The Lightning just answered the bell with remarkable punctuality.
Johan Holmqvist stopped 17 of 18 shots faced in the game for the victory. Consider that for a moment. With Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and all the impressive firepower the Pittsburgh Penguins can array the Tampa Bay Lightning shut them down and held them to a paltry 18 shots on goal. And Shane O'Brien hasn't yet added his particular talents to this defensive corps.
Brad Richards ran wild on Pittsburgh with 1 goal and 3 assists. Martin St. Louis added 1 goal and 1 assist while Richards' linemates, Eric Perrin and Ruslan Fedotenko, each had 2 assists. Vincent Lecavalier scored his league leading 41st goal, a shorthanded marker, Filip Kuba his 10th and Paul Ranger had his 4th talley of the season. Dan Boyle had an individual assist.
And so, the Lightning fully capitalized on their game in hand on Atlanta and Carolina and have opened up a 3 point lead on the Smirkin' Chikins and a 4 points lead on the Hurricanes with just 18 games remaining in the regular season. The trade deadline is Tuesday. With the addition of one or two more forwards, this is a Stanley Cup contender. The ball is in your court, Jay Feaster.
Tampa Bay 2:17, Martin St. Louis 38 (power play) (Dan Boyle, Brad Richards)
Tampa Bay 3:56, Paul Ranger 4 (Eric Perrin, Brad Richards)
Tampa Bay 4:58, Filip Kuba 10 (Brad Richards, Ruslan Fedotenko)
Pittsburgh 8:26, Sergei Gonchar 10 (power play) (Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby)
Tampa Bay 1:31, Brad Richards 22 (Eric Perrin, Ruslan Fedotenko)
Tampa Bay 14:16, Vincent Lecavalier 41 (shorthanded) (Martin St. Louis)
Game sheet from NHL.com.
Sudbury 5 @ Mississauga 4 (Shootout)
The IceDogs dropped their second straight home game to a team behind them in the conference standings, this time losing out on one point in a 5-4 shootout loss to Sudbury. The Wolves are 14 points behind Mississauga in the Central Division. Chris Lawrence scored his career-high 40th goal of the year in the loss, and was also even with charging and hooking minors. Lawrence shot first for the IceDogs in the shootout, but did not score.
London 3 @ Owen Sound 6
Despite having first rounders Bobby Ryan and Bobby Sanguinetti, Owen Sound sits third-worst in the Western Conference at 64 points. However, the Attack has clinched a playoff spot because all but two teams make it in and Erie (29 points) and Windsor (39) are so bad. London, on the other hand, has a league-best 90 points. This proves why games are played on the ice and not on computer screens as the Attack soundly beat the Knights 6-3 Saturday night. Marek Bartanus was scoreless and minus-1 in the game.
Ottawa 7 @ Erie 3
The good news is Erie finally held a team under 30 shots against (27), but the bad news is they still gave up 7 goals. Kevin Beech was responsible for a lot of those as he stopped just 20 of 25 shots before being pulled after 2 periods. His backup, Jonathan Laniel, stopped 0 of 2 in the third period when the 67â€™s called off the dogs.
Prince George 6 @ Kamloops 3
Vladimir Mihalik had two power play assists to help the Cougars defeat the Blazers in Kamploops, 6-3. Mihalik was even with an interference minor in the fight-filled game.
Everett 1 @ Seattle 4
Dane Crowley was a team worst minus-4 in Everettâ€™s 4-1 loss to the Thunderbirds in Seattle.
Final nail in the Nailers' coffin?
Some context: entering this two game set in Wheeling the Nailers' head coach bombastically guaranteed that Wheeling would win both of these rivalry games and begin their climb out of the North Division basement. How'd that work out for him? Ahhhh, not so well.
Morgan Cey improved to 6-2 on the month by stopping 45 of 48 shots faced tonight. The Chiefs were led by Stanislav Lascek's 2 goals, including the critical overtime game winner. Lascek's point streak reaches 4 games after going 5 games without hitting the scoresheet. Lascek has 4 goals and 6 points with 6 penalty minutes and a +2 rating over that span with 19 shots on goal. Ben Wallace had 1 goal and 1 assist in the game while rookie Radek Smolenak had a pair of assists. Grant Jacobsen had the other Chiefs goal and Bryan Nathe, Ryan Gibbons, Randy Rowe, Gus Katsuras and Maxime Boisclair all had individual helpers.
The Chiefs appeared to have the game won with Wallace's goal coming with 40 seconds left in regulation but the Nailers responded 30 seconds later to force overtime. Nevertheless, the Nailers still found themselves 11 points behind Johnstown at the end of the night with their playoff chances on life support. Johnstown improves to 2 games over .500 and their win, coupled with a Dayton loss tonight, moves them back into a playoff spot in 5th place in the tightly compacted North Division. Johnstown is just 7 points back of 1st place Cincinnati and 4 points back of 3rd place Trenton with a game in hand. The top three teams in the North Division will receive a first round bye in the playoffs.
WHE Bissonnette, (8) (Collins), 13:43
JHN Jacobsen, (4) (Gibbons, Boisclair), 19:29
JHN Lascek, (11) (Katsuras, Smolenak), 4:47
WHE Guenther, (23) (Bissonnette, Cameron), 16:04 (PP)
JHN Wallace, (1) (Nathe, Rowe), 19:20
WHE Guenther, (24) (Moren, Cameron), 19:50
JHN Lascek, (12) (Wallace, Smolenak), 2:13 (PP)
Game sheet from ECHL.com.
Total third period implosion.
Karri Ramo allowed 4 goals on 19 shots before giving way to Jonathan Boutin who fared even worse allowing 2 goals on 5 shots. Justin Keller and Norm Milley had Springfield's goals with assists belonging to Marek Kvapil, Jay Rosehill and Daniel Corso. Unfortunately, after hanging around for the first 40 minutes of the game, Springfield self destructed and allowed 4 goals in the final frame. The Falcons also had an opportunity to take a 2-0 lead early in the game on a David Spina penalty shot, but Spina failed to score and a Bruins goal in the final minutes of the first evened the game up.
Positives: with Kyle Wanvig up in Tampa on recall, Kvapil was moved back up to the second line with Keller and Spina and the three responded. Kvapil had the assist and 2 shots on goal, Spina had 4 shots and Keller had a team high 5 shots on goal. Hopefully the youngsters can keep it up. Remember, a couple of years ago Paul Ranger and Evgeny Artyukhin really came on at the end of the year (especially Ranger in the last dozen games) and it catapulted them into the NHL early the next year. Even though Springfield's playoff chances are slim and none, these young players still have a lot of developmental time left to capitalize on and once the college and junior team seasons start to end there will be an opportunity for the Lightning to identify some players to sign to ATO contracts with a view toward shaping next year's roster. There's still a lot to play for here.
SPR Keller, (10) (Kvapil, Rosehill), 2:10
PRO Rosa, (2) (Karsums, Lashoff), 19:21
PRO Trevelyan, (19) (Hoggan, Zinger), 6:16
PRO Trevelyan, (20) (Walter), 2:23
PRO Rosa, (3) (Talbot, Zinger), 7:07
SPR Milley, (19) (Corso), 7:30
PRO Karsums, (13) (Glenn, Lashoff), 14:32 (PP)
PRO Curry, (4) (Pelletier), 15:12 (PP)
Game sheet from TheAHL.com.
Andreas Holmqvist scored a late goal and had 2 penalty minutes in Linkopings' 4-0 victory over Malmo today. The goal was Holmqvist's 6th of the season and his 26th point in 46 games to go along with 52 penalty minutes and a +2 rating. In 46 games last season, Holmqvist recorded 6 goals and 22 points with 64 penalty minutes and a +8 rating. Linkopings currently sits in 6th place on the Elitserien table at 1 game over .500. Last year, with former Lightning prospect Fredrik Norrena between the pipes, Linkopings finished third in the Elitserien at 14 games over .500.