Tampa Bay Lightning
Marc Denis steals Olli Jokinen's lunch money. It's a beautiful thing, made even more beautiful by the fact Denis Potvin's inner child was trampled by the game outcome at the end of the night.
That's the pride of a champion right there.
Marc Denis stopped 24 of 28 shots in regulation and overtime but still managed to get the win as the Lightning overcame a pair of 2 goal deficits in the second period and a 1 goal deficit in the 3rd period to take the division lead free and clear. Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards each had 1 goal and 2 assists with Marty potting the deciding game winning goal. Dan Boyle had 2 assists while the other Lightning goals came from Eric Perrin, Vincent Lecavalier and the Doomsday Device, Andre Roy. For Lecavalier, it was his league leading 40th goal of the campaign; the first 40 goal season of his career. Vaclav Prospal and Paul Ranger had individual assists.
The Lightning took the Thrashers' best punch in this game and still came out on top in an amazing display of character and resiliency. Coming out in the first period this team had zero jump and, indeed, looked like they were skating in quicksand as the Thrashers jumped all over them to eventually stake a 2-0 lead on a Marc Denis Charminy soft short side goal. The Lightning then struck with Brad Richards' goal but were quickly answered by a shot that went in off of Eric Boulton's shoulder and arm. Lesser teams would've folded up with the bounces going against them like that. The Lightning just rose to the challenge. I feel like I just watched one of those great 15+ round heavyweight fights from the 60's and 70's, and in the end the Lightning played the role of Ali and the Thrashers played the part of sucker on the canvas.
The win moves the Lightning clear of the Thrashers into sole posession of the Southeast Division lead at 73 points, maintaining a 4 point lead on third place Carolina. More importantly, I think, the Lightning sent a deep psychological message to the Thrashers tonight. No matter what the Thrashers throw at the Lightning, when the chips are down, the Lightning win. That's one of those intangibles that make sports such great drama. The pride of a champion doesn't show up on paper, but it damn sure showed up on the scoreboard tonight.
Atlanta 2:38, Steve McCarthy 4 (power play) (Scott Mellanby, Marian Hossa)
Atlanta 7:50, Eric Belanger 10 (Slava Kozlov, Andy Sutton)
Tampa Bay 11:24, Brad Richards 21 (Martin St. Louis, Vaclav Prospal)
Atlanta 13:08, Eric Boulton 3 (Bobby Holik, Steve McCarthy)
Tampa Bay 13:38, Eric Perrin 11 (Martin St. Louis)
Tampa Bay 15:43, Vincent Lecavalier 40 (power play) (Brad Richards, Dan Boyle)
Atlanta 0:30, Marian Hossa 35 (Eric Belanger)
Tampa Bay 2:28, Andre Roy 1 (Paul Ranger, Dan Boyle)
Tampa Bay 3:44, Martin St. Louis 37 (Brad Richards)
Game sheet from NHL.com.
Got away with murder.
Marc Denis was just short of amazing in this game stopping 29 of 32 shots faced in regulation and overtime before stopping 2 of 3 penalty shots for the shootout victory. We'll put the save he made on Jokinen up once it gets youtubed. Save of the year. Ryan Craig and Martin St. Louis had the Lightning's goals. Andreas Karlsson, Doug Janik, Brad Richards and Vincent Lecavalier had helpers. Richards and St. Louis scored in the shootout.
And the Lightning deserved squat tonight. They only showed up for about 15 of the 65 minutes of hockey played tonight and they're lucky, lucky, lucky that A.) Marc Denis looked like Patrick Roy redux tonight and B.) the Panthers are a Mickey Mouse Junior B team masquerading as an NHL franchise. Kudos to the Lightning for wounding Panthers color man Denis Potvin's inner child by stealing the 2 points tonight after Potvin practically gloated for 2 1/2 periods about the Panthers' play. All in favor of Potvin and Carolina color man Tripp Tracey getting rear ended while carpooling in a pre-recall 1978 Pinto, say aye.
Speaking of which, in Carolina, Atlanta defeated the defending champs 3-1 to keep pace with the Lightning at 71 points with Tampa holding a game in hand.
Tampa Bay 2:15, Ryan Craig 13 (Andreas Karlsson, Doug Janik)
Florida 5:30, Nathan Horton 20 (unassisted)
Florida 10:53, Nathan Horton 21 (Martin Gelinas, Bryan Allen)
Tampa Bay 7:43, Martin St. Louis 36 (power play) (Brad Richards, Vincent Lecavalier)
Tampa Bay: Richards, St. Louis
Game sheet from NHL.com.
The Good News = Lightning move into a tie for first place in the Southeast Division
The Bad News = Tampa Bay fails to get both points, and possible injuries to Ranger and Fedotenko.
Tampa Bay-4 (Overtime)
With Atlanta's loss in Ottawa this afternoon, the Lightning needed just one point to move into a first place tie with the Thrashers. The held on for the point, but fell in overtime in South Florida 5-4 to the Panthers. Tampa now leads the division by tiebreaker with 69 points and hold the No.3 seed. Atlanta also has 69 and the Hurricanes, who won tonight in Montreal, are 2 back at 67. The Lightning has a game in hand on both division rivals.
The Panthers won their first game in extra time this year and move to 57 points, 2 ahead of Washington for 13th place in the conference. They are 9 points out of a playoff spot.
Back to the game â€¦ Johan Holmqvist struggled at times in net for Tampa, stopping 25 of 30 shots. The Lightning only put up 20 shots on Ed Belfour, including just 3 in the final period. Part of the reason for the low shot total was the absolutely horrific ice conditions that both teams battled. No less than three goals were the direct or indirect result of the puck jumping over or off of a stick. With 6 minutes left in the third period, the teams had combined for 5 shots and what seemed like 2 dozen giveaways. It was awful to watch, but both teams had to deal with it.
The â€œLightnings,â€ as they were referred to by Panthers analyst Denis Potvin at one point, got goals from Martin St. Louis (2), Dan Boyle, and Eric Perrin. Assists were compiled by Vaclav Prospal (2), Vincent Lecavalier (2), Boyle, Perrin, and Brad Richards.
Ruslan Fedotenko suffered a thigh or knee injury when he was hit by Bryan Allenâ€™s raised knee late in the third. No penalty was called on the play. Paul Ranger also left the game with an injury, but the Panthers broadcast never addressed it. They were too busy fawning over Allenâ€™s hit on Fedotenko.
Blair Jones was a scratch for the Lightning and Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune speculates he could be sent back to Springfield on Monday.
Florida 1:47, Ruslan Salei 6 (power play) (unassisted)
Florida 4:02, Stephen Weiss 12 (Nathan Horton, Martin Gelinas)
Tampa Bay 6:09, Martin St. Louis 34 (Vaclav Prospal, Vincent Lecavalier)
Tampa Bay 11:03, Eric Perrin 10 (Brad Richards)
Tampa Bay 16:28, Martin St. Louis 35 (Dan Boyle, Vincent Lecavalier)
Florida 6:48, Bryan Allen 2 (Stephen Weiss, Martin Gelinas)
Tampa Bay 11:11, Dan Boyle 13 (power play) (Eric Perrin, Vaclav Prospal)
Florida 11:28, Ville Peltonen 10 (power play) (Olli Jokinen, Steve Montador)
Florida 0:29, Nathan Horton 19 (Jay Bouwmeester, Stephen Weiss)
Gamesheet from NHL.com
The Lightning made up one of the two games in hand they had on Southeast Division leading Atlanta and took a somewhat difficult two points from Washington with a 3-2 shootout win. The Lightning pulled within just one point of the Thrashers. The Bolts improved to 8-1 on the year in the shootout, making me a fan of it for as long as this continues.
Marc Denis got a rare start in net and flashed a little glove and little attitude in stopping 36 shots in regulation and overtime and all three shootout attempts to get the win. After making an rubber-arm glove save on Alexander Ovechkin in the third, Denis turned his head and glared at the superstar.
Vincent Lecavalier increased his league-leading goal total to 39 with both of Tampa Bayâ€™s goals in regulation (one PPG, one SHG). Martin St. Louis had the shootout winner as the third shooter for the Lightning. Denis had to make a Hasek-like sprawling save on a deking Matt Pettinger to secure the win. Kudos to Denisâ€™ armpit for that one. Assists on the night went to Dan Boyle, who became the all-time Lightning leader in points for a defenseman, Brad Richards, and St. Louis.
Kudos to Sun Sportsâ€™ Rick Peckham for pointing out Washingtonâ€™s Eric Fehr is the former linemate of Ryan Craig from their WHL days in Brandon. Those guys, along with the Predators' Jordin Tootoo, were dynamite for the Wheat Kings. The Caps also featured Jeff Shultz, a former Calgary Hitmen teammate of Springfieldâ€™s Mike Egener. Shultz was taken in the late first round of the 2004 draft; Egener at the top of the second round in 2003.
Washington 9:07, Alexander Semin 30 (power play) (Dainius Zubrus)
Tampa Bay 2:44, Vincent Lecavalier 38 (power play) (Dan Boyle, Brad Richards)
Tampa Bay 7:05, Vincent Lecavalier 39 (shorthanded) (Martin St. Louis)
Washington 19:45, Dainius Zubrus 20 (unassisted)
Tampa Bay misses: Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards
Tampa Bay goals: Martin St. Louis
Washington misses: Alexander Semin, Alexander Ovechkin, Matt Pettinger
Game sheet from NHL.com.