Jones, Blair

NHL Game Night: 3/14/11 Lightning at Maple Leafs

Ahhhh, Toronto: the Lightning's cure-all.

TB-6
TOR-2

Dwayne Roloson allowed 2 goals on 32 shots for the win.

First Period
09:53 TB Thompson (8), Purcell (29), Clark (17)

Second Period
05:12 TOR Phaneuf (5), Brent (10), Lupul (13)
09:25 TB Ritola (3), Hall (9), Thompson (12)
12:34 TB Ritola (4), Purcell (30), Clark (18)
14:37 TOR Kulemin (26), unassisted
18:53 TB Lecavalier (18), Gagne (15), Purcell (31)

Third Period
08:47 TB Moore (13), St Louis (56), Stamkos (42)
14:32 TB Lundin (1), Stamkos (43), St Louis (57)

Mattias Ritola, Teddy Purcell, and Nate Thompson were the game's three stars. Tampa Bay climbs back to within 3 points of streaking Washington in the division.

Ritola had 2 goals and was +2 with 6 shots and 2 hits in 10:22. He's elevated his physical play since coming up from Norfolk considerably, and it's upped his overall play.

Blair Jones was -1 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 9:41. He was also 7/13 on faceoffs.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 3/12/11 Lightning at Panthers

What a failure of a weekend.

TB-3
FLA-4 (OT)

Mike Smith allowed 4 goals on 27 shots for the loss. One really bad softie and his effort on the overtime winner probably bears some scrutiny too. I'm looking forward to next season when Cedrick Desjardins will probably be the backup.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
04:33 FLA Booth (21), Weaver (10), Ellerby (9)
14:10 TB Stamkos (43), St Louis (54), Gagne (13)(PP)

Third Period
02:22 FLA Carter (2), Kulikov (17)
05:18 FLA Bergfors (12), Garrison (11), Weiss (27)
12:35 TB Lecavalier (17), St Louis (55), Gagne (14)(PP)
17:55 TB Gagne (11), Lecavalier (22), Stamkos (41)(PP)

Overtime
04:44 FLA Garrison (4), Santorelli (18)

Simon Gagne and Steven Stamkos were the game's second and third stars. Vincent Lecavalier moved to within 3 goals of the 20 goal mark. The good news is that all of the Lightning's top forwards found the sheet tonight. The bad news is the team still looked terrible and lost to an inferior opponent. The division is slipping away, which would mean a tough matchup with the likes of Washington, Boston, or Pittsburgh in the first round. That's not a recipe for a deep run for this team.

Mattias Ritola was -1 with 2 hits in 7:01.

Blair Jones had 1 hit in 7:46. Of note, he was also 7/8 on faceoffs.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 3/11/11 Senators at Lightning

Everything but the kitchen sink just wasn't enough.

OTT-2
TB-1

Dwayne Roloson allowed 2 goals on 22 shots for the loss.

First Period
10:35 OTT Spezza (13), Shannon (13), Karlsson (27)(PP)

Second Period
00:53 OTT Butler (7), Gonchar (19), Greening (4)

Third Period
02:56 TB St Louis (26), Purcell (28), Stamkos (40)(PP)

Dominic Moore was the game's third star.

Curtis McElhinney is the luckiest son of a bitch in the City of Tampa tonight. Can't control your rebounds? Can't follow the puck? Look shakier than a crack fiend Jonesing for a fix? No worries! The hockey gods will throw you a bone! The Lightning did just about everything you can do to a goaltender in that third period, short of committing a crime, and somehow the puck would not go in for the tying marker. Blind luck: it favors young children, old fools, and goaltenders named McElhinney.

Blair Jones had 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 4:32 of ice time.

Box score

and extended statistics from NHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 3/9/11 Senators at Admirals

Mission statement.

BNG-1
NOR-5

Dustin Tokarski allowed just 1 goal on 22 shots for the victory. Tokarski is 7-2-2 since the start of February.

First Period
NOR Angelidis, (17) (Vernace, Berry), 11:51
NOR Nelson, (7) (Angelidis, Roy), 19:59

Second Period
NOR Harju, (20) (Szczechura, Mihalik), 15:39
NOR Barberio, (8) (Labrie), 17:59

Third Period
BNG Wick, (14) (Hoffman, Lehner), 2:12
NOR Pouliot, (19) (Fornataro, Harju), 13:10 (PP)

Mike Angelidis, Johan Harju, and Levi Nelson were the game's three stars. Harju became the second Admiral to hit the 20 goal mark this season. Blair Jones was the first, and Marc-Antoine Pouliot may be the next after scoring his 19th tonight.

It's hard to under-emphasize the importance of tonight's win for the Admirals. The club regained its 4 point gap on Binghamton for 4th place in the East Division and cashed in a game in hand to move within 3 points of Charlotte for 3rd with 2 games in hand still remaining. Just as well, Hershey lost 3-2 to Worcester tonight, so Norfolk moved within 6 points of 2nd place with 3 games in hand on the Bears and they maintained a 5 point gap on the Sharks and Connecticut Whale in the worst-case scenario where a crossover into the Atlantic Division bracket becomes necessary. A loss tonight would have been a disaster for the Admirals, but now Binghamton is the club sweating as they hold a playoff spot by a slim, single point.

There are 16 games remaining in the regular season. Norfolk faces these same Senators on Friday at Scope.

Box score and extended statistics from TheAHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 3/7/11 Capitals at Lightning

It hurts on so many levels.

WSH-2
TB-1 (SO)

Dwayne Roloson stopped 29 of 30 shots before allowing 1 of 2 shooters to convert for the shootout loss.

First Period
12:30 TB Bergenheim (13), St Louis (52), Stamkos (38)(PP)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
14:28 WSH Semin (24), Wideman (25), Ovechkin (44)

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shootout
WSH- Ovechkin
TB- NONE

Roloson was the game's third star.

The Lightning had this game won twice, only to have it snatched away from them. The first was on what was really a lucky stick save by Brayden Holtby reaching back on a Simon Gagne bid at an open net. The second was a disallowed goal by Vincent Lecavalier that was absolute baloney. I've seen teams get away with a lot worse than the contact Martin St. Louis made with his skate after being tripped through the crease. So, it would be easy to feel like the Lightning were robbed, but the refs didn't make the Lightning go out with a whimper in overtime and the shootout. It was a weak effort to close a game where the team, in general, really rose to the occasion. The Devils, Bruins, and this game were really unfortunate. This team could very easily have taken all 6 possible points in those games, rather than just 1.

The Lightning are 2 points back of Washington in the division now with 1 game in hand. This tough bit of schedule ends with the Blackhawks, who are white hot, before the opposition gets a little easier (on paper).

Mattias Ritola played 4:58.

Blair Jones played 6:20 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot.

The young guys simply weren't going to play much in a game of this magnitude.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 3/3/11 Lightning at Bruins

Much more entertaining than last night... but the same result.

TB-1
BOS-2

Mike Smith allowed 2 goals on 28 shots for the loss. It's a shame. He played well in his first start since being recalled.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
04:04 TB Brewer (9), B. Jones (2), Downie (20)
06:06 BOS Kampfer (5), Kelly (13), Peverley (21)

Third Period
16:18 BOS Lucic (28), Krejci (39), Horton (24)

It's a disappointing result because the Lightning had so much stacked against them with Smith in net and Lecavalier out hurt and they still performed so well. But's it's a disappointing result with a silver lining for the resiliency the club showed. I feel like I learned something valuable about the team's character tonight, and I really liked what I saw.

Mattias Ritola had 2 shots and 1 hit in 11:19. Holy cow, what did they sprinkle on Ritola's cereal this morning? He threw a colossal hit and actually did some board work tonight. Nice.

Blair Jones had a helper and was +1 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 9:33. He skated well and he played hard. He also got popped pretty hard a couple of times, but he looked good. I really believe this guy would be an NHLer if the Lightning weren't so deep at forward right now. He really has the makeup of a pretty good fourth line soldier.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

Ritola, Jones Re-join Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning have recalled forwards Mattias Ritola and Blair Jones from the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.

Ritola, 6-foot, 192 pounds, has appeared in a NHL career-high 24 games this season with the Lightning, recording career-bests with two goals, four assists and six points. He was reassigned to Norfolk on February 9. Since then he has registered two goals and 11 points with a plus-4 rating in nine games with the Admirals. Of his nine contests, five of them were multi-point games.

AHL Game Night: 3/2/11 Bears at Admirals

It was Bear hunting season tonight at Scope.

HER-1
NOR-6

Dustin Tokarski allowed 1 goal on 29 shots for the win. With Curtis McElhinney plucked away by Ottawa on waivers, the number one job in Norfolk is now Tokarski's, unless Cedrick Desjardins finds a way to return from injury. Tonight was a good opening statement for Tic.

First Period
HER Pinizzotto, (16) (Willsie, Greentree), 7:44
NOR Ritola, (1) (Fornataro, Tokarski), 12:51

Second Period
NOR Jones, (19) (Vernace, Szczechura), 9:05 (PP)
NOR Jones, (20) (Pouliot, Milam), 9:41
NOR Pouliot, (18) (Milam, Harju), 19:55 (PP)

Third Period
NOR Durno, (15) (Angelidis, Wright), 0:32
NOR Ritola, (2) (Pouliot, Gudas), 13:17

Blair Jones, Marc-Antoine Pouliot, and Mattias Ritola were the game's three stars. Jones became the first Admiral to hit 20 goals this season, matching his career high set two years ago. Difference is: his 20 goals in 2008-2009 came in 80 games and was largely the product of Jones playing a lot of point on the power play. He reached that threshold in 47 games this season and has developed into a far more well-rounded player. Ritola scored his first 2 goals as an Admiral and now has 11 points in his first 9 games with the club.

With Chris Durno scoring his 15th goal tonight, the Admirals now have 6 players with 15 or more goals: Pouliot, Jones, Johan Harju, Matt Fornataro, Durno, and Mike Angelidis. Entering the year, it appeared the formula for success in Norfolk would involve having multiple scorers chasing around 20 goals without pure snipers like the departed Brandon Bochenski. It certainly appears that formula has been followed so far.

With the win, Norfolk seized 4th in the East Division outright over Binghamton by 2 points, while still holding 1 game in hand. They also burned a game in hand on Charlotte and are now 3 points back of 3rd place with 2 games in hand. They're also now 7 points back of the Bears for 2nd place with 2 games in hand. In the crossover, Norfolk holds an 8 point advantage on the Atlantic's 4th place team, Worcester.

There are 20 games left in the regular season. Norfolk next faces Albany on the road on Friday. They'll face the Bears again this weekend (Saturday) in Hershey and finishes out the week in Binghamton on Sunday. With three games in three nights, it will be interesting to see if and when Coach Cooper starts Jaroslav Janus.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Day: 2/27/11 Admirals at River Rats

Norfolk comes from behind for its biggest win of the season.

NOR-4
ALB-3

Dustin Tokarski allowed 3 goals on 20 shots for the victory. It's not a good percentage for the game, but he does finish the month of February with a 4-1-2 mark, 1 shutout, a 2.06 GAA, and a .917 save percentage, which is more in line with the numbers he put up last season. He also evened his ledger up at 14-14-4 for the year.

First Period
NOR Milam, (11) (Ritola, Barberio), 9:07 (PP)
NOR Barberio, (7) (Ritola, Harju), 10:28 (PP)
ALB Henrique, (19) (Zalewski, Anderson), 16:04

Second Period
ALB Leach, (2) (Magnan, Anderson), 5:28
ALB Anderson, (18) (Henrique, Zalewski), 16:41 (PP)

Third Period
NOR Harju, (19) (Ritola, Barberio), 0:23 (PP)
NOR Jones, (18) (Milam, Harju), 4:39

Mark Barberio and Johan Harju were the game's first and third stars after guiding a shining Admirals performance on the power play. Barberio finished with 1 goal and 2 assists in the game, all on the power play. Barberio now has 7 goals and 22 points for the season, and today was his first 3 point game as a pro. Another game or so like that would really help him chase down that 30 point mark for the season. Harju, Norfolk's All-Star, now has 19 goals, which is 1 ahead of Blair Jones and 2 ahead of Marc-Antoine Pouliot for the team lead. The race is on to see who gets to 20 first, but it sure looks like all 3 will make it.

Today's win was very important in the standings. With Binghamton losing to Adirondack, Norfolk moved into a tie with the Senators at 71 points and the Admirals temporarily will hold the 4th spot in the division by virtue of a better winning percentage. The team also cashed in 1 of its games in hand on Charlotte and is now 5 points back of the 3rd place Checkers with 3 games still in hand. So, although I'm not sure I'd be thrilled about a first round series against Hershey, Norfolk is starting to get a handle again on their own destiny. In the crossover, Worcester won and Springfield lost, so the Sharks climbed to 3rd in the Atlantic Division and Springfield remains tied with Connecticut at 64 points. Norfolk holds a 7 point lead on both teams with 1 game in hand on the Whale and 2 games in hand on the Falcons. So, Norfolk appears to have arrested their slow recession with today's win and they're now 5-3-0-2 in their last 10 games.

There are 21 games remaining in the regular season and Norfolk moves on to play Hershey at home on Wednesday night. They'll be back in Albany on Friday, then in Hershey on Saturday, before a critical game in Binghamton on Sunday. It's a big week coming up for the Admirals. If they ran the table, they could cut the Bears' lead for 2nd in the division to not more than 5 points, although that's a big if. Norfolk should get goaltender Curtis McElhinney into the fold for the week, barring an unexpected waiver claim by another team. McElhinney hasn't seen AHL action since 2007-2008 with Quad City when he was 20-18-2 with 3 shutouts, a 2.28 GAA, and a .911 save percentage. He was outstanding in the AHL in 2006-2007 with the Omaha Knights where he had a phenomenal 35-17-1 record with 7 shutouts, a 2.13 GAA, and a .917 save percentage. So, he's been an excellent player in the AHL and he should bring a lot to the table for Norfolk down the stretch and into the playoffs.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 2/12/11 Crunch at Admirals

Norfolk's goaltenders and defense hold Syracuse to zero for the weekend.

SYR-0
NOR-4

Dustin Tokarski stopped all 19 shots he faced for the shutout. It's Tokarski's 1st shutout of the season after posting 4 a year ago, and it comes one night after Mike Smith blanked Syracuse 3-0.

First Period
NOR Jones, (16) (Ritola), 14:30
NOR Pouliot, (15) (Ritola, Vernace), 16:12 (PP)
NOR Barberio, (5) (Szczechura, Durno), 19:55

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
NOR Milam, (10) (Berry, Vernace), 19:04 (PP)

Tokarski, Mattias Ritola, and Blair Jones were the game's three stars. Ritola has 2 assists in each of his first 2 games as an Admiral. Jones has points in 6 of his last 7 contests.

Stat of the game: through 40 minutes the Admirals had only allowed the Syracuse Crunch 6 shots on goal: 3 in the first period and 3 in the second period. Norfolk showed up this weekend ready to play in their own 3rd of the rink, and to hold any professional team to 3 shots in a period is remarkable. To do it for 2 periods in a row is absolutely absurd, though.

Tonight's schedule saw intra-divisional games across the board in the East Division with Binghamton beating Hershey, Norfolk beating Syracuse, and Adirondack taking out Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Also, Charlotte currently is tied late in the third period with Albany. So the state of play in the East Division has Norfolk maintaining its 5 point lead on 5th place Binghamton, moving to within 5 points of 2nd place Hershey, and temporarily opening up a 2 point lead on 3rd place Charlotte, pending the outcome of their game against Albany. 27 games remain on the regular season schedule and points are at a premium already.

Update:
Albany beats Charlotte 4-3 in OT, so the Admirals now hold 3rd place in the East Division outright, by 1 solitary point.

Hershey travels to Norfolk Tuesday to play the Admirals, and a regulation win over the Bears can shrink Hershey's advantage in the standings to a scant 3 points. Norfolk needs that game in the worst way.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

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