Tampa Bay Lightning
For some reason, I want to believe tonight's collapse is rock bottom, but the more I think about it the more aprehensive I am that the worst is yet to come.
The Lightning choked away a 3-1 lead by allowing 4 unanswered goals in a 20 minute segment between the second and third periods in the loss. Johan Holmqvist stopped just 20 of 25 shots he faced in taking the L and it appears as teams start to see him the second time around, they're eating him alive. I've never seen a 6'3" goaltender play smaller than Holmqvist does, and I'm not sure if it's correctable at this stage of his career. The good news is that young prospects like Karri Ramo and Jonathan Boutin are getting better by the game in the AHL, but that's not helping the team right now.
Vincent Lecavalier, who would be a bona fide MVP candidate if the team wasn't underacheiving at 1 game under .500, had 1 goal and 2 assists in the game while his partner in crime, Martin St. Louis, had 1 goal and 1 assist. Filip Kuba and Dan Boyle each had 2 helpers while Nikita Alexeev and Brad Richards had the other Lightning goals.
At this point, you're going to hear the mighty Wurlitzer that is the Canadian hockey media start writing the Lightning's epitaph and I have no doubt the bogus trade rumors are going to start flowing hot and heavy. A lot of pressure is going to come bearing down on Feaster to make some sort of changes to right the ship and this team desperately needs a stay-at-home top four defenseman and possibly a decent natural right winger as well. It's beginning to get to the point where the points this team isn't picking up against beatable opponents like Toronto will definitely destroy their playoff chances, and I fear what the result will be if and when PS&E's bean counters decide to downsize the payroll. If these players really do value their time in Tampa and the team that has been built there over the past 7-8 years, they need to step up now because there will be irrevocable structural changes to the roster if they don't. I feel like John just introduced Yoko to the rest of the group, and this band may be on borrowed time.
Toronto 3:28, Alexei Ponikarovsky 9 (power play) (Tomas Kaberle, Bryan McCabe)
Tampa Bay 7:32, Nikita Alexeev 9 (Vincent Lecavalier, Filip Kuba)
Tampa Bay 12:29, Vincent Lecavalier 18 (power play) (Dan Boyle, Filip Kuba)
Tampa Bay 0:24, Brad Richards 12 (Martin St. Louis)
Toronto 12:55, Chad Kilger 5 (Darcy Tucker, Michael Peca)
Toronto 19:30, Chad Kilger 6 (Michael Peca, Pavel Kubina)
Toronto 3:37, Darcy Tucker 18 (power play) (Mats Sundin, Kyle Wellwood)
Toronto 10:55, Jeff O'Neill 9 (Bates Battaglia, Ian White)
Tampa Bay 16:16, Martin St. Louis 18 (power play) (Vincent Lecavalier, Dan Boyle)
Game sheet from NHL.com.
You can't afford to spot a team like the Ducks any soft goals, and the one Denis allowed tonight cost the Lightning at least a point.
Marc Denis allowed 4 goals on 25 shots and Chris Kunitz's shot from behind the net riccocheting off Denis' left skate and in as the netminder left his post to early on a rush in the third period proved to be the Lightning's death knell. Martin St. Louis had 2 assists while goals were scored by Eric Perrin, Ruslan Fedotenko and Brad Richards. Vincent Lecavalier and Paul Ranger added individual assists, but it was a sputtering power play that went 0-for-5 including a squandered long 5-on-3 power play in the third period with the Lightning chasing the tying goal that was the real story offensively. Atlanta picks up a point in the standings and now has an 11 point lead on the Lightning in the division.
Anaheim 3:07, Dustin Penner 11 (Todd Marchant, Shawn Thornton)
Tampa Bay 10:20, Eric Perrin 8 (Paul Ranger, Martin St. Louis)
Anaheim 10:58, Dustin Penner 12 (power play) (Shawn Thornton, Francois Beauchemin)
Anaheim 12:48, Teemu Selanne 17 (Andy McDonald, Chris Kunitz)
Tampa Bay 17:25, Ruslan Fedotenko 8 (Vincent Lecavalier)
Anaheim 2:26, Chris Kunitz 16 (Teemu Selanne, Scott Niedermayer)
Tampa Bay 10:10, Brad Richards 11 (Martin St. Louis)
The moral victory is the Lightning proved they can go toe to toe with the second best team in the NHL and certainly hold their own. But moral victories don't count in the standings and the brutal December schedule rolls on as this Lightning team is still trying to hit its stride.
Game sheet from NHL.com.
What did frosty the snowman do? Thumpety thump thump on the Thrashers?
Marc Denis stopped all 21 shots he faced for the shutout. Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis went absolutely crazy on Atlanta to earn the first and second stars of the game. Lecavalier started the game with the first three goals for the hat trick and then decided sharing is fun in the holiday season and added 2 assists. St. Louis had 4 assists before capping his own 5 point scoring spree by finishing a Lecavalier pass on a 2-on-1 shorthanded to make the game 7-0. Dan Boyle added 1 goal and 1 assist as did Brad Richards. Nikita Alexeev and Ruslan Fedotenko also had goals with individual helpers going to Perrin, Kuba, Prospal, Craig and Janik.
Every once in a while there's that one perfect night where everything comes together, and tonight was that night against a national media darling that just so happens to be the team I dispise almost as much as the Florida Panthers (maybe even more these days). Not only did Lecavalier and St. Louis continue their torrid season scoring paces that should have them earning All-Star honors and possibly MVP candidates (if the Lightning can right their ship) but Marc Denis got his first win in, well, forever and did so in shutout fashion. Hopefully, the train is now back on the tracks and ready to roll. Old ex-Panther dirt bag Scott Mellanby getting stuck with a -5 doesn't hurt my feelings either.
Here's the really fun part:
Tampa Bay 19:32, Vincent Lecavalier 15 (Eric Perrin, Martin St. Louis)
Tampa Bay 6:28, Vincent Lecavalier 16 (power play) (Dan Boyle, Martin St. Louis)
Tampa Bay 12:14, Vincent Lecavalier 17 (Filip Kuba, Martin St. Louis)
Tampa Bay 12:48, Nikita Alexeev 8 (Brad Richards, Vaclav Prospal)
Tampa Bay 14:58, Brad Richards 10 (power play) (Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier)
Game sheet from NHL.com.
Bolts attempt to honor Dave Andreychuk appeared less than the exhuberant and respectful night he deserved. Didnt expect to see his jersey put up in the rafters, but did expect more pizzazz during the presentation, maybe a few x-NHLer actually there to speak about him and wanted to hear more from Dave. Honoring seemed more superficial than substance to me. Gag gifts were a joke and devalued the moment. Dave deserved alot more than he got !
A good start to the game and good effort throughout, but nothing to show for it.
Daniel Briere scored his first career hattrick and Ryan Miller was in all-star form as Buffalo erased a 1-0 deficit with four unanswered goals on their way to a 4-1 victory on Dave Andreychuk night. Vincent Lecavalier's wraparound goal in the game's first minute was the only marker for Tampa - who had multiple scoring chances, but saw passes jump over sticks, shots hit skates, and/or Miller come up big. Vaclav Prospal had the only assist on the evening, and even that was speculative as it appeared Prospal gave the puck away behind the net and Jochen Hecht of Buffalo was trying to swing it around the end boards when Lecavalier blocked the attempt with his right foot, then kicked the puck to his stick with his left foot before putting it through the legs of an unsuspecting Miller for the goal.
Andre Roy saw his first action for the Lightning since the Cup year and fought Andrew Peters in his first shift. Roy's physical play also sparked Nick Tarnasky to throw more hits and that line - which was centered by captain Tim Taylor - was very effective not only on the forecheck, but creating scoring chances.
Once again, however, if the Lightning made a mistake, the puck ended up in the back of the net. This was highlighted by an odd decision by Brad Richards to stickhandle through a player while he was the last man back - resulting in a turnover that led to Buffalo's third goal. Just as odd was Martin St. Louis trying basically the same thing later in the game, and he nearly lost the puck to an opposing player in front of Mark Denis, who made 25 saves on the night, including a miraculous save on Maxim Afinogenov when Denis dove to his right and got his stick on a shot headed for an open net. Easily the save of the year so far for the Lightning.
Tampa Bay 0:53, Vincent Lecavalier 14 (Vaclav Prospal)
Buffalo 7:17, Daniel Briere 11 (Jason Pominville, Dmitri Kalinin)
Buffalo 10:34, Chris Drury 17 (Nathan Paetsch, Ales Kotalik)
Buffalo 17:15, Daniel Briere 12 (Jochen Hecht)
Buffalo 12:21, Daniel Briere 13 (Jochen Hecht, Jason Pominville)
Game sheet from NHL.com.