Thrashers lose 3-2 to the Caps at home in "Blue Land" (which also shares a border with "How Stupid Will You Feel If You Traded Three First Round Picks To Finish Second in the Division Land"). Atlanta wastes their game in hand and now, if the Lightning get just 1 point out of their next game against the Panthers it will set up an epic season finale with a championship banner on the line.
Enjoy your tee times "champs".
Johan Holmqvist (just win baby) stopped 22 of 24 shots faced for the win. The Lightning got goals from Eric Perrin, Vincent Lecavalier and the The Showman, Dan Boyle. With all due respect to Marty and Vinny, Dan Boyle is, was, and always will be the most entertaining player on this club to watch night in and night out. If you spliced the genes of Bobby Orr and PT Barnum, the end product would be Dan Boyle. He is the NHL's best kept secret. He is also one of only a dozen or so players in this league who are worth paying money to see just in of himself along with the Crosbys of the world. He's that good, and he's got 20 goals this season to prove it. It's a crying shame the NHL doesn't recognize just what sensational marquee caliber player he is. Jason Ward, Nolan Pratt and Vaclav Prospal added assists.
The Lightning pull within 1 point of Atlanta in the division with the Thrashers holding a game in hand. And, with the Smirkin' Chikins having a date with Washington coming up, you're about to witness one of the handful of awkward occassions in my life where I've had to utter the phrase "lets go Caps". The math is painfully simple from here on out. Atlanta has to leave at least a point on the ice against either Washington or Carolina before the Lightning and Thrashers meet up in "Blue Land" (and it's recently annexed protectorate "Mortgaged the Future of My Franchise to Try to Save My Job Land" where Don Waddell presides as Prime Minister). If they do, the division title will be in play when the Lightning take the ice in the season finale with the #3 seed, the home ice, the division title and a percentage of the proceeds from Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue's last shady land deal all up for grabs. Don't choke Atlanta.
Game sheet from NHL.com.
One of the Lightning's youngest guns helps to bring Johnstown's playoff hopes back from the dead. And no, I don't mean Radek Smolenak (4GP, 1-6-7). And, of course, there was Ryan Munce and his 3-0-0 record with a 1.00 GAA, 1 shutout and a .960 save percentage. But, this week's winner set it all in motion on a Tuesday morning somewhere in Southern Ohio.
(ECHL.com release) Ryan Munce of the Johnstown Chiefs is the Rbk Hockey ECHL Goaltender of the Week for Mar. 26-Apr. 1, 2007.
The Mississauga, Ontario native was 3-0-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average and a save percentage of .960 to help the Chiefs go 4-0-0 to move into the fifth and final playoff spot in the North Division with 70 points (32-31-6).
After stopping 25 of 26 shots in a 3-1 win at Cincinnati on Mar. 27, the 21-year-old made 24 saves in a 6-1 win against Toledo on Mar. 30 and closed out the week stopping 23 shots in a 2-1 overtime win against Cincinnati on Apr. 1.
Since being assigned to Johnstown after he was traded from the Los Angeles King to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Jan. 21, the 6-foot-2 and 185-pound Munce is 5-3-1 with a 2.53 goals-against average and a save percentage of .916 in 13 games. He began the season with Reading and was 5-6-4 with a goals-against average of 3.30 and a save percentage of .884 in 17 games for the Royals.
Selected in the third round (82nd overall) by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft and under NHL contract to Tampa Bay, Munce led the ECHL as a rookie in 2005-06 with 3,234 minutes, 1,705 saves and eight shootout wins and was 30-18-5 with a goals-against average of 2.78 and a save percentage of .919 in 55 games with Bakersfield. He was 5-5-0 with a goals-against average of 3.36 and a save percentage of .889 to help Bakersfield advance to the division finals in the Kelly Cup Playoffs.
Prior to turning professional, Munce played three seasons in the Ontario Hockey League where he was 55-56-14 with five shutouts, a goals-against average of 2.98 and a save percentage of .912 in 136 regular season games for Sarnia.
Western Hockey League -- Kal Tire Western Conference Semi-Finals
Prince George (31-30-3-5) vs. Everett (54-15-1-2)
Lightning prospects and defensemen Vladimir Mihalik (Prince George) and Dane Crowley (Everett) will meet in the Kal Tire Western Conference Semi-Finals starting this Friday. The two are the only Lightning CHL prospects remaining in the WHL or OHL playoffs (The Lightning does not have a prospect in the QMJHL).
Mihalik and Prince George swept Kamloops in the first round and haven't played since March 28. Crowley and Everett won their last two games against Spokane to take their opening round series 4-2. Prince George is the lowest seed of the remaining 4 teams in the Western Conference: Everett, Vancouver, Seattle, Prince George.
Everett won the season series against Prince George 3-2 with one win coming in overtime and another coming in a shootout. Mihalik had 2 assists, an even rating, and 14 PIM in 5 games against Everett. Crowley, with both Swift Current and Everett, had 4 assists, an even rating, and 2 PIM in 4 games vs. Prince George.
Series schedule (all times Pacific):
#1 - Prince George @ Everett; Friday, April 6 (7:35 p.m.)
#2 - Prince George @ Everett; Saturday, April 7 (7:05 p.m.)
#3 - Everett @ Prince George; Tuesday, April 10 (7:00 p.m.)
#4 - Everett @ Prince George; Wednesday, April 11 (7:00 p.m.)
#5 - Prince George @ Everett; Saturday, April 14 (7:05 p.m.) if necessary
#6 - Everett @ Prince George; Monday, April 16 (7:00 p.m.) if necessary
#7 - Prince George @ Everett; Wednesday, April 18 (7:05 p.m.) if necessary
In Game Three of their Superleague seminfinal playoff series, CSKA scored their first win of the series defeating Kazan 3-2. CSKA still trailed the series 2-1. Dimitri Kazionov was scoreless in the match.
Kazan struck back to clinch a spot in the Superleague finals defeating CSKA 2-1 in Game Four. Dimitri Kazionov was scoreless in the match.
Kazan advances to the Superleague finals to face Magnitogorsk which beat Omsk 3 games to 1. Game One of the Russian Superleague finals begins Saturday.
One Lightning prospect sees his season end while another moves on.
Sudbury 6 @ Mississauga 3
Sudbury wins best-of-7 series 4-1
The OHL Eastern Conference's No.3 seed Mississauga IceDogs - the team with the second most points in the conference - is going home after 5 games. The Sudbury Wolves came out flying in Game 5, outshooting the IceDogs 16-4 in the first period and taking a 3-0 lead. Mississauga responded, outshooting the Wolves 21-5 in the second and 16-8 in the third, but the team could not get an equalizer. The IceDogs scored in the first 6 minutes of the third period to cut Sudbury's lead to 4-3, but the Wolves scored within 10 seconds of that goal and added an empty netter for the final score. Lightning center/winger Chris Lawrence had an assist and 6 PIM in the loss and now will wait for a contract offer from Tampa Bay. Lightning prospect camp invitee Travis Fuller (47 points in 43 games) could attract some interest from one of Tampa's affiliates for a tryout contract.
Lawrence finished the series with three goals and an assist in the five games. He was also minus-6 and had 14 PIM.
Everett 4 @ Spokane 1
Everett wins best-of-7 series 4-2
Top-seeded Everett got a go-ahead power play goal with 4 seconds left in the first period and held on until adding a couple of empty-netters to defeat Spokane 4-1 and win the opening round series 4-2. Lightning prospect and defenseman Dane Crowley was scoreless and even for the Silvertips. He finished the series with two assists in the six games and a plus-2 rating.
Johnstown gains two more points on Reading and Wheeling. Playoffs look within their reach.
Ryan Munce stopped 23 of 24 shots faced for the win. Zbynek Hrdel and Gus Katsuras each had 1 goal and 1 assist with Katsuras potting the overtime game winner. Ian MacLean and Bryan Nathe added assists. Rookie star Maxime Boisclair was kicked out of the game midway through the first period with a slashing major. Katsuras, Munce and Hrdel were the game's three stars. Munce is 4-1-0 in his last 5 starts.
JHN Hrdel, (12) (MacLean, Katsuras), 8:33
CIN Daoust, (31) (Rawlyk, Stewart), 7:22
JHN Katsuras, (10) (Nathe, Hrdel), 0:06 (PP)
Game sheet from ECHL.com.
Kevin Beech allowed 3 goals on 32 shots for the loss in his first AHL start. Beech surrendered Portland's winning goal with just 43 seconds left in regulation. Kyle Wanvig and David Spina had the Falcons goals. Eric Healey, Nick Kuiper and Adam Henrich added assists.
POR Ryan, (1) (Salcido, Weinrich), 4:28 (PP)
POR Miller, (14) (Blanchard, Carter), 10:57 (PP)
SPR Wanvig, (19) (Healey, Kuiper), 18:00 (PP)
SPR Spina, (13) (Henrich), 16:11
POR Wilson, (7) (Motzko, Carter), 19:17
Game sheet from TheAHL.com.
If Vincent Lecavalier played in a bigger market, there'd be no doubt who the MVP would be this season.
Johan Holmqvist stopped 23 of 25 shots faced for the win. Vincent Lecavalier had 1 goal and 2 assists to boost his season point total to 106. If you had a fever that high, you'd be dead. Dan Boyle had 1 goal and 1 assist and is now just one goal shy of the difficult to reach 20 goal mark for a defenseman. Also with 1 goal (shorthanded) and 1 assist Martin St. Louis goes into triple digits with a sick but still non-lethal 101. And, Cory Sarich had a multi-point night with 2 assists?!?!? Stock up on canned goods, people. Ryan Craig and Jason Ward had the other Lightning goals with individual helpers going to Paul Ranger, Andreas Karlsson, Filip Kuba and Vaclav Prospal.
With the win the Lightning keep pace with Atlanta three points back in the division with their head-to-head match up still on tap in the season finale. They gain two points on the Islanders, who lost tonight, and maintain their gap on victorious Toronto, Montreal and the Rangers.
Some numbers to consider as we enter the waning games of the season:
-As mentioned, with one more goal Dan Boyle will reach 20 goals for a defenseman.
-With 4 more points, Filip Kuba would reach the 40 point plateau. Difficult, but not impossible.
-Despite missing almost 10 games with a knee injury, Paul Ranger is 3 points shy of the 30 point plateau. Also difficult, but not impossible.
-Netminder Johan Holmqvist recorded his 26th win of the season last night. Even if the Lightning run the table, he cannot reach 30 wins. Darn the flu.
Game sheet from NHL.com.