot, 1 blocked shot, and was 50% on draws in 16:04.

James Wright had 7 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 9:31. He actually picked a fight with 12 foot tall Boris Valabik. Brave? Certainly? Smart? Lets just say that, in my opinion, a guy like Little or Kane would've been more in his weight class. Thank goodness the linesmen stepped in fast.

Blair Jones was +1 with 2 blocked shots in 14:10. He had his stick in the passing lanes all night long and he was absolutely driving the Thrashers insane on the forecheck and on the penalty kill. He's a lot like Smaby. He's not pretty or flashy. In fact, he lost his balance and face planted himself into the boards at one point on the third, which was mildly amusing. He's a blunt instrument. But you need guys like that on your checking line. See: Dingman, Chris, circa 2003-2004. It's guys like Downie, Smaby, and Jones that really have me high on the future right now. Guys like Stamkos, for instance, are not playing as well as they can. Hedman's still acclimating to the NHL. So, it's not the big draft picks who are the show right now. It's Downie, and Smaby, and Jones, and I love it.

Victor Hedman was +1 with 2 penalty minutes and 3 blocked shots in 24:16. He also perfectly executed the sleeper hold on Bryan Little at one point in the game.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.