And, just like that, the Lightning no longer control their division title destiny.
Johan Holmqvist allowed 4 goals on 24 shots for the loss while Marc Denis allowed 3 goals on 5 shots in relief. Filip Kuba had the only Lightning goal off assists from Doug Janik and Nick Tarnasky. The Lightning now trail Atlanta by six points in the division with a game in hand after the Thrashers' overtime win against Buffalo today. Just 4 points separate 6th place Tampa Bay and the 9th place New York Islanders now, putting the Lightning in the uncomfortable position of not only seeing their division title hopes slip away, but also seeing that making the playoffs may become a difficult task as well.
Bad, bad, bad time of year for a three game losing streak.
Washington 5:31, Tomas Fleischmann 3 (Boyd Gordon)
Washington 13:38, Tomas Fleischmann 4 (Kris Beech, Milan Jurcina)
Washington 1:14, Alexander Semin 35 (power play) (Chris Clark, Brian Pothier)
Washington 6:45, Alexander Semin 36 (Tomas Fleischmann)
Washington 8:18, Alexander Semin 37 (Kris Beech, Matt Bradley)
Tampa Bay 17:44, Filip Kuba 11 (Doug Janik, Nick Tarnasky)
Washington 10:34, Alexandre Giroux 2 (unassisted)
Washington 17:55, Boyd Gordon 5 (Tomas Fleischmann, Shaone Morrisonn)
Game sheet from NHL.com.
Lightning win Game Eight of the '04 Finals.
Marc Denis stopped 25 of 27 shots faced in the win. The Secret Weapon, Nick Tarnasky, and Maurice, er, Vincent Lecavalier led the way with 1 goal and 1 assist each in the game. Dan Boyle added the game winning overtime goal and Tim Taylor, Jason Ward, Ruslan Fedotenko and Martin St. Louis each had individual helpers.
And tonight, I think this Lightning team took their game to another level. It might have been premature to label this team a Stanley Cup contender even up until the past few games. But, to go into a hostile building (the hardest building to get a road win in the NHL) where the entire city of Calgary of geared up for payback for the '03-'04 Finals and where there's so much emotion on the ice and come out with two points, that's the stuff of champions. And, to me, it's the way they did it. True, he only got 6:32 of ice time, but little by little Nick Tarnasky's role on the team is expanding. And, also, Jason Ward playing 13:07 and getting his first point in a Lightning jersey is also seeing his role expand. This team needs to get quality minutes out of guys like Ward and Tarnasky on their lower lines if they're going to be successful in the playoffs and as time goes by these players are starting to show they may very well be up to the challenge.
The Lightning's win, coupled with Atlanta's earlier loss to Florida, puts the Lightning back into a tie with Atlanta in points atop the Southeast Division and they've managed to eat up that game in hand the Thrashers were holding for much of the week. Good good deal. And, don't look now, Marc Denis is starting to play winning hockey again. If the Lightning can get Holmqvist and Denis playing well going into the playoffs then the team is going to have the kind of tandem that last year's Cup winner in Carolina proved can be successful.
Tampa Bay 18:25, Nick Tarnasky 4 (Tim Taylor, Jason Ward)
Calgary 13:56, Jeff Friesen 5 (Rhett Warrener, Andrei Zyuzin)
Calgary 4:28, Craig Conroy 11 (Andrei Zyuzin, Alex Tanguay)
Tampa Bay 6:35, Vincent Lecavalier 46 (Nick Tarnasky, Ruslan Fedotenko)
Tampa Bay 2:59, Dan Boyle 15 (power play) (Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis)
Game sheet from NHL.com.
As furious as I am that the referees made this game last far longer than it should have, how can you not love Secret Weapon 74 for the winner?
For a guy who statistically allowed 4 goals on 27 shots, Johan Holmqvist played a pretty amazing game. True, his friend the crossbar played a part throughout the game, but to make critical stop after critical stop in the 3rd period and overtime and then put down a 10 for 10 perfect stand in the shootout is amazing. Holmqvist's record remains perfect in shootouts and only 1 shooter, just 1, has found the back of the net against Holmer all season.
Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier each scored 1 goal and 2 assists in the game as the Lightning stormed back out of a 2 goal hole late in the second period to once again claim a key win in a close game. Ruslan Fedotenko got the comeback ball rolling with a critical individual effort for a goal with under a minute remaining in the second period and Vaclav Prospal added the other Lightning talley. Nick Tarnasky, the night's hero, added an individual helper as did Cory Sarich and Shane O'Brien. The assist was O'Brien's first point as a member of the Lightning (the first of many, knock on wood).
St. Louis' goal with 3:18 left in regulation looked like the winner before the referees began a bizarre string of borderline calls that put the Lightning down at a 6-on-3 disadvantage in the waning moments. As if that wasn't enough, one of the referees also blocked a Brad Richards attempt on the empty net just moments before Washington sent the game to overtime with under 11 seconds on the clock on a centering attempt that deflected in off of Nolan Pratt. The ridiculousness continued in overtime as the referees overlooked a hold by a Caps defender on Martin St. Louis in overtime only moments later to call a hook on Vincent Lecavalier. Undeterred, the Lightning stonewalled a full 2 minute 4-on-3 penalty in overtime to eventually deliver the game to the shootout. Someone needs to be reprimanded for what occured in that game.
Fortunately, after 10 rounds of shootout madness that included the unbridled excitment that is a Donald Brashear penalty shot, Tarnasky decided to pull the plug on the Caps with a wrister that beat Brent Johnson and lifted the Lightning to the 5-4 win. With the victory, the Lightning move 4 points ahead of Atlanta in the division with the Thrashers now holding a game in hand. The gap on Carolina also extends to 7 with both teams having played 66 games. Thank you Nick Tarnasky.
Washington 11:35, Shaone Morrisonn 3 (Milan Jurcina, Tomas Fleischmann)
Tampa Bay 2:17, Vaclav Prospal 10 (Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis)
Washington 10:11, Alexander Ovechkin 38 (Jiri Novotny, Steve Eminger)
Washington 14:04, Matt Pettinger 15 (Boyd Gordon, Matt Bradley)
Tampa Bay 19:32, Ruslan Fedotenko 12 (Nick Tarnasky, Cory Sarich)
Tampa Bay 12:44, Vincent Lecavalier 42 (shorthanded) (Martin St. Louis)
Tampa Bay 16:42, Martin St. Louis 39 (Vincent Lecavalier, Shane O'Brien)
Washington 19:49, Alexander Semin 33 (power play) (Alexander Ovechkin, Kris Beech)
Tampa Bay- Nick Tarnasky
Game sheet from NHL.com.
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.
What a big win to keep the fledgling streak alive.
Marc Denis stopped 32 of 34 shots faced for the win. The second goal he allowed to Kotalik was obviously inexcusable, but other than that I thought he played an outstanding game particularly in that third period where the Lightning were under siege getting outshot 13-5. Vincent Lecavalier, Dan Boyle and Brad Richards had the Lightning goals. Martin St. Louis, Paul Ranger and Ruslan Fedotenko had individual helpers. Ranger, in particular, made a great play to set up Richards' third period game winner.
With his 41st game of the season tonight, Nick Tarnasky has graduated from prospect status by Bolt Prospects criteria. Tarnasky will be moved to the Bolt Prospects Alumni section on the prospects page once we release our Midterm Rankings for the organization within the next week. Congratulations to Tarnasky who played an even 10 minutes tonight. In the last couple of weeks he's finally started to become more than a spot shifter and started to really contribute to the team's success on a nightly basis. That's a 9th round pick folks. The Lightning have given Nick the opportunity and his hard work has carried him the rest of the way.
The Lightning move to 2 games over .500 and will establish a small measure of breathing room between them and Toronto which is getting pasted tonight by Vancouver.
Monday, noon. 5 in a row?
Tampa Bay 10:05, Vincent Lecavalier 27 (power play) (Martin St. Louis)
Buffalo 4:06, Jason Pominville 20 (Jaroslav Spacek, Daniel Briere)
Buffalo 4:50, Ales Kotalik 13 (Brian Campbell)
Tampa Bay 15:38, Dan Boyle 10 (unassisted)
Tampa Bay 6:56, Brad Richards 15 (Paul Ranger, Ruslan Fedotenko)
Game sheet from NHL.com.