NHL Game Night 2/20: Lightning at Sabres

If the Lightning had earned even half the points they've frittered away late in games this season they'd probably be winning the division right now.

TB-3
BUF-4 (OT)

The Lightning held a two goal lead with under 4 minutes in the third to play and still found a way to choke and give Tomas Vanek a hat trick in the process. Johan Holmqvist allowed 4 goals on 46 shots in the loss.

First Period
Tampa Bay 4:02, Chris Gratton 10 (Filip Kuba, Craig MacDonald)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
Tampa Bay 1:03, Brad Richards 18 (Jan Hlavac)
Buffalo 3:03, Derek Roy 22 (Jaroslav Spacek, Tim Connolly)
Tampa Bay 13:12, Vaclav Prospal 28 (Dan Boyle, Vincent Lecavalier)
Buffalo 17:39, Thomas Vanek 23 (Tim Connolly, Toni Lydman)
Buffalo 18:15, Thomas Vanek 24 (Tim Connolly, Derek Roy)

Overtime
Buffalo 2:25, Thomas Vanek 25 (power play) (Jaroslav Spacek, Jason Pominville)

Mike Lundin- 6:19 of ice time.
Doug Janik- 2:43 of ice time.

Is it really any secret why this team wilts defensively late in games? If Doug Janik is not trusted to play more than 2:43 in a game, then why the hell is he in the bigs? Seriously. If he's not traded at the deadline he should be immediately sent down to Norfolk. It would be far more logical to have Matt Smaby up with the team learning the ropes and filling a jersey than a living, breathing dead-end like Janik. And why, when the season is a bust, is a young player like Mike Lundin not getting more ice time? It might give John Tortorella and his mini-me Sullivan a heart attack to hear this, but the season is over. There's 22 more games now to help this franchise lay a foundation to have a successful 2008-2009 season, and part of laying that foundation is letting the kids play and learn in games where mistakes won't cost a playoff spot because the season is already over.

That means playing Lundin and Tarnasky more. That means giving extended recalls to guys like Smaby and Blair Jones. That means giving cups of coffee to a few guys like Justin Keller, Radek Smolenak, Mario Scalzo, Vladimir Mihalik, and Andy Rogers and actually giving them some ice time when they're up with the team.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.