NHL Game Night: 3-15-14 Devils at Lightning
Win if you can. Survive if Kostka lets you.
Ben Bishop stopped all 23 shots he faced for his 5th shutout of the season, besting the living legend Marty Brodeur in the low-scoring battle. U of Maine Justice, to be sure. He's had a rough last couple of weeks, and while he didn't have to be terribly active in tonight's game he made key saves when he needed to and looked rock solid doing it, which is the best takeaway of the whole night.
With the victory, Bishop breaks the Lightning single-season record for wins by a goaltender, and there's a lot of hockey left to be played in this regular season.
12:26 TB Crombeen (3), (Kostka, Filppula)
16:58 TB Kostka (4), (Palat, Filppula)
16:41 TB Thompson (9), (Brown)
The Lightning finally played a complete game tonight against a team they have traditionally not played well against. That's probably a big part of the focus they showed tonight, because they knew going in how frustrating playing the Devils can be if you make mistakes. They came out with a lot of energy and got a lot of possession, but did not allow themselves to get impatient when that possession didn't yield chances. When the Devils made the flash surges they make, the Lightning handled them with solid work on the backcheck and the handful of key Bishop saves. And, when the chances finally came, they potted them. Most importantly of all, with the 2-0 lead going into the Third Period, they did not sit back like they've done on other leads recently. They went for the throat and eventually expanded the lead to the final 3-0 score. The Lightning finally look to have learned a hard lesson, and not a moment too soon.
Mike Kostka had 1 goal and 1 assist and was +2 with 3 shots in 16:16. You saw why Kostka has passed Barberio on the depth chart in full display tonight. He gets a center point wrist shot through traffic on the Crombeen goal for the tip-in and then he reads the play and jumps into the rush at the right time on his own goal. Yes, there are times Kostka makes some poor decisions in his own end. He gives you a lot of positives as a tradeoff, though. He jumps into the play well and he's been very good in his time with the Lightning at getting shots through and onto the net. I find myself remembering when the Lightning picked up Dan Boyle from the Panthers way back in the day. Boyle came to the Lightning with an atrocious reputation defensively (just short of Andy Delmore-bad). But, he kept finding the scoresheet every other game for the Lightning, forcing me to, tongue-in-cheek, say "You FEAR Dan Boyle" every time he got a point. I ended up saying that a lot of times over the ensuing 5 seasons Boyle was with the team. I, tongue-in-cheek, started saying, "Win if you can. Survive if Mike Kostka lets you." since the team brought Kostka in off waivers, and darnit all if he hasn't made me say that a lot so far, too. Boyle was my guilty pleasure back in 2001-2002, and Mike Kostka is very quickly becoming my guilty pleasure in 2013-2014. He's got 2 goals and 5 points in his first 7 games with the team. Will he keep it up like Boyle eventually did? Chances are he won't. But, he has me dying to see if he can.