Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning just answered the bell with remarkable punctuality.
Johan Holmqvist stopped 17 of 18 shots faced in the game for the victory. Consider that for a moment. With Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and all the impressive firepower the Pittsburgh Penguins can array the Tampa Bay Lightning shut them down and held them to a paltry 18 shots on goal. And Shane O'Brien hasn't yet added his particular talents to this defensive corps.
Brad Richards ran wild on Pittsburgh with 1 goal and 3 assists. Martin St. Louis added 1 goal and 1 assist while Richards' linemates, Eric Perrin and Ruslan Fedotenko, each had 2 assists. Vincent Lecavalier scored his league leading 41st goal, a shorthanded marker, Filip Kuba his 10th and Paul Ranger had his 4th talley of the season. Dan Boyle had an individual assist.
And so, the Lightning fully capitalized on their game in hand on Atlanta and Carolina and have opened up a 3 point lead on the Smirkin' Chikins and a 4 points lead on the Hurricanes with just 18 games remaining in the regular season. The trade deadline is Tuesday. With the addition of one or two more forwards, this is a Stanley Cup contender. The ball is in your court, Jay Feaster.
Tampa Bay 2:17, Martin St. Louis 38 (power play) (Dan Boyle, Brad Richards)
Tampa Bay 3:56, Paul Ranger 4 (Eric Perrin, Brad Richards)
Tampa Bay 4:58, Filip Kuba 10 (Brad Richards, Ruslan Fedotenko)
Pittsburgh 8:26, Sergei Gonchar 10 (power play) (Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby)
Tampa Bay 1:31, Brad Richards 22 (Eric Perrin, Ruslan Fedotenko)
Tampa Bay 14:16, Vincent Lecavalier 41 (shorthanded) (Martin St. Louis)
Game sheet from NHL.com.
The Lightning have acquired a 3rd round pick and defenseman Shane O'Brien from Anahiem for goaltender Gerald Coleman and a first round pick according to TSN.ca
Marc Denis stopped just 5 of 7 shots faced before being lifted for Johan Holmqvist who was even more horrid allowing 4 goals on 16 shots faced. Dan Boyle and Filip Kuba had the Lightning goals. Brad Richards, Vincent Lecavalier and Eric Perrin recorded assists. Positives? Not many. Kuba getting back on the scoreboard after a prolonged drought is nice. Getting Blair Jones some development time in the third period after playing just 2 (albeit long) shifts last night in Atlanta is also nice. Jones had 1 shot in 10:13 of ice time tonight.
Ball this one up and throw it in the trash can. The Lightning really left it all on the ice last night in Atlanta and had little in the tank to deal with Boston, especially considering what a poor goaltending effort they got tonight. Boston was laying in wait in Tampa soaking up the sun. Rested and ready they pounced. That's just the way the situation unfolded. Certainly, it stinks to burn the team's game in hand on Atlanta this way, but I don't believe this is foreshadowing of things to come.
Boston 1:46, Marco Sturm 20 (Phil Kessel, Brandon Bochenski)
Tampa Bay 5:29, Dan Boyle 14 (power play) (Brad Richards, Vincent Lecavalier)
Boston 9:41, Brad Boyes 10 (Bobby Allen, Marc Savard)
Boston 3:58, Brad Boyes 11 (Marc Savard, P.J. Axelsson)
Boston 12:41, Phil Kessel 8 (Brandon Bochenski, Marco Sturm)
Boston 4:30, Brandon Bochenski 8 (power play) (Marc Savard, P.J. Axelsson)
Boston 9:31, Stanislav Chistov 5 (Zdeno Chara, Mark Mowers)
Tampa Bay 14:29, Filip Kuba 9 (Eric Perrin)
Game sheet from NHL.com.
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.