For some reason, I want to believe tonight's collapse is rock bottom, but the more I think about it the more aprehensive I am that the worst is yet to come.
The Lightning choked away a 3-1 lead by allowing 4 unanswered goals in a 20 minute segment between the second and third periods in the loss. Johan Holmqvist stopped just 20 of 25 shots he faced in taking the L and it appears as teams start to see him the second time around, they're eating him alive. I've never seen a 6'3" goaltender play smaller than Holmqvist does, and I'm not sure if it's correctable at this stage of his career. The good news is that young prospects like Karri Ramo and Jonathan Boutin are getting better by the game in the AHL, but that's not helping the team right now.
Vincent Lecavalier, who would be a bona fide MVP candidate if the team wasn't underacheiving at 1 game under .500, had 1 goal and 2 assists in the game while his partner in crime, Martin St. Louis, had 1 goal and 1 assist. Filip Kuba and Dan Boyle each had 2 helpers while Nikita Alexeev and Brad Richards had the other Lightning goals.
At this point, you're going to hear the mighty Wurlitzer that is the Canadian hockey media start writing the Lightning's epitaph and I have no doubt the bogus trade rumors are going to start flowing hot and heavy. A lot of pressure is going to come bearing down on Feaster to make some sort of changes to right the ship and this team desperately needs a stay-at-home top four defenseman and possibly a decent natural right winger as well. It's beginning to get to the point where the points this team isn't picking up against beatable opponents like Toronto will definitely destroy their playoff chances, and I fear what the result will be if and when PS&E's bean counters decide to downsize the payroll. If these players really do value their time in Tampa and the team that has been built there over the past 7-8 years, they need to step up now because there will be irrevocable structural changes to the roster if they don't. I feel like John just introduced Yoko to the rest of the group, and this band may be on borrowed time.
Toronto 3:28, Alexei Ponikarovsky 9 (power play) (Tomas Kaberle, Bryan McCabe)
Tampa Bay 7:32, Nikita Alexeev 9 (Vincent Lecavalier, Filip Kuba)
Tampa Bay 12:29, Vincent Lecavalier 18 (power play) (Dan Boyle, Filip Kuba)
Tampa Bay 0:24, Brad Richards 12 (Martin St. Louis)
Toronto 12:55, Chad Kilger 5 (Darcy Tucker, Michael Peca)
Toronto 19:30, Chad Kilger 6 (Michael Peca, Pavel Kubina)
Toronto 3:37, Darcy Tucker 18 (power play) (Mats Sundin, Kyle Wellwood)
Toronto 10:55, Jeff O'Neill 9 (Bates Battaglia, Ian White)
Tampa Bay 16:16, Martin St. Louis 18 (power play) (Vincent Lecavalier, Dan Boyle)
Game sheet from NHL.com.
Art Femenella had a goal and was +2 in Vermont's 7-1 exhibition win over the U.S. Under-18 team. Femenella also had 2 PIM.
Mike Lundin was +3 in Maine's 7-1 win over Northeastern.
John Wessbecker was scoreless and even in UMASS' 5-2 loss to Boston College.
Dusty Collins was scoreless with 2 PIM in Northern Michigan's 3-2 loss to Michigan State.
Two firsts with this week's selection...
The Springfield Falcons have announced that they have signed left wing Randy Rowe to a PTO contract and recalled him from Johnstown of the ECHL. In addition, center Jean Desrochers has been released from his PTO and returned to the Chiefs from Springfield.
Rowe currently leads the Chiefs in scoring with 10 goals and 29 points in 21 games, good for 7th in scoring in the ECHL. Desrochers played 16 games in Springfield, posting 2 goals and 3 points with a -5 rating and 6 penalty minutes.
Coleman's seen more shots in the last week and a half than the Lightning's goaltenders see in a month.
Gerald Coleman stopped 34 of 37 shots faced in a game where the Chiefs were outshot 37-24 for the loss. Doug Andress (powerplay) and Brandon Elliot (shorthanded) had the Johnstown goals. Maxime Boisclair, Randy Rowe, Grant Jacobsen and Geoff Waugh had individual assists.
BAK Hofstrand, (2) (Rodberg, Lutes), 4:45 (PP)
BAK Venedam, (10) (Irving), 10:03
BAK Ianiero, (6) (Irving, Scott), 16:13 (PP)
JHN Andress, (6) (Boisclair, Rowe), 2:16 (PP)
JHN Elliott, (3) (Jacobsen, Waugh), 8:29 (SH)
Game sheet from ECHL.com.
Marek Bartanus was scoreless in Owen Sound's 3-2 shootout win against Guelph. Bartanus was also unsuccessful as the Attack's sixth shooter in the penalty shot session.
Dane Crowley assisted on the game tying goal with 7 second left in regulation and then scored the overtime winning goal to lift Swift Current to a 2-1 victory over Brandon. He was named third star of the game and was +2 with 4 penalty minutes. Crowley has 2 goals and 6 points in 6 games this month.
You can't afford to spot a team like the Ducks any soft goals, and the one Denis allowed tonight cost the Lightning at least a point.
Marc Denis allowed 4 goals on 25 shots and Chris Kunitz's shot from behind the net riccocheting off Denis' left skate and in as the netminder left his post to early on a rush in the third period proved to be the Lightning's death knell. Martin St. Louis had 2 assists while goals were scored by Eric Perrin, Ruslan Fedotenko and Brad Richards. Vincent Lecavalier and Paul Ranger added individual assists, but it was a sputtering power play that went 0-for-5 including a squandered long 5-on-3 power play in the third period with the Lightning chasing the tying goal that was the real story offensively. Atlanta picks up a point in the standings and now has an 11 point lead on the Lightning in the division.
Anaheim 3:07, Dustin Penner 11 (Todd Marchant, Shawn Thornton)
Tampa Bay 10:20, Eric Perrin 8 (Paul Ranger, Martin St. Louis)
Anaheim 10:58, Dustin Penner 12 (power play) (Shawn Thornton, Francois Beauchemin)
Anaheim 12:48, Teemu Selanne 17 (Andy McDonald, Chris Kunitz)
Tampa Bay 17:25, Ruslan Fedotenko 8 (Vincent Lecavalier)
Anaheim 2:26, Chris Kunitz 16 (Teemu Selanne, Scott Niedermayer)
Tampa Bay 10:10, Brad Richards 11 (Martin St. Louis)
The moral victory is the Lightning proved they can go toe to toe with the second best team in the NHL and certainly hold their own. But moral victories don't count in the standings and the brutal December schedule rolls on as this Lightning team is still trying to hit its stride.
Game sheet from NHL.com.
First, a stat correction last night. The AHL website originally had both Karri Ramo and Jonathan Boutin allowing 2 goals last night against Albany. The corrected sheet has Ramo allowing 3 goals on 14 shots while Boutin allowed 1 goal on 16 shots faced, which is relevant because of what Boutin did tonight.
Jonathan Boutin stopped 32 of 32 shots faced tonight and was the proverbial stopper getting the win to break the team's 2 game losing streak and the shutout which was his first of the season and second of his AHL career. Boutin's night included a crucial third period where the Falcons were outshot 12-4 but Boutin stood up to the test. Justin Keller scored Springfield's first goal on a 5-on-3 power play and Norm Milley added an insurance marker on a 5-on-4 power play before Marek Kvapil sealed the win with an empty net goal. Eric Healey had 2 assists while individual assists went to Daniel Corso and Eric Healey.
SPR Keller, (8) (Corso, Healey), 11:56 (PP)
SPR Milley, (11) (Delmore), 0:30 (PP)
SPR Kvapil, (4) (Healey), 19:45 (EN)
Don't look now, but Jonathan Boutin is 3-0-0 in December with 1 shutout, a 1.30 GAA and a .958 save percentage in 5 games this month. Coach Stirling has become confident in Boutin's ability and now has two talented, athletic young goaltenders in his arsenal, and until Springfield learns to put in a full 60 minute effort, they'll rely heavily on their goaltenders to weather surges and get wins. The Falcons are now 14-12-0 with 28 points, just 3 points behind division leading Portland with the Pirates holding a game in hand.
Game sheet from TheAHL.com.
Johnstown gets a point at least.
Morgan Cey allowed 3 goals on 25 shots faced in the game for the OT loss. Randy Rowe led the way for the Chiefs with an assist on the opening goal and the key tying goal to send the contest to overtime with 59 seconds left in the third period. Adam Henrich had the other Johnstown goal with assists going to Doug Andress, Maxime Boisclair and Andrew Martens. Rowe and Henrich were named second and third stars of the game. The Chiefs outshot Reading 29-28.
REA Zappala, (4) (Becker), 6:09
JHN Henrich, (5) (Andress, Rowe), 11:55 (PP)
REA Hogeboom, (12) (Hiebert, Germain), 13:31
JHN Rowe, (10) (Boisclair, Martens), 19:09
REA Hiebert, (8) (Christie), 2:13 (PP)
Game sheet from ECHL.com.