I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Cam Neely? Andre Roy? They're the same guy.
Johan Holmqvist stopped 27 of 27 shots faced to post the first shutout by any Lightning goaltender this season. He was excellent, and seems to be settling nicely into the Lightning's new tandem arrangement, alternating starts with Karri Ramo.
For anyone thinking that the Lightning had given up, were tuning out their coach, were already making tee times etc etc after the Colorado game, tonight was an object lesson in the heart and pride that still exists in that Lightning locker room. This season may very well be a wash, but the Lightning cannot allow bad habits to sink in and they must continue to compete night in and night out, regardless of what the standings say.
On the other side of the rink, can you imagine a worse scenario for Pittsburgh? Not only do you get shutout by Johan Holmqvist and drop your 7th straight game on home ice to the Lightning, but you lose your superstar to a high ankle sprain in the process? Ouch. They have to be wishing they had never taken the ice tonight.
Mathieu Darche was even in 8:25 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots. Tonight was his 40th game of the season, meaning he will graduate to NHLer by this site's criteria if he plays against Ottawa. Congratulations will definitely be in order.
The Pussy Cats FEAR #74.
Johan Holmqvist allowed 3 goals on 30 shots for the win.
Tampa Bay 9:15, Brad Richards 12 (Vaclav Prospal, Martin St. Louis)
Florida 14:59, David Booth 11 (Jassen Cullimore, Stephen Weiss)
Florida 18:31, Brett McLean 4 (Magnus Johansson, Jay Bouwmeester)
Tampa Bay 19:44, Brad Richards 13 (empty net) (Martin St. Louis)
#74 got out of the press box and popped in 2 goals. THAT is how you respond to being scratched. Very nice. I'm happy for 'nasty.
Mathieu Darche had an assist and was +2 in 11:08 with 1 shot and 2 hits. I think Torts is finally starting to zero in on where the sweet spots are in terms of ice time for the checking liners. It's a shame it took until January to get here.
The frustrating thing is the team did almost everything right tonight and still got nothing for it.
Another quality start by Karri Ramo wasted by lack of goal support. Ramo allowed 3 goals on 28 shots for the loss, but really he did just about everything humanly possible to keep the Lightning in this game. The third Penguins goal which was a broken stick shot by Sykora of a skate to Ryan Malone at point blank range is one of the more unlucky goals I've seen in a while.
The Lightning were a Filip Kuba crossbar and/or a Vincent Lecavalier shooting the puck into Conklin's glove rather than a gaping 4x6 away from getting points out of this one. They played well with the exception of a short span in the second period when they were under siege a bit. Under ordinary circumstances over the past two seasons you could shrug this off and say "They'll get 'em next time." Problem is, there aren't many more next times if you do the math. The Lightning can't leave anymore points on the table and have hopes of making a run at the playoffs. I give it another two weeks before Jay Feaster really has to start thinking about pulling the plug on this thing and picking up assetts for a quick turnaround offseason rebuild.
Mathieu Darche had 1 assist and was +1 in 7:46 with 1 shot and 2 hits. Darche is set to graduate from overage prospect status in 4 games, putting his likely last individual stat line report at 1/19 against the Senators.
Lightning gut it out to get back in the win column.
Karri Ramo with a really gritty performance in net. He surrendered New York's first goal on a puckhandling gaffe and never looked 100% comfortable, but he stopped the pucks he had to stop and ended up making 31 saves on 34 shots for the win.
NY Rangers 4:22, Michal Rozsival 11 (power play) (Chris Drury, Paul Mara)
Tampa Bay 19:57, Martin St. Louis 17 (empty net) (Vincent Lecavalier)
The Lightning pulled this one out with a critical penalty kill down two men with a one goal lead in the third. Credit to the Lightning PK for getting in shooting lanes and Ramo for getting the one glove save he needed 2/3 through that PK to get a whistle. It doesn't hurt that the Rangers kept missing the net too.
Mathieu Darche was even in 9:28 with 1 shot on goal.
Finally, the Lightning manage 3 goals support for Ramo and they get a point out of the deal. It isn't rocket science.
Karri Ramo allowed 3 goals on 29 shots before getting roughed up in the extra session to take the penalty shot loss.
Tampa Bay 13:29, Andreas Karlsson 1 (Jan Hlavac, Shane O'Brien)
Toronto 3:23, Jason Blake 6 (Pavel Kubina, Tomas Kaberle)
Toronto 9:39, Mats Sundin 18 (Jason Blake)
Tampa Bay 10:08, Martin St. Louis 14 (Vaclav Prospal, Vincent Lecavalier)
Toronto 17:27, Hal Gill 2 (Jason Blake, Pavel Kubina)
Tampa Bay 19:19, Paul Ranger 7 (Vaclav Prospal, Vincent Lecavalier)
Just a terrible third period as the Lightning waste a quality start by the kid.
Karri Ramo stopped 33 of 35 shots faced in the loss.
Carolina 9:31, Ray Whitney 17 (Cory Stillman, Frantisek Kaberle)
Carolina 19:00, Ray Whitney 18 (empty net) (Scott Walker)
Carolina 19:57, Eric Staal 17 (empty net) (Ray Whitney, Bret Hedican)
A star is born?
In his first NHL start, Karri Ramo stopped 31 of 32 shots faced for the win.
Fate played the cruel trick of scheduling my girlfriend's company's holiday party on this night, of all nights. Three years I've been covering this kid since all the way back when the only people keeping an eye on him were Karri Kettunen and the couple dozen people showing up to Lahti Pelicans Junior A games, and I have to Tivo his first NHL start? What the heck?
By Ramo standards, believe it or not, I thought he played a pretty mediocre game. He struggled with his rebound control and as far as his positioning goes I thought he played a little deep in the net and overplayed to one side on occassion. Those areas will need to improve, and my expectation is that they will.
Bottom line though, he stopped pucks. Just stop pucks. The Lightning don't need the second coming of Patrick Roy (yet). They just need someone steady who isn't going to spot the opposition cheap goals and isn't going to panic and allow one goal to snowball into giving up three or four goals in a period. He did that tonight and as long as he continues to do that, I'm willing to bet Torts will keep starting him.
Kudos to the Lightning for playing a pretty good game defensively in front of Ramo too, defensemen and forwards alike. They knew they had a rookie in net and they knew they needed to step up and hustle for the new guy. They didn't play a perfect game defensively, but when they made mistakes they generally busted their humps to rectify the situation. I don't recall any clear cut odd man rushes tonight and there weren't any breakaways, and that's how you break a rookie in. They played hard for Karri, and Karri rewarded them by making 2 goals stand up for a win.
Of course, then again, there were those final 7 minutes when suddenly it seemed like several Lightning players were suddenly brain dead (Shane O'Brien I'm looking at you) and where easy clears became unforced turnovers and harrowing moments in the Lightning zone. Scary stuff, which I suppose made Lecavalier putting the finishing touch on the 2-on-1 to win it that much more cathartic.
Mathieu Darche played 15:04 with 3 shots and 3 hits.
Mike Lundin played 15:01 and was +1 with 1 assist, 1 shot, 2 blocked shots and, as rare as a Loch Nest Monster sighting, 1 hit. Of course he also got his world absolutely rocked on a hit in the first period.
Jay Leach played 6:26 with 1 hit and 2 blocked shots in his third career NHL game. Atta boy Jay.
Blair Jones got a whopping 3 shifts and 50 seconds of ice time. In what little he's played so far, I think he's looked good on the forecheck but he's getting absolutely owned in the faceoff circles.
Johan Holmqvist allowed 3 goals on 32 shots for the loss.
Washington 0:08, Dave Steckel 2 (Brian Pothier)
Tampa Bay 5:50, Vincent Lecavalier 22 (Vaclav Prospal)
Washington 5:06, Brian Pothier 3 (Matt Pettinger, Tomas Fleischmann)
Mathieu Darche was -1 in 16:28 with 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, and 2 hits.
Mike Lundin continues to get minimal ice time, playing 11:39 tonight with a -1 rating a 1 blocked shot.
Blair Jones played 1 shift. 9 seconds. Someone do the math how much money he made on a per second basis tonight. Talk about easy money.
They made that way harder than it had to be.
Johan Holmqvist stopped 26 of 29 shots faced before stopping 3 of 4 shooters in penalty shots for the shootout win.
Ottawa 7:05, Daniel Alfredsson 18 (Joe Corvo, Jason Spezza)
Tampa Bay 9:08, Filip Kuba 3 (Martin St. Louis, Vaclav Prospal)
Ottawa 18:03, Daniel Alfredsson 19 (Dany Heatley, Christoph Schubert)
Ottawa 18:39, Wade Redden 4 (Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley)
A funny thing happens when you put forth an effort.
Johan Holmqvist stopped 28 of 29 shots faced for the victory.
You might've noticed there was no game thread for the Detroit game. That was not an accident. After sleepwalking for six period straight my attitude was that if the team didn't care, honestly, why should I?
Tonight, however, the effort level and the will to compete was back, and they put together a sold, convincing win against a club they traditionally struggle against. Funny that. The harder you work the better you get.
Mike Lundin blocked 1 shot in 17:56 of ice time as he remains on track for an early January graduation from prospect status. Tonight was his 26th NHL game, leaving him 15 short of the finish line by site criteria.
Mathieu Darche had 1 goal, 3 shots, 2 hits, 1 blocked shot, and a +1 rating in 18:12 of ice time. Now 19 games played into his season, Darche needs 22 more to graduate from prospect status, which could happen as early as mid January.