NHL Game Night 12/27: Panthers at Lightning

The Lightning are finally starting to establish an identity in the post-Tortorella era.

FLA-4
TB-6

Mike Smith allowed 4 goals on 29 shots in the win.

First Period
07:06 TB Stamkos (4), (Smaby, Jokinen)
14:03 TB Artyukhin (3), (Recchi, Jokinen)(PP)

Second Period
03:09 FLA Booth (13), (unassisted)
04:52 TB Lecavalier (13), (St. Louis, Malone)
16:27 FLA Horton (7), (Stillman, Weiss)(PP)
16:53 FLA Booth (14), (Frolik, McCabe)(PP)
19:54 TB Lecavalier (14), (St. Louis, Malone)

Third Period
04:42 TB Malone (8), (St. Louis, Ranger)
07:46 TB St. Louis (13), (Lecavalier, Malone)
13:57 FLA Weiss (6), (Booth)

I haven't seen a Lightning team play this physical is about 12.5 years. You can see, it's starting to sink in and become the new identity of this team. Rick Tocchet has found a real nice energy line with Artyukhin, Szczechura, and Pettinger, and he's got some other bangers like Hall and it's starting to get contagious. I noticed Andrej Meszaros and Mark Recchi starting to take the body more recently and tonight, my goodness, Vaclav Prospal was in seek and destroy mode on a couple of plays. When you start getting a finesse playmaker like Prospal to lower the boom, you've got something cooking.

The other side of the equation, as I said last night, is that the first line has to get cooking, and they did tonight. The Lightning are getting secondary contributions, but they're meaningless unless Lecavalier and St. Louis can manufacture a couple of goals themselves between them on a nightly basis. Lecavalier's goal late in the second period settling down his tee shot off a Marty St. Louis rebound was a big, big goal; maybe the biggest of the year thus far.

The Lightning are now 6 games under .500 and I think they now need to go into the same mode Norfolk is in: try to get this thing back to .500 over the next month or so and then go from there.

Matt Smaby had 1 assist, 2 shots, 2 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 12:57 tonight. He made some mistakes, but they were mistakes of aggression, which I think the coaching staff is more able to live with than passive mistakes.

Paul Szczechura had 4 shots, 1 hit, and was 50% on draws in 10:08.

Steven Stamkos had 1 goal, and was +1 with 3 shots, 1 hit, and he was 60% on draws. He might've stolen Smaby's first NHL goal from him on the tap in (Smaby got his first NHL point on the resulting assist). As with Smaby, Stamkos isn't playing perfect, but he's at least playing aggressive. Controlled aggression: that's what this team's motto needs to be.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.