The Pens get the benefit of the bounce.
Antero Niittymaki allowed 2 goals on 39 shots for the loss. He certainly did everything he could to give the Lightning a chance to win and seems to be getting hot again. A hot Niitty is probably the only chance the Lightning have down the stretch.
TB 8:09, Lecavalier 20 (Fedoruk, Hedman)
PIT 2:20, Dupuis 17 (Staal, Cooke)
PIT 5:17, Gonchar 10 (Crosby, Ponikarovsky)(PP)
The difference in the game was the goofy bounce Pittsburgh got on their first goal and the solid goaltending of Fleury in the first period. It makes you wonder though why this team could play poorly and lose in overtime against the worst team in the conference (Toronto) and then turn around and beat the best (Washington) and take the defending champs (Pittsburgh) to the brink. If they played with the same intensity they did in the first period of this game, they'd be sitting on 80-90 points in the standings already. That's frustrating in the near term, as this team's playoff chances are becoming slim. In the long term Lightning fans should take heart. A young team like this is going to figure that out, and have the chance to be an elite team when they do.
Congratulations to Vincent Lecavalier on his 10th straight 20 goal season. That's 10 straight seasons of excellence, no matter how you slice it.
Also, congratulations to Steven Stamkos for making Matt Cooke a stain on the ice during a third period power play. Now that's young leadership you can believe in.
Paul Szczechura had 2 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 1 blocked shot in 13:01. He was also 56% on draws and almost had the first goal of the game on a 2-on-1 feed from Lecavalier that was turned aside by Fleury. I must apologize to Szczechura for missing that his last game against the Caps (3-12-10) marked his graduation from prospect status on Bolt Prospects. So, he got an extra night of coverage tonight so that we can extend congratulations to him on becoming a full-time NHLer with 41 and now 42 games played this season. He'll likely be the last graduate of the 2009/2010 class that included Downie, Hedman, and Wright already.
The patient has a pulse.
Antero Niittymaki allowed 2 goals on 30 shots for the victory. It's amazing what a difference goaltending makes, isn't it?
WSH 16:54, Fleischmann 20 (Ovechkin, Knuble)(PP)
TB 19:11, Bochenski 2 (Fedoruk, Lundin)
TB 11:30, Walker 2 (Veilleux, Thompson)
TB 15:12, Lecavalier 19 (Walker, Purcell)
WSH 11:09, Laich 21 (Green, Ovechkin)(PP)
Strange to see the rare game where the Lightning don't get a goal from the power play or #91, and it happens to be a big win.
Paul Szczechura had 2 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 1 hit in 11:06. He was also 33% on draws.
The season is officially on life support.
Mike Smith allowed 4 goals on 38 shots for the overtime loss. My kingdom for a netminder who could manage to play 60 minutes and stop at least 90% of the pucks he faces.
TB 18:17, Stamkos 42 (Foster, Lecavalier)(PP)
TOR 9:29, Stalberg 4 (Caputi, Schenn)
TOR 16:17, Stalberg 5 (Caputi, Grabovski)
TB 16:41, Foster 8 (Stamkos, St. Louis)
TOR 3:37, Bozak 5 (Kessel, Kulemin)
TB 5:00, Downie 17 (Lundin, St. Louis)
TOR 3:33, Kessel 23 (Bozak)
The Lightning did pick up a point. But, it's an ominous sign when you can't beat the worst team in the conference on a night where you know you absolutely know you must have the two points. The scary thing is that, with Carolina getting so hot, there's even a chance the Lightning could finish in the division basement. The Lightning are tied with Atlanta at 66 points and both Florida and Carolina are just behind the team at 64 points. It's pretty bad right now.
To tell the truth, if I was Jeffrey Vinik, I don't think I'd spare anyone on the hockey operations side right now, other than maybe the amateur scouts. Whether you're on Team Brian or Team Rick, it doesn't matter. When you crash and burn this hard, everyone's job needs to be under scrutiny.
Paul Szczechura was -1 with 2 shots, 3 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 11:29. He was also 36% on draws.
Unless the Lightning play Atlanta 10 more times this season, things are looking grim.
Antero Niittymaki allowed 4 goals on 13 shots for the loss before giving way to Mike Smith who allowed 1 goal on 15 shots the rest of the way. At least Smitty didn't get stuck with the back door loss.
MTL 2:50, Metropolit 15 (Gomez, Spacek)(PP)
MTL 12:02, Gomez 12 (unassisted)
TB 3:47, Stamkos 41 (unassisted)(PP)
MTL 4:28, Pouliot 16 (Gomez)
MTL 7:33, Darche 4 (Metropolit, Markov)
TB 10:03, Walker 1 (Parrish, Veilleux)
MTL 3:26, Darche 5 (Plekanec, Markov)
TB 18:53, St. Louis 24 (Stamkos, Foster)
Bolt Prospects alumni and former overage prospect graduate Mathieu Darche is vengeful against his ex mates. Cold blooded.
Paul Szczechura was -2 with 1 shot and 2 hits in 11:31. He was also 44% on draws.
This just in: Niitty still owns the Thrashers.
Antero Niittymaki found Atlanta to be the perfect elixer for his ills, stopping 29 of 31 shots to move to 17-0-0 lifetime against the Thrashers. It's hilarious.
ATL 3:22, Bergfors 18 (Little, Antropov)
TB 8:47, St. Louis 23 (Stamkos, Downie)
TB 13:06, Stamkos 39 (Foster, St. Louis)(PP)
TB 17:00, Szczechura 3 (Bochenski, Tanguay)
ATL 13:37, Armstrong 11 (Artyukhin, Peverley)
TB 16:36, Purcell 4 (PS)
TB 4:01, Lecavalier 18 (St. Louis, Purcell)
TB 16:19, Stamkos 40 (Szczechura, Bochenski)
It may have been a costly win with Martin St. Louis getting waffled in a third period scrum. It sure looked like a concussion to me. Hopefully he'll only miss a game or two, but a game or two may be the difference between being a playoff team or a lottery pick.
By the way, huge demerits to Darren Eliot and the Thrashers' broadcasters, who claimed St. Louis' injury was fair retribution for a hit that Steve Downie put on Marty Reasoner. No, Darren, one of Downie's skates was still on the ice. You need to seek counseling for the world class hate-on you have for #9. Give the devil his due, Darren. Downie's got a good chance to be a 20 goal, 50 point, 200 PIM player by season's end. Those don't grow on trees, and if he were to be on the open market tomorrow there would be 29 teams lining up to get his services, including the same Atlanta Thrashers your sanctimonious rear end broadcasts for. Don't believe it? Ask your buddy Don Waddell about that class act Patrice Cormier he picked up in the Kovalchuk trade.
Say what you want about Downie, he's never almost killed a young man whilst cheap shotting him. No, wait, let me guess: Cormier's hit can be rationalized away as fair retaliation too, right? You have no right to lecture people about dirty play when you celebrate talentless clods like Eric Boulton and suck up to a GM who acquires a guy who should be behind bars like Patrice Cormier (And, Waddell still doesn't have a playoff win in the roughly dozen years he's been on the job. Don't you wish you could stink out loud at your job for over a decade and still draw a six-figure salary?). Seriously. The Thrashers organization and an emphasis on acquiring players with character have never been in the same room together, much like Eliot and objectivity and/or humility have never been in the same area code.
Stepping down from my soapbox: I'm liking the Teddy Purcell pickup. If they can get him on the same weight training program as Stamkos and Downie, he could be an awesome pickup. That penalty shot goal was stylish. Speaking of Stamkos, I joked at the start of this week he might have 40 goals by the end of the week. 5 goals later, he sits at 40 goals, which is a plateau only Sid Crosby and Alex Ovechkin have reached so far this season. And yes, as a goal scorer, Stammer is absolutely in that class. I was also asked if I thought Stammer could hit 50. Yes, in all seriousness, I think he can.
Oh look, we have a prospect again! Paul Szczechura had the game winning goal, a helper, and was +2 with 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot. He was also 64% on draws in the 13:20 he played. That may have been his second best game as a pro, bested only by that game last year where he essentially beat the Pittsbugh Penguins by himself. He's 10 games short of graduation on Bolt Prospects, and if he keeps playing like that, he'll get his cap and gown before season's end.