NHL Game Night 2/22: Lightning at Thrashers
That's the pride of a champion right there.
Marc Denis stopped 24 of 28 shots in regulation and overtime but still managed to get the win as the Lightning overcame a pair of 2 goal deficits in the second period and a 1 goal deficit in the 3rd period to take the division lead free and clear. Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards each had 1 goal and 2 assists with Marty potting the deciding game winning goal. Dan Boyle had 2 assists while the other Lightning goals came from Eric Perrin, Vincent Lecavalier and the Doomsday Device, Andre Roy. For Lecavalier, it was his league leading 40th goal of the campaign; the first 40 goal season of his career. Vaclav Prospal and Paul Ranger had individual assists.
The Lightning took the Thrashers' best punch in this game and still came out on top in an amazing display of character and resiliency. Coming out in the first period this team had zero jump and, indeed, looked like they were skating in quicksand as the Thrashers jumped all over them to eventually stake a 2-0 lead on a Marc Denis Charminy soft short side goal. The Lightning then struck with Brad Richards' goal but were quickly answered by a shot that went in off of Eric Boulton's shoulder and arm. Lesser teams would've folded up with the bounces going against them like that. The Lightning just rose to the challenge. I feel like I just watched one of those great 15+ round heavyweight fights from the 60's and 70's, and in the end the Lightning played the role of Ali and the Thrashers played the part of sucker on the canvas.
The win moves the Lightning clear of the Thrashers into sole posession of the Southeast Division lead at 73 points, maintaining a 4 point lead on third place Carolina. More importantly, I think, the Lightning sent a deep psychological message to the Thrashers tonight. No matter what the Thrashers throw at the Lightning, when the chips are down, the Lightning win. That's one of those intangibles that make sports such great drama. The pride of a champion doesn't show up on paper, but it damn sure showed up on the scoreboard tonight.
Atlanta 2:38, Steve McCarthy 4 (power play) (Scott Mellanby, Marian Hossa)
Atlanta 7:50, Eric Belanger 10 (Slava Kozlov, Andy Sutton)
Tampa Bay 11:24, Brad Richards 21 (Martin St. Louis, Vaclav Prospal)
Atlanta 13:08, Eric Boulton 3 (Bobby Holik, Steve McCarthy)
Tampa Bay 13:38, Eric Perrin 11 (Martin St. Louis)
Tampa Bay 15:43, Vincent Lecavalier 40 (power play) (Brad Richards, Dan Boyle)
Atlanta 0:30, Marian Hossa 35 (Eric Belanger)
Tampa Bay 2:28, Andre Roy 1 (Paul Ranger, Dan Boyle)
Tampa Bay 3:44, Martin St. Louis 37 (Brad Richards)
Game sheet from NHL.com.