Jones, Blair

NHL Game Night: 12-27-11 Flyers at Lightning

Lightning steal the points, and the Flyers' dignity.

PHI-1
TB-5

Mathieu Garon allowed 1 goal on 32 shots for the win. He shook off the overtime softie from Colorado and turned in his best game of the season tonight. His rebound control was so much better than usual and he ate up a lot of pucks and got the Lightning some key stoppages when they needed them. He was outstanding.

First Period
TB Gervais (3), (Hall), 9:34
PHI Hartnell (17), (Giroux, Jagr), 18:14

Second Period
TB Stamkos (21), (Clark, Malone), 7:25
TB Downie (5), (Purcell, Kubina), 11:41
TB Stamkos (22), (Downie, St. Louis)(PP), 18:45

Third Period
TB Lecavalier (12), (St. Louis), 19:00

Garon, Steven Stamkos, and Steve Downie were the game's three stars.

I don't know what it has been about these last 2 games against Philadelphia, but the Lightning have done exactly what they needed to do to win the games. Tonight, it took Garon standing on his head for the first period, making Philly essentially punch themselves out, and then being very opportunistic with the spare amount of scoring chances they got.

They're deep in Philly's head, too, as evidenced by the low life brand of hockey Philly resorted to in the second period. Scott Hartnell should be suspended for his stick waving incident at the Lightning bench, and Wayne Simmonds' instigation of a fight with Eric Brewer while Victor Hedman was already out injured sure did look like a coach ordered hit. Call me crazy, but they played dirt bag hockey, and the Lightning made them pay with Steven Stamkos' goal to push the margin to the all important 3 goals heading into the third. As readers of this blog should well know, a 3 goal lead heading into the third period in pro hockey is as close to a death sentence as a team can receive. The fact it allowed the Lightning to back off into the 1-3-1 a bit to kill off the remaining 20 minutes was all the sweeter, although I did feel like the Lightning needed to send a message after all the Flyer thuggery. I would've liked to have seen a player like Malone go out there and drop the gloves late in the game and make a point. It would've been nice to show the league, through the HBO cameras, that you don't take liberties with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

So, the Lightning close the gap on 8th place to 6 points, and move back to 2 games under .500. The game against Montreal on Thursday is huge. Games don't get bigger in December. The Lightning have to win that game to really give themselves a shot to climb back into the playoff hunt. Got to.

J.T. Wyman had 1 hit in 5:59 and almost had to play some defenseman in this game after Brewer left the Simmonds fight bloody. Scary stuff. Also, I would be remiss to not mention how weird it is to see someone other than Mikael Andersson in #34. It doesn't seem right.

Blair Jones had 1 hit in 10:20. With Malone out with a 10 minute misconduct for hopping off the bench after Hartnell's stick waving incident, he even got a rare PP shift.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-23-11 Lightning at Avalanche

I wouldn't call that a microcosm of the season, but it does seem a fitting way to pull into the holiday break.

TB-1
COL-2 (OT)

Mathieu Garon allowed 2 goals on 29 shots for the overtime loss. He made some very strong saves over the course of this game to keep his team alive, and got some help from the 4 x 6, too. But, without a doubt, that short side softie cannot happen. Very disappointing.

First Period
TB Kubina (2), (Lecavalier, St. Louis), 18:09

Second Period
COL O'Reilly (8), (O'Brien, Hedjuk), 10:03

Third Period
NO SCORING

Overtime
COL Duchene (12), (Elliot, Landeskog), 3:38

Pavel Kubina was the game's third star.

The effort level was a zillion times better in this game than against San Jose. The team played with the urgency of a team that is running short on time to turn their season around, because that's exactly what they are. Still, some of the fundamental problems the team has had cropped up in this game. Foremost, it was hard for me to muster too much outrage over poor officiating (like a missed call on a reverse DDT on Blair Jones and a missed 4 minute high sticking minor on Kubina) knowing full well the Lightning's power play has next to no chance of doing anything with the man advantage right now. It's so bad, a successful power play for the Lightning seems to be the shallow moral victory of not allowing a good shorthanded scoring chance over the course of the 2 minutes.

J.T. Wyman had 2 shots and 1 hit in 6:01. He had good energy in a spare number of shifts.

Blair Jones had 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 10:13, and he kicked out before the 3 count was administered after taking the best finishing move the Avs defense could muster. He would like to challenge them to a steel cage match at the next pay per view, but wants a special referee named, because the ones tonight were terrible.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-17-11 Lightning at Blue Jackets

Almost a must-win.

TB-3
CBJ-2

Mathieu Garon allowed 2 goals on 28 shots for the win. He made it harder on himself than it needed to be. Columbus' two goals came on wrap-arounds that should not have been an issue for Garon or the Lightning defense.

First Period
TB Jones (2), (Purcell), 7:27
TB Brewer (1), (Stamkos, Malone), 18:12

Second Period
CBJ Umberger (6), (Prospal, Tyutin)(PP), 5:43
TB Stamkos (20), (Lecavalier, Tyrell), 10:05
CBJ Nash (10), (Carter, Prospal), 12:14

Third Period
NO SCORING

Mathieu Garon and Steven Stamkos were the game's first and third stars.

They had to win this game. To get back in the race, they have to win against the handful teams below them in the standings when the opportunity arises and they have to get positive momentum going over the next week or two. They've set themselves up now with the opportunity to have that positive momentum going into the holiday break if they can split their last 2 road games in San Jose and Colorado. Then, presumably, they can get Martin St. Louis back in practice and back into the games by the end of December, and then really start to put together some bigger winning streaks.

I like Dana Tyrell on a scoring line with Stamkos, a lot. I think it creates matchup problems for the opposition to have two burners like that out at once, and Tyrell can be first man in on the puck, letting Stammer come later and be the finisher he is. It's a good combo. I'd even be interested to see Marty added as the third on that line just to see how that much speed could work together.

The Lightning's power play is dreadful. It's somebody-needs-to-be-fired-if-it-doesn't-improve-soon dreadful. Some of Columbus' most dangerous opportunities of the night came shorthanded and the Lightning could not even get into the Blue Jackets' zone, let alone get scoring chances. That's bad, because Columbus is statistically near the bottom of the league in PK. It just feels like the Lightning don't have any identity on the PP right now. They don't know how to gain entry into the zone (it used to be with Stammer or St. Louis carrying it) and they don't really know what they want to do when they get there (other than feed overly telegraphed one-timers to Vinny). There's too many weapons on this roster to be this bad and to be zero-dimensional on the power play. It's unacceptable.

Blair Jones and Lightning fans; reunited and it feels so good. He got his second goal of the season and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 1 gigantic hit in 10:13. He got more ice time with Nate Thompson going out hurt early, and he did something with it. So, I guess we're back in love with Blair Jones.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-10-11 Lightning at Flyers

More shots, please.

TB-2
PHI-5

Mathieu Garon allowed 4 goals on 31 shots for the loss, but it could've been a lot worse without him.

First Period
TB Shannon (2), (Moore, Hedman), 11:52

Second Period
PHI Briere (9), (Simmonds), 2:38
PHI Jagr (10), (Giroux, Hartnell), 3:12
PHI Simmonds (7), (Giroux, Timonen)(PP), 14:49

Third Period
TB Lecavalier (11), (Bergeron, Malone)(PP), 0:55
PHI Carle (4), (Briere, Van Riemsdyk)(PP), 4:55
PHI Hartnell (14), (Jagr)(EN), 19:32

This was a closer game than it appeared on the scoreboard, as Simmonds' power play goal was really a bit of poor luck. That said, the Lightning routinely have been held to extremely poor shot totals this year. You can't win a lot of games getting held to around 20 shots (19 tonight) no matter how skilled you are. At this time last season, the Lightning coaching staff preached a style that had them pressing for 35-40 shots a game as a goal. It's a bizarre thing that a team that was coached to that philosophy struggles so much to get shots on goal now. The Lightning need to recognize that their skill level is even lower with Martin St. Louis out and they must get shots on goal and get some meat and potatoes goals if they're going to get back to winning games without him.

Blair Jones had 3 hits in 5:52.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-8-11 Lightning at Rangers

The best #19 on the ice tonight wore white.

TB-3
NYR-2 (SO)

Mathieu Garon allowed 2 goals on 30 shots before turning away all 3 shooters he faced for the shootout win. Credit Garon with the second point tonight for standing on his head in overtime.

First Period
NYR Callahan (11), (Richards, Stepan)(PP), 7:49

Second Period
TB Malone (6), (unassisted), 11:23
NYR Anisimov (5), (Del Zotto, Dubinsky)(SH), 13:23

Third Period
TB Moore (2), (Hedman, Brewer)(SH), 18:03

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shootout
TB- Moore
NYR- NONE

Dominic Moore and Ryan Malone were the game's first and third stars.

3:50 left in the game. Lightning down 1. Ryan Malone going off for boarding. Martin St. Louis laid up in the hospital with fractures from a puck to the face. Looking a 6 game losing streak square in the face.

And then Dominic Moore, who was the guy who broke St. Louis' face in practice earlier in the day, decided to put on a cape. The "S" on it stood for "shorthanded goal." Then it stood for "shootout winner." Then is stood for "streak is over."

Is the team fixed? No. But there's a little life in it, after looking dead as a doornail with 4 minutes left in regulation.

Oh, and a guy on a pace for 16 goals pretending like he's a longrifle wielding sniper is comical. If "Ovechkin" was Russian for "punk," then "Anisimov" must be Russian for "dummy." Wish I could've heard Tortorella's inner monologue when his player decided to act the fool like that.

Brett Connolly was -1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 9:55.

Blair Jones had 2 penalty minutes and 1 shot in 4:24.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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