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For anyone who felt the urge to hurl themselves head first off the bandwagon after one bad game in New York, no worries. Your seat was saved.
Johan Holmqvist stopped 21 of 22 shots faced for the win. Vincent Lecavalier, who any other year would be a runaway favorite for MVP except for the rise of Pittsburgh phenom Sidney Crosby, paced the Lightning with 1 goal and 2 assists. Vaclav Prospal added 1 goal and 1 assist and Brad Richards had a pair of helpers. The other Lightning goals came from The Secret Weapon, Nick Tarnasky and The Most Underrated Star in the NHL, Dan Boyle. Martin St. Louis, Cory Sarich and Doug Janik added individual assists.
The win temporarily closed the Lightning within 5 points of Atlanta for the division lead with Atlanta slated to play Edmonton late out west. If there's one benefit to posting a game recap late, it's that I get to include that Atlanta is losing to the Oilers 4-1 after two periods. So, barring an incredible comeback by the Thrashers, the Lightning will not only have closed the gap to 5 points but they will hold 2 games in hand and they still have two head to head matchups with Atlanta still on the schedule. The division is within the Lightning's reach, so long as they continue to play well and keep one eye on Atlanta and one eye on Carolina which is also running the Thrashers down.
New Jersey 2:12, Scott Gomez 10 (power play) (Patrik Elias, Jamie Langenbrunner)
Tampa Bay 0:44, Vaclav Prospal 9 (Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis)
Tampa Bay 17:24, Nick Tarnasky 3 (Brad Richards, Cory Sarich)
Tampa Bay 18:12, Vincent Lecavalier 35 (Vaclav Prospal, Doug Janik)
Tampa Bay 0:56, Dan Boyle 12 (power play) (Brad Richards, Vincent Lecavalier)
Game sheet from NHL.com.
I really hate to get involved in rumor mongering, especially when it comes to the business side of hockey. That's why I've avoided posting about the reported cuts coming in the Lightning's hockey operations budget that are slated to occur this summer. I do, however, think it's important to talk about yesterday's story by Erik Erlendsson in the Trib which suggests the Lightning may be looking to sell their stake in the Johnstown Chiefs. Faced with declining attendance, a small and aging arena and a market which doesn't boast much in the way of large corporate benefactors, I have little doubt that Johnstown is losing money at a relatively large rate for an ECHL franchise and that, as such, PS&E may very well be looking to divest themselves of their stake in the team. There is, after all, a healthy chance the Chiefs franchise may have to move in the near future and rumors are swirling that decision may have already been made. Then again, Erlendsson also points out the Lightning may choose to buy the Chiefs franchise outright and move the team to a larger market.
The fiscal uncertainty of the Chiefs franchise unfortunately comes in the first year of the Lightning's new approach toward actively operating the organization's developmental apparatus not only at the "AAA" level in the AHL but also at the "AA" level down in the ECHL. The project has had mixed results to this point, but I hope the Lightning don't abandon the idea altogether. The new philosophy, in my view, has a lot of merit and deserves more time even if the Lightning do have to sell their stake in the Chiefs and possibly sign on with a different ECHL affiliate.
Dusty Collins was scoreless and even in Northern Michigan's 4-1 loss to Ohio State. Collins' has now failed to register a point in 17 consecutive games. His last point came on an assist on Dec. 2, 2006 against Lake Superior. The Wildcats are off next weekend and will conclude the regular season at home against Miami Ohio on Feb. 23 and 24.
Mike Lundin picked up an assist on #9 Maine's only goal in the Black Bears 1-0 win over #14 Vermont. The helper was Lundin's 10 assist of the season and 16th point. The defenseman finished the weekend series sweep over the Catamounts with two goals and an assist. The sweep helped move the Black Bears over Vermont in the HEast standings and into a tie for third with Boston College, who plays Boston University on Monday in the Beanpot championship. Vermont's Art Femenella was scratched for the second straight game.
Holy crap! Can we make the next home game "Jean Trudel Night?"
Gerald Coleman turned in a sparkling 36 saves on 38 shots faced effort but the story of the night was the goal scoring explosion by new Falcon Kyle Wanvig who scored a hat trick to go along with a 1st period throw down in what has to qualify as the most dominating effort by a Falcons forward this season. David Spina assisted on all 3 Wanvig goals and Daniel Corso netted Springfield's other 2 goals. Matt Smaby and Norm Milley each had a pair of assists and freshly recalled Brandon Elliot chipped in an individual helper before being tossed out for being the third man in during Wanvig's first period brawl. The point was the first of Elliot's AHL career and it came on the night where the Springfield organization retired the jersey of former Falcon Rob Murray. Wanvig, Spina and Coleman were the game's three stars.
On a sour note, the Falcons were outshot 38-18 in the contest. Still, this was the first night in roughly a couple of months where Springfield got scoring balance from their first and second lines, which undoubtedly was part of the thought behind the decision to pull the trigger behind the Andy Delmore trade. Unfortunately, with Springfield now 9 points out of a playoff spot the shot in the arm likely comes about 3-4 weeks too late.
SPR Wanvig, (11) (Spina, Elliott), 1:10
SPR Corso, (11) (Smaby, Milley), 12:55 (PP)
HFD Isbister, (11) (Baranka, Degon), 5:00 (PP)
HFD Moore, (6) (Korpikoski), 8:47 (SH)
3. SPR Wanvig, (12) (Spina), 8:04
3. SPR Wanvig, (13) (Spina), 13:54
3. SPR Corso, (12) (Milley, Smaby), 18:31 (EN/PP)
Game sheet from TheAHL.com.
Chris Lawrence had an off night, but Mississauga was able to get a road win in Sudbury, 3-2 over the Wolves. Lawrence went scoreless, breaking his 9 game point streak. He was also minus-1. Lawrence registered 11 goals and 8 assists during his 9 game point streak. He was plus-11 during that time span, also.
Marek Bartanus' modest 2 game point streak ended tonight at home when he did not register a point in the Attack's 3-2 loss to Kitchener. Bartanus had an even rating for the game.
The end of the season can't come soon enough for last-place Erie. They are consistently giving up 45 or more shots and lately have been doing well to allow fewer than 5 goals a game. Kevin Beech was given the night off tonight, getting a bench seat for Erie's 7-2 home loss to Sault Ste. Marie.
In the WHL, a night after beating the Winter Hawks 9-0, Prince George defeated Portland 6-2. Vladimir Mihalik scored his sixth goal of the year - a second period marker that turned out to be the game winner. He was also plus-2.
Everett suffered a rare home loss, falling to Seattle 6-2. Dane Crowley was scoreless and minus-2.