Part game recap, analysis and scouting report, the Day-After Digest appears after every Lightning game.
The Lightning got off to a rocky start falling behind at the tail end of the game's opening shift but after seeing Vincent Lecavalier drop his mitts and go toe-to-toe with Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn and surviving four-minutes down a man after B.J. Crombeen was charged with three minors on the same shift and only drew a single penalty, Tampa Bay took control, seizing a 3-1 lead heading into the second period. The Flyers regrouped in the middle frame, earning two additional power plays and peppering Lindback with eleven shots while mostly holding the Lightning offense in check, but were unable to convert any chances. Tampa Bay scored early in and nearly midway through the third period to put the game out of reach and leave the visiting bench and their supporters in the crowd stunned.
"After the emotion came down, our players stayed focused for the rest of the game," Boucher said.
The Lightning got plenty of production out of their key forwards as Vinny Lecavalier, Teddy Purcell and Steven Stamkos all scored and Marty St. Louis racked up four assists. Purcell tied the game late in the first period when he skated into a feed from Stamkos, who, trying to find Purcell, took a quick pass in tight space from St. Louis in the slot, wheeled around and sent the puck into open space towards the right hash. Lecavalier cranked a vintage one-timer from the left circle high that beat Leighton high to extend the Lightning's lead to 3-1. Eric Brewer and Victor Hedman, who's been much more decisive about and aggressive in heading up ice to lead or join rushes than he has been in seasons past, also scored for Tampa Bay. Boucher touched on this progression in Hedman's play, crediting the presence of Carle and Salo as relieving some of the pressure on both the young defender and the vet Brewer, suggesting that they particularly allow Hedman some "freedom" before clarifying that when Hedman is making reads, he's now "not as scared to see the opening and take advantage of it."
"We're a very, very different team. We're big now, we're tough and we're committed to defense," Boucher said before elaborating, "You add that to our offense and it certainly makes for something positive right now."
Aside from allowing a bad angle goal when Sean Couturier sent a "shot" from the boards near the goalline to his right than snuck in between his skate and the post just 0:59 in, Anders Lindback managed to keep his composure and was otherwise superb tonight. He stopped the remaining twenty-four shots he faced, including high-quality scoring chances that came from a few odd-man rushes and several attempts from prime real estate. In particular, it was a sprawling left pad save on Matt Read nearly midway through the first with the Flyers still on the power play that seemed to turn momentum in the Lightning's favor.
"At some point he just shuts the door," Boucher said in praise of the young Swede, adding, "That's the mark of good goaltenders. He battles, he's got talent, has an amazing attitude and never gets nervous. That's a good mix."
With Boucher opting to skate twelve forwards and six defensemen, Dana Tyrell was back in the lineup at the expense of Marc-Andre Bergeron. Brendan Mikkelson and P.C. Labrie were the other scratches. Despite not playing since last Monday's away tilt against the Islanders, Labrie was in high spirits and eager to share how excited he is to be a part of the big club and eagerly awaits his next opportunity. He made sure to mention how refreshed he feels after playing nearly half of a season with Syracuse, adding that the short training camp helped him re-focus and boosted his confidence since he wasn't able to display what is such a big part of his game: hitting and fighting. He also touched on how being called up and sticking with the Lightning has provided the opportunity to learn from B.J. Crombeen, whom the young forward says he watches intently during games to soak in and learn as much as he can from the veteran grinder.
Lightning starting to dial in the defense...
Anders Lindback allowed 1 goal on 25 shots for the victory. His one goal allowed was of the stinky doo doo variety with a puck sneaking by his skate on the post. Had it not been for that, he'd have had the shutout.
00:59 PHI Courturier (2), (Talbot)
14:34 TB Purcell (1), (Stamkos, St. Louis)(PP)
16:10 TB Brewer (3), (Purcell, St. Louis)
18:55 TB Lecavalier (2), (St. Louis, Salo)(PP)
00:58 TB Hedman (2), (Hall, Salo)
12:29 TB Stamkos (3), (Purcell, St. Louis)
Vincent Lecavalier, Sami Salo, and Martin St. Louis were the game's three stars. I don't know when it happened, but evidently Lecavalier became Mark Messier over the offseason. His bout with Luke Schenn in the first period changed the momentum after Lindback's softie, and that and the penalty kill essentially won the game.
Keith Aulie was -1 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 13:25. Aulie will graduate from prospect status on Bolt Prospects in his next NHL game.
Cory Conacher had 1 shot in 12:57. They can't all be multi-point nights.
On the night honoring #4's 1,000th game...
Anders Lindback stopped 32 of 36 for the victory. One the one hand, the defense gave up way too many breaks, partial breaks, and odd man rushes for the first two periods of the game. On the other hand, he looked like stinky doo doo allowing some pucks through him and not being tight to the post on another near goal. I would say this was clearly his first subpar game in a Lightning uniform.
TB 01:09 Carle (1), (Conacher, Bergeron)(PP)
04:11 OTT Condra (1), (Neil, Gonchar)
14:30 OTT Spezza (2), (Alfredsson, Gonchar)(PP)
14:45 OTT Karlsson (3), (Michalek, Turris)
15:00 TB Stamkos (2), (Salo, St. Louis)
17:30 OTT Turris (4), (Alfredsson, Daugavins)
18:10 TB Hedman (1), (Stamkos, St. Louis)
03:39 TB Malone (2), (Salo, Conacher)
12:58 TB Malone (3), (Lecavalier, Hedman)
19:18 TB Pyatt (2), (Stamkos)(EN)
Ryan Malone and Sami Salo were the game's first and second stars. Your biggest goal of the night on Vincent Lecavalier's night was Hedman's late Second Period goal set up by a big faceoff win and a solid screen in front of the net. This might well have been an Ottawa bloodbath without that goal, because the rest of the Second Period is pretty much footage the Lightning would like to see burned.
Obviously, it's not sustainable to keep trying to win these games with these 80's style high scores. The pieces are there for the Lightning to get better defensively, but it needs to take a couple of weeks, not a couple of months.
Keith Aulie was -2 with 16 penalty minutes, 3 shots, 3 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 13:14, and he looked like he was going to kill every single man, woman, and child associated with the Ottawa organization following a goalmouth scrum late in the game.
Cory Conacher had 2 assists and was +1 with 1 shot in 16:13. The second assist, which came on Malone's first goal, was all Conacher jumping on a defenseman and stripping the puck for a sharp, decisive pass out to Salo for the big bomb from the point. One very good trait Conacher has: he moves the puck quickly, decisively, and hard.
We continue our Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their recent contributions on and off the ice.
The Prospect of the Week for January 23 is … Cory Conacher, W, Tampa Bay (NHL – USA)
Last week the North American sports world’s biggest headlines were about a story that was fake. During the college football season, Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o was the subject of multiple stories documenting his inspirational play in memory of his deceased girlfriend. It was a heart-wrenching story… until it was proven to be false. Te’o was allegedly the victim of a hoax and his girlfriend never existed beyond someone’s imagination.
The American sports fan was already cynical, and now their ability to engage in an emotional story will take a greater hit.
Don’t let it.
Good (true) stories still exist. Take Cory Conacher as an example.
The Lightning deploy the secret weapon.
Mathieu Garon allowed 1 goal on 36 shots for the win in his first start of the season. He gave the Canes nothing cheap and held his ground when the Lightning were under seige in the Second Period.
05:18 TB Pyatt (1), (Lecavalier, Carle)
11:36 TB Conacher (2), (Lecavalier, Purcell)
03:35 CAR Skinner (1), (J. Staal, Semin)(PP)
01:37 TB Aulie (1), (Mikkelson)
09:57 TB Malone (1), (St. Louis, Salo)(PP)
The Lightning deployed their secret weapon, Keith Aulie who reduced a former Cup winning goaltender to ash with a short side bullet for his first goal of the season. Keith Aulie has 2 points in 3 games now. I would've bet on just about every other player on the Lightning having 2 points or more right now before #3 would. Good for the big guy.
Aulie had 1 goal and was +1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 12:20.
Conacher also had 1 goal and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes and 2 shots in 14:12. That's looking like the standard Conacher stat line early this year.
The Day-After Digest is a new series that will appear regularly after every Lightning game as part game recap, analysis and scouting report.
The Lightning mounted a furious comeback attempt, scoring three goals in less than six minutes, but ultimately found, not surprisingly, that their four-goal hole early in the third period proved insurmountable. Tampa Bay was outshot 44-26 for the game by New York, which frustrated the Lightning attack throughout much of the first two periods. As Tampa Bay began to press and the team's structure unraveled, the Islanders were able to generate multiple breakaways and odd-man rushes, of which all of New York's goals were the result of.
"We were opening up the game," coach Guy Boucher explained afterward. "We were trying to get the goal, getting impatient."
Martin St. Louis, Benoit Pouliot and Steven Stamkos, scored for the Lightning. It was St. Louis' third goal of the season while Pouliot and Stamkos, the reigning Rocket Richard trophy winner, both notched their first.
Anders Lindback, who made 40 saves in his second start with the team, might want the last two goals he gave up back but it's hard to find fault with his performance on a night where many of the shots he faced were quality scoring chances.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie, who was scratched along with Brendan Mikkelson and Dana Tyrell in Saturday night's season opener in Tampa, made his season debut in place of Marc-Andre Bergeron as Boucher opted for a full complement of forwards instead of dressing seven defensemen. Labrie and B.J. Crombeen both started the game alongside Vincent Lecavalier, who played his 1,000th game. After the initial puck drop, both Labrie and Crombeen dropped their gloves and engaged fellow toughs Joe Finley and Matt Martin, respectively, in simultaneous fights.
"We wanted to bring some emotion to start," Boucher said. "We didn't want to look horrible like we did last year."
Whatever energy the team received from the tactic, it didn't seem to matter much as the Lightning suffered from a familiar case of inconsistency as the game wore on.
The spirit was willing, but...
Anders Lindback (pictured) allowed 4 goals on 44 shots for the loss. The high shot totals against have to be a concern for Guy Boucher early in the season.
06:50 NYI Grabner (1), (Streit, Nabokov)(PP)
16:23 NYI Martin (1), (Tavares)
17:35 NYI Okposo (1), (Tavares, Moulson)
01:31 NYI Ullstrom (1), (Aucoin, Hamonic)
02:22 TB St. Louis (3), (Stamkos, Conacher)
07:25 TB Pouliot (1), (Crombeen, Hall)
08:00 TB Stamkos (1), (Conacher, St. Louis)
Martin St. Louis was the game's third star.
Need we say the obvious? You can't fall behind 4 goals in the Third Period and expect to win. 3 goals should be a death sentence in pro hockey anyways. It's worse when you don't have the conditioning to dig deep in the last 5-10 minutes of a Third Period because of a lockout. Can't do it. They showed a lot of pride to make a game of it, but can't do it.
Keith Aulie was +1 with 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 14:20.
Pierre Cedric-Labrie had a fight in 4:54. Pretty good stat line.
Cory Conacher had 2 helpers and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, and 1 shot in 16:03.
The Day-After Digest is a new series that will appear regularly after every Lightning game as part game recap, analysis and scouting report.
The Lightning opened the 2012-2013 season in highly entertaining fashion by racking up six goals, including three in the third period, to defeat their visiting division rivals in front of an exuberant sellout crowd. The Lightning never trailed but early penalty woes caused the ice to seem tilted towards their net in the first period and three squandered leads by the conclusion of the second period could have been cause for panic.
"A lot of emotions," captain Vinny Lecavalier said, "but we calmed down and I thought everybody played with a lot of poise."
Fans were treated to a thrilling blend of past, present and future as Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis combined for five points, Teddy Purcell notched three assists and Cory Conacher managed two points in his NHL debut. Eric Brewer, with two goals, doubled his total from all of last season.
After downplaying the need for getting off to a hot start and just wanting to see consistency in effort in Friday's press conference, coach Guy Boucher allowed after Saturday's contest that the home opener was "a pressure game" in that the players were eager to reward fans, especially the vast majority of the season ticket members who did not demand a refund during the lockout, with a memorable return.
New and improved.
Anders Lindback stopped 27 of 30 shots for the win in his Lightning debut. That looks like a mediocre stat line, but it doesn't tell the whole story. Lindback was steady and poised in the third period when the Lightning were under siege from taking too many penalties, and a couple of the goals allowed came off of really poor play in front of Lindback. So, all in all, it was an excellent debut. That was Lindback's 32nd NHL decision, so he's now 9 away from graduating from prospect status on this site, which should tell you how young and raw he is. There's a high ceiling there.
06:24 TB Brewer (1), (Carle, St. Louis)
08:25 WSH Ward (1), (Wolski, Poti)(PP)
09:09 TB Lecavalier, (Aulie)
01:59 WSH Ward (2), (Chimera, Carlson)
05:11 TB St. Louis (1), (Lecavalier, Conacher)(PP)
18:15 WSH Wolski (1), (Ribiero, Hamrlik)
04:57 TB St. Louis (2), (Stamkos, Purcell)(PP)
13:24 TB Conacher (1), (Purcell)
16:42 TB Brewer (2), (Purcell, Stamkos)(PP)
Lecavalier (pictured) looked like a dominant, all-star caliber player tonight. He scored, he hit, he owned the faceoff circles. If he plays another 47 games and into the playoffs like that, the Lightning will be a contender. St. Louis was excellent as you'd expect, and the team got the kind of contributions you'd also expect from Stamkos and Purcell. Having Lecavalier, who at one time 4-5 years ago was the best player in the game, rise again to a high level makes the Lightning incredibly difficult to stop, especially considering Lecavalier brings other things to the rink with his size, strength, and experience that guys like Stamkos and Purcell can't.
Overall, the Lightning had sloppy moments like you'd expect and a couple of them ended up in the back of the net. They also had some trouble staying out of the box in the First Period, which I had feared going in. What should make Lightning fans very optimistic is that they absolutely dominated the last 40-50 minutes of tonight's game. They were fast, they were the first to pucks, and they looked like the type of team Guy Boucher can mold as he installs his system in the coming weeks. The defense is about a million times more mobile than last year's version, and you got the feeling that with time to polish up the rough edges they could have held down Washington even more in this game without the unforced errors. Oh, and Victor Hedman looks like a man beast. Whatever they have in the water in Astana, Kazakhstan, all the d-men need to drink it.
Keith Aulie had a helper, 1 shot, and 5 hits tonight in 10:10 of ice time. Tonight was his 77th NHL game, so he's now just five away from graduating from prospect status on Bolt Prospects.
Conacher had 1 goal and 1 assist and was +1 with 2 shots in 13:50 in his NHL debut. They're going to ease him in, but the fact he can retrieve pucks for Vinny and Purcell makes him valuable. You can see it.
Syracuse meets the post-lockout bump in the road.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 4 goals on 27 shots for the loss.
RCH Mancari, (11) (Porter, Sundher), 14:17
RCH Flynn, (13) (Adam, Crawford), 4:41
RCH Rankin, (9) (Schofield, Varone), 7:05
SYR Nightingale, (1) (Johnson, Palat), 16:31
RCH Varone, (4) (Biega, Schofield), 14:14
Chemistry in hockey can be a weird thing. There are plenty of examples of teams that weather losing a key player and continue to play well. But, in the case of the Crunch, they're dealing with losing Keith Aulie, Cory Conacher, and P.C. Labrie to Tampa Bay, Taormina being down with an injury right now, and Richard Panik on a three game suspension. Clearly it was too much to overcome tonight as the team struggles to develop continuity. Even once Panik and Taormina return, it's a tall task to try to replace a defenseman with NHL experience, the reigning AHL MVP, and an emotional and physical leader like Nacho. Fans of the Lightning farm team have been a little spoiled over the last year plus and these next few weeks are going to be a little tough as Syracuse works through the changes. It'll settle down eventually. Jon Cooper's too good a coach not to get it settled down and back on track. However, be aware, this isn't going to be quite the same juggernaut it was moving forward.
Syracuse plays Lake Erie tomorrow while the big boys get going against Washington.
Box score from TheAHL.com.