Tampa Bay Lightning
When wins don't feel like wins...
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 28 shots for the OT win. Wait, what? 2 goals? Yes, because in a freak play Steven Stamkos scored into his own net with Bishop pulled on a delayed penalty. It was that kind of night.
12:20 BUF D'Agostini (5), (Ristolainen, Larsson)
14:07 BUF Hodgson (17), (Ehrhoff)
17:52 TB Killorn (16), (Kucherov, Carle)
19:46 TB Stamkos (22), (Brown, Gudas)
8:14 BUF Conacher (7), (unassisted)(EN)
10:07 TB Callahan (16), (Purcell, Stamkos)(PP)
1:53 TB Stamkos (23), (Filppula, Purcell)(PP)
Steven Stamkos and Ryan Callahan were the game's first and second stars. For my money, J.T. Brown deserved consideration as well, seeing as he was one of the few Lightning players who didn't snooze through about 55 minutes of play tonight.
The Lightning now have 91 points, meaning they're probably just 4-5 points away from what they need to make the postseason. The way things are looking they'll probably get Montreal with the only real question being which of the two clubs gets home ice. That's a wonderful story, given everything that's happened over the last year, and I don't want to diminish it. And, with the win tonight the Lightning have gotten points in each of their last 11 games at a time of the year when points don't come easy in order to put themselves in this position. I don't want to diminish that either. Manufacturing points isn't an easy thing.
However, at some point you keep waiting for the Lightning to show they have an extra gear up from simply manufacturing points to actually proving they're one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, and that's not how the team has looked lately. Tonight was painful to watch, just like the Islanders game was. Worse, in fact, because I think the Lightning's effort level was even lower tonight than it was against the Isles. Playing against two of the most talent-bereft squads in the NHL the Lightning didn't show up and just barely scratched out 2 wins. Yeah, that'll get you in the playoffs, but let's be honest: play like that in the playoffs and Montreal will embarrass you. Flat out. Embarrass. You. This team does not, in any way shape or form, look ready for the crucible that is postseason hockey. They, at times, look like a team happy just to be near making the playoff treating the experience like a coronation. At other times, they look like a team that peaked way too soon and are now running on fumes near the finish line (Bishop falling mostly into this latter category).
Something's got to change, and I hope with home ice still on the line it doesn't take this team taking a tragic, soul-shattering butt whipping at some point in the next few games for them to realize something's got to change in the effort department.
Mike Kostka was -1 with 1 shot in 15:44.
Even if it takes all night.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 27 shots before stopping 9 shooters in a 13 round epic for the Shootout victory. By the end, he and Nabokov were looking like Rocky and Apollo Creed. "No rematch!" cried Nabokov. "Don't want one!" replied Bishop.
0:29 TB Callahan (14), (Gudas, Filppula)
1:33 NYI Strome (5), (Martin, Donovan)
9:17 NYI Donovan (2), (Nielsen, Lee)
5:50 TB Callahan (15), (Brewer)
NYI- Nielsen, Nelson, McDonald, Cizikas
TB- Kostka, Palat, Stamkos, Carle, Salo
2 points the team needed. 2 points they got the hard way. Credit to the Islanders. They're young and undertalented, but they played with energy and structure and came within an eyelash of putting the Lightning in a world of hurt in that Second Period. In the end, the Lightning carried the balance of the play in the First and Third Periods, as well as Overtime. They were the team more deserving of the second point, and they got it, primarily on the strength of some excellent work by their defensive corps. Seriously. Kostka, Carle, and Salo looked like cold-blooded assassins in their attempts. Just, wow.
Points in 10 straight now put the Lightning at 89 points for the campaign. That's 7 shy of the season goal with 9 left to play. With a 9 point lead on the last team out as of this posting, it won't be long now.
Mike Kostka was -1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 16:59. He absolutely deked Nabokov out of his jock in the shootout and the quick release to roof the backhander off the crossbar and in was just outstanding. The trigger has no heart, and neither did Kostka for old man Nabokov. Win if you can. Survive if Mike Kostka lets you.
Lethargic Lightning manufacture a point.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 32 shots before allowing 1 of 3 to convert in the penalty shot session for the SO Loss. He played solidly tonight, and it's just regrettable the team has stopped converting for him in shootouts.
3:57 OTT Karlsson (20), (Greening)
5:07 TB Kucherov (9), (Johnson, Brown)
8:12 OTT Spezza (19), (Michalek, Karlsson)
8:56 OTT Turris (22), (Stone, Erik Karlsson)
13:26 TB Hedman (12), (Filppula, Palat)(PP)
5:44 TB Stamkos (21), (Palat, Callahan)(PP)
Tom Pyatt was the game's third star.
I could complain about a point being left on the table with the Lightning unable to convert a 4-on-3 PP opportunity in Overtime. But, no, I think I'll take the point and run tonight. The fact is the Lightning played flat, stupid hockey for the first 33 minutes of tonight's game and they were lucky not to be down by 3 or 4 goals by the time they woke up and got their heads in the games. The turnovers were awful. The defensive zone coverage was awful. Bishop and luck kept them within 2 goals and Ottawa's lack of discipline gave them the power play opportunities to steal a point away from a night they played poorly. So, I'll take it and move on.
Mike Kostka was +1 with 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 17:29. He was crafty tonight at both ends of the rink and looks due for some more points soon. He was patient when he needed to be and opportunistic when chances came his way, and looked really good tonight.
When you play the Pens, you play 5-on-7.
Anders Lindback allowed 4 goals on 29 shots for the OT loss. I feel bad for the young man. He was sharp and made some sparkling saves to give the Lightning an opportunity to win this game. In fact, I'd say he was doing his best Ben Bishop impression all game. And then the refs just kept gifting power plays to the Pens, hanging him out to dry.
5:29 PIT Crosby (34), (Malkin, Zatkoff)(PP)
16:44 TB Filppula (24), (Stamkos, Hedman)(PP)
8:17 TB Stamkos (20), (Killorn, Gudas)
11:07 PIT Malkin (22), (Niskanen, Crosby)(PP)
16:43 PIT Malkin (23), (Jokinen)
18:38 TB Palat (19), (Gudas, Carle)
1:27 PIT Neal (23), (Malkin, Crosby)(PP)
Steven Stamkos was the game's third star. He was beastly today. He looked like he's clearly past the injury and back to being hell bent on proving he's the best player in the game today. He was excellent.
If you want to look on the bright side, I think the Lightning made a statement today. They've been pulling out wins against bad teams and proving they deserve to be in the playoffs, but I think today they asserted to the league that they are a team fully capable of doing damage when they get there. They went toe to tow with one of the two elite teams in the conference and gave them all they could handle. Were the officiating right down the middle, who knows what might've happened.
But, you know, it wasn't. The referees really gift wrapped two goals for the Pens in this game, which was infuriating. The "slashing" call they gave to Killorn for blade on blade stick contact on Malkin was an absolute joke. Prior to Tyler Johnson's terrible turnover that allowed the Pens to take the lead in the Third Period, you had an obvious interference call perpetrated on Filppula go uncalled. And then, in Overtime, the kill shots came on a borderline too many men call followed up by a uncalled Crosby interference on Tyler Johnson off the faceoff moments before Neal's winning goal. The joke of this league is that you know going into games against certain teams that they'll get every borderline call and even a few they outright don't deserve. You can call it before the game. And right now, at the top of that list, there's the Pittsburgh Penguins. It's rough when you're out there having to compete against 5 very talented hockey players and 2 less-than-above-board referees. Impossible on many nights, in fact.
All of which should not dampen Lightning fans appreciation of the amazing individual effort Ondrej Palat put in to tie the game at 3-3 and get the team the point today. Nothing against Tyler Johnson, but if you held a gun to my head all season, Ondrej is the one I'd be promoting for the Calder Trophy. He's been the truth in all three zones this season, and that highlight reel goal today likely exposed him to a lot more people around the league.
Mike Kostka had 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 18:04. When you play against the Pens, arguably the scariest offensive team in the league, and you hold your own, that's proof you belong.
Lightning gets the job done.
Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 31 shots for the victory. The stat line isn't pretty, but he made some key saves when he needed to and never allowed his team to fall behind on the road. That's how you scratch out points at this time of the season.
0:23 TB Purcell (11), (Hedman, Johnson)
10:44 OTT MacArthur (21), (Turris)(SH)
12:38 TB Purcell (12), (Hedman, Johnson)
13:07 OTT Karlsson (18), (Hoffman, Spezza)(PP)
5:43 TB Filppula (23), (Palat, Salo)(PP)
17:32 OTT Hemsky (11), (Michalek)
3:48 TB Brewer (1), (Brown, Killorn)
11:58 TB Callahan (13), (Palat, Salo)(PP)
17:08 OTT Michalek (13), (Karlsson, Spezza)
Teddy Purcell and Victor Hedman were the game's first and third stars.
Giving up 4 goals doesn't exactly give you the warm and fuzzies, and perhaps it was a reflection of the quality of opponent tonight, but this was probably the best game the Lightning played of the 3 game set against Canadian-based teams. Ottawa really didn't seem to have concerted pressure in this game, and they didn't look as dangerous on the rush as Toronto did. The goals the Lightning surrendered were on a puck handling gaffe by Salo in the neutral zone, two clean Filppula faceoff losses, and Gudas and Carle getting undressed by a great individual play by Hemsky. All of these things are, at least, correctable, and the Lightning never fell behind in the game and eventually got the result they deserved.
The Lightning end this 10 game segment of the season right on the target 12 points you want, and at 85 points they're 1 point ahead of pace for the season. At no point this season have the Lightning fallen behind the pace we set forth here, overall, for the year. They've missed 12 points in some segments, but they've always had insurance points saved up to compensate. It's been an impressive, consistent ride by the Lightning thus far. To finish the drill, the Lightning now have 12 games to earn at least 11 points (to hit 96 for the year) and I dare say a 100 point season (15 points in the last 12 games) is certainly not out of the question.
And if that doesn't earn Jon Cooper NHL Coach of the Year, well, that's another rant for another night.
Mike Kostka had 1 shot and 3 blocked shots in 15:56. He wasn't quite as good as he was in Toronto when he was pumped up in front of the home town.