Who would have thought going to the league's worst team would strengthen Kevin Beech's value?
Beech and Erie continue to show signs of life after a horrible first half of the season, this time going on the road to Windsor and defeating the Spitfires 3-2 in a shootout. Beech stopped 56 of 58 shots to earn first star honors.
After allowing a respectable 2 goals on 17 shots in the first period, Beech stopped 19 of 19 in the second, 16 of 16 in the third, 6 of 6 in overtime, then 7 of 9 shooters in an extended shootout. Erie managed only 23 shots through 3 periods and overtime (9-4-8-1).
Erie plays at Plymouth tonight.
Holmer and the road warriors just smacked the champs in the mouth in their own barn. I like it.
Johan Holmqvist pitches a 31 save shutout for the win. The shutout is the first of Johan's career and he improves his season record to 17-10-0. Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier continued on their MVP caliber tears through the NHL with 1 goal and 1 assist each. Vaclav Prospal added 2 assists of his own as well. The other Lightning goals came from Ryan Craig and Doug Janik. Eric Perrin, Ruslan Fedotenko and Brad Richards added individual helpers.
The well oiled war machine that is the Lightning on the road extended their franchise record winning streak away from the SP Times Forum to 7 straight games. More importantly, the Lightning have caught the Carolina Hurricanes at 58 points with the Lightning still holding a game in hand. And, by virtue of Atlanta's 5-2 loss to the Islanders tonight the Lightning are now with single digits of the division leader at 8 points behind. The Lightning still hold a game in hand on Atlanta and, more importantly, have two more head-to-head games left on the schedule for a total of six potential points the Lightning can pick up quickly. I am reminded of 2002-2003 when the Lightning ran down the Washington Capitals from behind like a hungry lion runs down a misfortunate antelope.
If the Lightning can stay focused and remain hot for the next couple of weeks, then the spotlight should fall squarely on GM Jay Feaster. Feaster knows as we all do that the team is just a deal or two away from being a serious title contender. It will be incumbent on him to pull the trigger and hit the right targets to give this team the reinforcements they need. If he does, look out. Dare we use the pun, Lightning could strike twice?
Rookie Blair Jones had 5:39 of ice time tonight and was 40% on draws with 2 penalty minutes (and looked about 1,000,000% more comfortable than last time out).
Tampa Bay 15:12, Ryan Craig 12 (power play) (Martin St. Louis)
Tampa Bay 19:23, Doug Janik 2 (Eric Perrin, Vaclav Prospal)
Tampa Bay 2:49, Vincent Lecavalier 32 (Ruslan Fedotenko, Vaclav Prospal)
Tampa Bay 9:29, Martin St. Louis 32 (power play) (Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards)
Game sheet from NHL.com.
Dane Crowley continued his point-per-game pace since being traded to Everett when he earned an assist in the Silvertips' 4-1 win over Tri-City Wednesday night. Crowley now has 8 points in 8 games with Everett. He was plus-2 Wednesday night, which raises his plus/minus ranking with the 'Tips to plus-14. Everett, who won their 40th game last night, remained the CHL's No.1 ranked team in the rankings released Wednesday. They have been in the top-10 for all 18 weeks of the season.
Vladimir Mihalik was scoreless and minus-1 as Prince George won again on the road, beating Seattle 3-2 in overtime.
In the OHL, the All-Star Game was held Wednesday night and East beat West 13-9. No Lightning prospects were involved in the game. Hunter Tremblay, an undrafted fifth-year player for Barrie, was named player of the game for scoring 3 goals and 2 assists.
Vladimir Mihalik had a career high 3-point game as Prince George defeated the Winter Hawks 6-2 in Portland Tuesday night. Mihalik had three assists on the night - all at even strength - and finished plus-3. He was also named the game's third star. After returning from World Juniors, Mihalik finished the month of January with 2 goals and 3 assists for 5 points in 6 games. He was also plus-5 for the month.
All hail King Holmer.
Johan Holmqvist stopped 29 of 32 shots faced in overtime and regulation before stopping 2 of 2 in the shootout to remain a perfect 15 for 15 in the shootout this season. A bit of a softie on the Richardson goal tonight, but Holmqvist made up for it on several stops tonight. This was not necessarily a game the Lightning deserved to win, but as road warriors they've been finding ways to grind out two points out of these games lately. The win is the Lightning's sixth straight road win which is a new team record.
Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier each had a goal and an assist to lead the Lightning offensively. Ruslan Fedotenko had the other Lightning goal (and played great tonight) and Ryan Craig, Dan Boyle, Andreas Karlsson, Paul Ranger and Filip Kuba added individual helpers. Lecavalier and Brad Richards (who also played great tonight) had the Lightning's shootout talleys.
For anyone wondering, Blair Jones played just 4 shifts tonight for 2:36 of ice time. He had 1 blocked shot and was 2-for-2 on faceoffs. His last three shifts he must've been in stealth mode, because his first period shift was the only time I saw him all night.
The win, coupled with a Carolina loss against Toronto tonight, moves the Lightning within 2 points of second place in the Southeast Division with a game in hand and the Hurricanes on the slate for Thursday night. The team also maintains pace with Atlanta 10 points back of the division lead with 1 game in hand on the Thrashers and 2 head-to-head matchups remaining on the schedule. The Lightning can almost certainly make a run at this, especially with the bottomfeeding Panthers on the schedule 5 more times.
Tampa Bay 6:32, Martin St. Louis 31 (power play) (Ryan Craig, Dan Boyle)
Philadelphia 7:23, Mike Richards 2 (shorthanded) (Alexei Zhitnik, Joni Pitkanen)
Philadelphia 18:49, Jeff Carter 7 (shorthanded) (Simon Gagne, Denis Gauthier)
Tampa Bay 19:24, Ruslan Fedotenko 11 (power play) (Andreas Karlsson, Paul Ranger)
Philadelphia 3:13, Peter Forsberg 9 (Joni Pitkanen)
Tampa Bay 12:06, Vincent Lecavalier 31 (Filip Kuba, Martin St. Louis)
Tampa Bay: Lecavalier, Richards
Game sheet from NHL.com.