8th place and 1 game over .500. If they can stay in 8th place or better (preferably better) up to the All-Star break, the Lightning will be set up well for the stretch run.
Johan Holmqvist stopped just 18 of 22 shots faced for the win. I thought Johan was subpar tonight and wonder if Denis will get back in Saturday in Buffalo. Vincent Lecavalier was MVP caliber tonight scoring 2 goals and 1 assist while his linemates Martin St. Louis and Vaclav Prospal had 1 goal and 1 assist and 1 goal and 2 assists respectively. The names on the Caps may change, but those three when together always seem to dominate Washington, and Lecavalier should've had the hat trick on an empty net bid set up by St. Louis to put the cherry on top. Dan Boyle had 2 assists while Ryan Craig had the game's opening goal on a crafty wraparound. Eric Perrin and Cory Sarich each had individual assists.
Nick Tarnasky played his 40th game of the season tonight and will graduate from prospect status by site criteria Saturday against Buffalo. On a side note, I though Nick played one of his better games in his brief NHL career tonight. Torts must've agreed, because Nick got over eleven and a half minutes of ice time tonight in what was a 1 goal game or tied the entire night.
The win moves the Lightning into 8th in Eastern Conference by virtue of their tiebreaker advantage over Toronto in wins. They also move to within 10 points of Atlanta in the Southeast Division. They would've moved to within 4 points on second place Carolina, except the Panthers (who can do absolutely nothing right and need to be contracted by the league) blew a 3 goal third period lead to lose 6-4. Great move running off Luongo, South Florida.
The Buffalo game on Saturday shapes up as another big one for two reasons: 1.) To continue the momentum from the past three games, and by momentum I mean winning streak, 2.) To gain the confidence only beating the best team in the East and one which has spanked the Lightning regularly over the past two seasons. A win in Buffalo's barn might very well get the Lightning's swagger back.
Tampa Bay 4:54, Ryan Craig 11 (Eric Perrin)
Washington 7:01, Alexander Semin 23 (power play) (Brian Pothier, Alexander Ovechkin)
Tampa Bay 8:46, Vincent Lecavalier 25 (Vaclav Prospal, Dan Boyle)
Washington 5:40, Alexander Semin 24 (Lawrence Nycholat, Matt Pettinger)
Washington 10:02, Ben Clymer 6 (Donald Brashear)
Tampa Bay 11:15, Vaclav Prospal 6 (Cory Sarich, Vincent Lecavalier)
Tampa Bay 12:24, Vincent Lecavalier 26 (Martin St. Louis, Dan Boyle)
Washington 19:50, Chris Clark 15 (Alexander Ovechkin, Brian Pothier)
Tampa Bay 3:22, Martin St. Louis 28 (Vaclav Prospal)
Game sheet from NHL.com.
One other thing I forgot to add: Andre Roy did a fantastic job holding his own in a fight against Donald Brashear in the second period. The Lightning haven't had anybody do that against a top heavyweight in forever, and that also helps you get your swagger back in a way.
Would have really been nice to hold onto this one in regulation and deny Pittsburgh the point.
Johan Holmqvist was outstanding in stopping 20 of 22 shots faced in regulation and overtime before stopping 3 of 3 penalty shots in the shootout. Ryan Craig led the way offensively with 1 goal and 1 assist and the Lightning got their other goal from The Real Secret Weapon, Nick Tarnasky. Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards all had assists. St. Louis also scored the game winning shootout goal on an unorthodox move going sideways in the slot and potting a backhand 5-hole on M.A. Fleury.
Really a strange game that the Lightning could've buried the Pens in regulation in were it not for M.A. Fleury. You know it's a strange night when Lecavalier gets stoned on two breakaways and a shootout attempt but Tarnasky can pot a nice goal on a good high shot from the middle of the slot. The Lightning move to 1 game under .500 and to within 2 points of 8th in the conference.
Tampa Bay 7:09, Ryan Craig 10 (power play) (Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier)
Pittsburgh 19:55, Sidney Crosby 20 (Mark Recchi)
Tampa Bay 14:04, Nick Tarnasky 2 (Ryan Craig, Brad Richards)
Pittsburgh 17:27, Mark Recchi 10 (power play) (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin)
Tampa Bay- Martin St. Louis
Game sheet from NHL.com.
With the NYR game, I believe Tarnasky now has 30 or 31 NHL games in a single season. Only needs about 10 more to qualify as a prospect graduate.