NHL Game Night: 12-31-11 Hurricanes at Lightning

.500 to end 2011. Now the real climb begins.

CAR-2
TB-5

Mathieu Garon allowed 2 goals on 26 shots for the win. I can't emphasize enough how impressed I am with the way he shrugged off the soft goal in Colorado. I hate to keep bringing that up, but it speaks to the fact Garon is a veteran and knows how to handle adversity, and that's critical for a team in the situation the Lightning is in.

First Period
TB Stamkos (24), (St. Louis, Downie), 3:22
CAR Faulk (2), (Bowman, Staal)(PP), 16:12

Second Period
CAR Harrison (3), (Staal, McBain)(PP), 4:29
TB Stamkos (25), (St. Louis, Downie), 8:17

Third Period
TB Stamkos (26), (St. Louis, Malone)(PP), 0:43
TB Purcell (7), (Malone, Clark), 1:05
TB Downie (6), (Malone, Pyatt), 6:51

Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, and Steve Downie were the game's three stars. Not much of a surprise to see two great players like St. Louis and Downie step up and do what they do best. Congrats to St. Louis on his 500th assist, too. But, the straw that has stirred the drink these past two games has been Downie. I speculated most of the first half of the season whether he was hurt because he's looked a bit stiff and a step slow, but he's been my #1 star of the past two nights. Yeah, he looks like Charlie Manson, but he has an amazing skill set as a playmaker and as a finisher, too. He and Purcell coming to life in the second half are prerequisites for making the playoffs.

Dominic Moore was robbed of a goal that would've made it 6-2. He so clearly did not interfere with Cam Ward and then Ward proceeded to mount him like a rodeo bull? I sat there in amazement at how Moore and Lecavalier possibly could get calls on that play because they did NOTHING illegal. It looked like a case of the refs taking pity on Carolina, I think. Kudos to Bobby Taylor for correctly pointing out those calls threw into question whether that referee crew has the intelligence to organize a one car parade. After tonight, I would cast my vote with the nays.

What the Lightning need to understand is that tonight's win was just the prelims. This road trip through Canada is the real challenge for this team, and they cannot afford to fall flat on the road. So they need to have swagger and confidence, but recognize they need to work hard to back it up, or this home stand was for naught.

J.T. Wyman had 2 hits in 10:31. Solid game.

Blair Jones Had 1 hit in 10:04, but was slightly more effective in some shifts with Tyrell and Pyatt where he got some puck retrieval help.

Box score from NHL.com.