Unlucky start to the road trip.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 14 shots before leaving the game after taking a shot off the collarbone. Anders Lindback allowed 2 on 15 shots the rest of the way, taking the old backdoor loss. Clearly this was Bishop's worst start of the season. Phoenix's first goal was a little soft on a long point shot that Bishop looked like he got a good look at, and the second goal was obviously a terrible one banked off his skate from the corner. Hard to fault him on Phoenix's third goal when he was stunned by the slapper off his collarbone. The silver linings are that Lindback looked above average in his relief stint and Bishop came back out to sit on the bench after going to the locker room, which hopefully means nothing is broken.
15:58 PHX Stone (6), (Ribeiro, Rundblad)(PP)
16:55 PHX Hanzal (6), (Korpikoski)
1:48 Ribeiro (6), (Hanzal, Vrbata)(PP)
16:19 TB Panik (1), (Johnson, Killorn)
17:05 PHX Murphy (1), (Vrbata, Korpikoski)
17:55 TB Brown (1), (Purcell, Sustr)
1:37 PHX Doan (10), (Hanzal, Vrbata)
18:58 TB Killorn (6), (St. Louis, Sustr)
19:41 PHX Korpikoski (4), (Hanzal)(EN)
Reasons for concern? Yes. Silver linings? A few. The team was a little flat, which maybe is to be expected when you make the long flight out west. And, this game was a clunker for Bishop with injury piled onto insult. I expect them to respond the next time out and not take so long to get their legs under them, and they do deserve credit for the way they kept pushing in the Third Period despite being 3 down on the scoreboard. I'm also not terribly concerned about Bishop's play (more worried about his health). He wasn't going to go the entire year without giving up a soft goal. The key is to just make sure he compartmentalizes that bad effort to a single game, 1 of 82, and moves on.
Radko Gudas was -3 with 4 shots and 4 hits in 20:17. He was uncharacteristically weak on the puck behind his net leading to Phoenix's 5th goal, which was the kill shot on the scoreboard. He really worked hard the rest of the Third Period to atone, though, and I appreciated the effort to make up for his mistake.
The Lightning finish their second 10 game segment of the season with the same result as the first, 14 points. That's 2 more than the minimum you hope for, which is great, and helps build up some extra insurance points. But, those two segments are over. Time to start chasing the next 12+ points. Two is a fluke, three is a streak.
Tyler Johnson had a helper and was +1 with 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 16:38. He was also 39% on draws. He worked himself into a breakaway in the First Period that he failed to convert, eventually spilling into the net. His speed seems to buy him a breakaway every game or two. You'd love to see him start converting.
Alex Killorn had 1 goal and 1 assist and 2 penalty minutes in 16:25. He ended up with 3 shots and 1 hit. He took a bad penalty at the end of the First Period that eventually contributed to a key 5-on-3 goal for Phoenix. That said, from that point on, he was one of Tampa Bay's best forwards as reflected by the scoresheet.
Ondrej Palat had 1 shot and 1 hit in 14:05. Honestly, I'd like to see the guy get more touches with some space in the neutral zone because that's where he does his best work directing the attack. When he doesn't get those touches, he's less of a contributor.
J.T. Brown had his first NHL goal and was -1 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 16:07. He looks good out there with his speed and his goal was a quick release laser beam.
Andrej Sustr had a pair of assists and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 17:07. I don't know that his game was as good as his stat line indicates. I thought Sustr, like the Lightning in general, had more trouble than usual getting out of his own end. A few unforced errors were present.
Richard Panik scored his first goal of the season and had 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 13:48. His shot was another x-ray death beam and you just hope, as snake bitten as Richard has been, this opens the flood gates for him from a goal scoring perspective.
Lightning dominate the Western Conference's leading team.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 25 shots for the victory.
11:52 TB Filppula (7), (Purcell, Carle)
16:25 TB St. Louis, (Brown, Filppula)(PP)
03:16 TB Filppula (8), (Hedman, St. Louis)(PP)
10:51 TB Killorn (5), (St. Louis, Barberio)
16:07 ANH Etem (5), (Fowler, Beauchemin)
2:05 TB Hedman (3), (Panik, Johnson)
Anaheim actually outshot Tampa Bay 25-20 in the game, but the scoreboard, in this case, was a far better indicator of the balance of play. The Lightning had a lot of zone time and puck possession. That didn't necessarily lead to a ton of shots and chances, but they buried the ones that they got, which allowed them to cruise after scoring their 5th goal early in the Third Period. True, some of the luster was off this game with Stamkos and Getzlaf hurt and Perry limited due to illness, but to crush the Western Conference's top team in the standings by a 5-1 margin was still impressive. The Lightning improve to 2-0-0 post-Stamkos injury, and match the 14 points they put up in the first 10-game set of the season with 1 more to go in the second set.
Radko Gudas was +1 with 4 penalty minutes, 5 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 19:34. I'd love someone to ask Selanne how many times in his career he's been hit as hard as on the hit where Gudas trucked him tonight. My guess is not often.
Mark Barberio had a helper and 1 blocked shot in 16:12. With the balance of the game in Anaheim's end of the rink, you'd be correct in guessing Barberio's game went well. That side of the game is obviously Barberio's forte.
Tyler Johnson had a helper and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and he was 59% on draws.
Alex Killorn got a goal and was +1 with 2 shots in 15:43. North-south. He made a nifty little play on a toe drag to get a shot on goal and then chipped in his own rebound on his goal. A little bit of skill, but ultimately it's a simple north-south play where he got the result.
Ondrej Palat was +1 with 2 penalty minutes in 15:33. Took a charging call that was far too ticky tack as the referees were calling everything to try to stop a riot from starting in a game where Anaheim was getting embarrassed.
J.T. Brown had a helper and was +1 with 4 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 14:25. He's fit into the lineup pretty seamlessly, and he went to the net on the PP goal where he got his helper.
Andrej Sustr was +1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 18:53.
Richard Panik had a helper and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 shot in 12:05. He took his call on a mean spirited hit on Ben Lovejoy where he just about sawed the Ducks defender in half. There were times this was a very chippy game where the Ducks were taking runs at the Lightning and the Lightning responded by taking runs back. The difference is that when the Ducks did it, they didn't do damage. The Lightning were hitting to hurt and achieving their objectives.
Lightning 1-0-0 in the post-Stamkos injury era.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 29 shots and stopped all 3 shooters he faced in the penalty shot session for the victory.
5:00 TB Malone (3), (Brewer, Crombeen)
15:22 MTL Briere (2), (Pacioretty)
Bishop and Valtteri Filppula were the game's second and third stars.
You cannot help but feel pride in how the Lightning responded to adversity tonight, putting in a gem of a performance despite the rash of injuries that occurred in Boston. For the men who took the ice tonight, it was an opportunity to make a statement to the league that, Steven Stamkos or no Steven Stamkos, the Lightning aren't going to lay down this season and they're certainly not going quietly. They dominated the Habs in zone time and outshot them 45-29. Only Carey Price and a questionable call by a referee waiving off a Radko Gudas goal kept this game from being a 4-1 or so squash.
Let's backtrack to that goal call, shall we? The on-ice officials clearly blew a call where Gudas' slap shot entered the net and left quickly off the goal camera. Dead center. In the middle of the net. I suspect the referees were embarrassed. What I didn't expect was to see petulant officials tell the Toronto replay officials that none of that mattered because even if the puck was in, they were calling "incidental contact" on Tyler Johnson anyway. That would be Tyler Johnson with two feet outside the crease, being pushed slightly by a Habs defender, barely making contact with Price at all. Congratulations refs, you made the top-3 goal review hosings in Lightning history tonight, and that's not an easy list to make. It goes right beside Zdeno Chara of Boston (6'9") deflecting a goal in at his eye level and not having the goal disallowed and Brendan Shanahan of the New York Rangers saving a goal by placing his hand over it over the goal line (which at a minimum should have been a penalty shot). Honorable mention to Mike Smith's "stick throwing" on an acrobatic shootout save against Dallas. All of this miscarriage of justice came after the refs kept Montreal with several ticky tack first period penalty calls against the Lightning and several not so ticky tack non-calls of clear Habs infractions in the Second Period. It's hard enough to compete in the NHL when you have one of the youngest teams in the league and your superstar goal scorer just went out for 3 months with a broken leg. It's even worse when referees choose the stick their thumbs on the scales to make it even harder on visiting teams in places like Montreal and Toronto. If there is any justice, the league will mete out disciplinary action on the officials in tonight's game. As it is, the Lightning will probably have to settle for the fact they still managed to get 2 points out of the contest despite the deck being so stacked against them, which is a testament to the character of this team. Kudos also to Jon Cooper for projecting supreme calm in front of his young team as that farce was unfolding. If that had been John Tortorella behind the bench instead, I suspect someone would be getting together bail money for what would have happened.
With the victory, the Lightning got their 12th point in this second 10-game segment of the season. That meets the minimum quota you want with 2 more games to rack up some additional insurance points. Given the lifting just got heavier due to the injuries, by all means the Lightning should horde as many points as they can now while the hording is good.
Gudas was -1 with 1 shot, 3 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 21:32. Of course, in the parallel universe where Gudas is clean shaven and the refs called a fair game, Gudas had a goal and 2 blocked shots, and John Tortorella is a vegan pacifist.
Mark Barberio was +1 with 2 penalty minutes and 2 shots in 17:39. I'll learn to live with some of his softness along the wall if he can just avoid the big mistakes like he made in Detroit. He accomplished that tonight.
Johnson had 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 20:46. His mere aura made Carey Price tremble on the Gudas no-goal, at least according to the refs. That's impressive for a rookie.
Alex Killorn was -1 with 2 shots and 2 hits in 20:21 playing on a reformed line with Marty St. Louis centered by Brett Connolly. The line had moments. We'll look for further signs that they're continuing to gel.
Ondrej Palat had 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 15:55. He was absolutely robbed of a potential winning goal by Price, who robbed several Lightning skaters tonight.
J.T. Brown had 2 shots and 1 hit in 14:37. He looked solid and was also robbed on a point blank attempt by Price.
Andrej Sustr had 3 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 16:01. He had one classic Sustr doe-legged moment in his own end, but balanced that by looking quite poised in the offensive zone.
Richard Panik had 3 shots, 5 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 15:38. He's close to a breakthrough, but I'm still not seeing him, consistently, have good first touches on the forecheck. The guy just, too often, seems to have a hole in his stick, which is weird because that's the opposite of his M.O. coming into this season.
Unfortunately, some real Stammergeddon in Boston.
Anders Lindback allowed 2 goals on 23 shots for the loss. He actually played quite well, which sadly will be overshadowed by everything else that happened today. With that said, though, goaltending just became that much more important for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
17:09 BOS Bergeron (6), (Eriksson, Krug)
17:29 BOS Paille (2), (Campbell, Bartkowski)
19:01 BOS Iginla (4), (Lucic, Krejci)(EN)
For those who missed it, Steven Stamkos ran into one of the goalposts behind Anders Lindback in the Second Period and broke his right tibia. He is out indefinitely and early scuttlebutt ranges from Stamkos being out until as early as February or as long as 9 months. In addition, Sami Salo and Keith Aulie also left the game with injuries. Shortly after Steven Stamkos was stretchered off the ice, Boston struck for 2 goals while the Lightning were still in a state of shock. Really, the game wasn't even secondary at that point, given everything that had transpired. It's a shame, because after a rough First Period the Lightning looked poised to possibly steal a point or two, but Boston remains a house of horrors for the club.
What happens next? How do you replace Steven Stamkos?
You don't. You don't replace one of the three best forwards in the league and the NHL's most consistent goal scorer. You can't. You invariably have to take an even more disciplined team approach to defense and you have to rely even more on your goaltending to try to help win games. Unfortunately, if Sami Salo is also down for any period of time, that's an even more difficult task to pull off.
How do you score enough goals to win?
There are four players, on the immediate roster, that will be counted on to step up. One, in particular, should be looked to the most. It's time for Teddy Purcell to become a star. Whether he moves to the top line or not, whether he stays at wing or moves to center, Teddy Purcell will be asked to become one of the offensive leaders of this team. Supporting his efforts, the Lightning need more goals from three youngsters who are capable of ~20 goals a piece, talent-wise: Richard Panik, Brett Connolly, and Tyler Johnson.
Who gets called up? How do lines shuffle?
There might be zero changes to the roster. There might be several. The Lightning have a high degree of flexibility, and also there are a lot of variables without knowing the degree to which Salo and Aulie are hurt. At forward, you could see the Lightning attempt to roll with what they have. Purcell and Alex Killorn have both played center in earlier lives and could conceivably slide back into that position. Expanded roles for Panik and Connolly could also be in the offing. If not, the two most obvious recalls would be Vladislav Namestnikov or Nikita Kucherov. Namestnikov, obviously, would be a 1-to-1 replacement at the center position. He's not a 1-to-1 replacement for Stamkos as a goal scorer though, as Namestnikov is more of a playmaker as a finisher. If a sniper is more desirable, Kucherov better fits the bill. Another, more improbable, option could be the emergency recall of Jonathan Drouin. Emergency recalls of junior players have been done in the past, such as when Calgary recalled Sven Baertschi a few seasons ago. The emergency recall rules are very narrowly defined in terms of when they can be used and very strict about when the recalled player must be returned to junior. An early read of the rules indicates it requires 2 players to already be up from the minors on emergency recall and that it requires the player to be returned to junior immediately once players get healthy again. With Pyatt already on IR, Stamkos about to go on IR, and Salo and/or Aulie possibly about to go on IR, there might be enough of a MASH unit developing to allow an emergency recall. However, the allowable duration of Drouin's recall would be questionable and the Lightning would also probably want to limit his emergency recall to under 9 games to avoid burning a year of his contract. So, recalling Drouin is probably a longshot at best, but in moments like this all options should be on the table.
On defense, with Matt Taormina currently injured, the outlook for recalls is bleak. The Lightning may well be stuck with increasing playing time for Andrej Sustr and/or Mark Barberio in the absence of any good alternatives. Were the injuries to be extreme enough, the Lightning could conceivably sign JP Cote to an NHL contract or consider cup-of-coffee auditions for the likes of Dmitry Korobov, but these scenarios seem less likely than the Lightning attempting to move forward with the defensemen they have.
How do the lines shake out? Again, there are a ton of options. My thought, upon further reflection, is Teddy Purcell almost has to go up to the top line to play with Martin St. Louis, whether that's with Filppula or Killorn at center or Purcell himself moving to center. From there, the second line almost has to become even more of a kid line, featuring Filppula, Johnson, or Killorn at center and likely featuring Connolly, Palat, or Panik on the wings. I don't foresee a return to the scoring line ranks of Ryan Malone, but we shall see.
Radko Gudas had 5 shots, 7 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 19:48.
Johnson had 3 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 20:12.
Killorn had 2 shots and 1 hit in 23:07.
Ondrej Palat had 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 18:02.
Sustr had 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 13:43.
Panik was -1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 18:22.
In closing, in an attempt to cheer up our readers, I'll leave you with the tale of another injured center, who went on to found a hockey franchise in Florida, who was abducted from a hospital room in Boston. It's one of the funniest hockey stories ever told, and involves plot line elements like Bobby Orr, a broken hospital bed, and a block of smelly provolone cheese. It seemed oddly appropriate to be retold today. Enjoy, and get well soon, Steven Stamkos.
Definitive proof the Tampa Bay Lightning is for real.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 27 shots for the victory. Bishop's biggest contribution tonight was heading up one of the greatest penalty killing sequences for the Lightning in recent memory where they killed, cumulatively, 7 minutes in penalties including nearly 40 seconds of 5-on-3 in the Second Period. The penalty killers were great in limiting the quality of chances allowed to Detroit, and Bishop made sure the 9 shots that got through were all denied.
3:51 DET Zetterberg (9), (unassisted)
10:11 TB Malone (2), (Carle, Thompson)
12:50 TB Stamkos (14), (Hedman)
15:48 DET Zetterberg (10), (DeKeyser)
3:51 TB Purcell (5), (Panik)
Bishop and Steven Stamkos were the game's first and third stars.
Winning on the road against a top divisional opponent was impressive enough. But, more than that, it should be noted how the Lightning won this game. They were clearly the better of the two teams tonight. It wasn't close. Shots were 34-27 Lightning and the chances were even more lopsided than that. Only Jimmy Howard kept this from being a 4-2 or 5-2 Lightning squash in regulation. They just looked, athletically, to be a cut above Detroit. Think about that! They were the faster team. They were the more skilled team. And, despite the heroics of Howard (who was outstanding), the Lightning eventually got the result. Kudos to motivational genius Jon Cooper for getting these young men to shake off that disgusting effort in the Edmonton game and get them ready to roll tonight in Detroit.
6 games into this second 10-game segment of the season, the Lightning already have 10 points. Remember, the key is to get at least 12 points out of each 10 game segment. The Lightning are 2 shy of that with 4 games left to play in the set.
Radko Gudas had 2 shots, 2 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 21:44. It might be too early to declare him, unequivocally, a top-two pair NHL defenseman, but the evidence is strongly leaning that way. Tonight, I'd like to praise Radko's work on the second PP unit. He hasn't really had that role prominently represented in his experience portfolio in the past, but he looks pretty darn good in it. When you add that in along with everything else that he's accomplishing, it all adds up to a guy who is playing like a stud NHL blue liner.
Mark Barberio had 1 blocked shot in 7:04. I would say Barberio "stunk" tonight, but I fear the attorneys for the word "stunk" would sue me for libel. Early in the game, he was his typical Barberio self getting pushed out of the way with minimal effort along the wall on a 1-on-1 puck battle that led to a long Wings foray in the offensive zone. Later, Barberio mishandled a d-to-d pass that nearly resulted in a Wings 2-on-1 were it not for a Herculean back check by Barberio's teammates. And, then, Barberio made one of the worst "pivots" (if you can call it that) you'll ever see, nailing the double lutz (and looking like a klutz) while Justin Abdelkader easily went straight past him and in on Bishop for a breakaway. Barberio leads a charmed life that none of those three mistakes led to goals, but I don't think I saw Mark on the ice after that. Dumpster fire. Much like the opener against Boston, Barberio was again a dumpster fire tonight. There's no way to sugar coat it.
Tyler Johnson had 4 shots and 2 blocked shots in 18:06 and was 40% on draws. He did EVERYTHING tonight you could want offensive EXCEPT bury a goal. He used his speed to generate a breakaway. He was a factor in odd man rushes. He picked off an errant Wings pass and generated another golden chance late in the Third Period. He looked dynamic offensively.
Alex Killorn had 3 shots and 1 hit in 17:49. This much I know about Alex Killorn: he never cheats you on effort on a forecheck, does he?
Ondrej Palat had 1 shot and 2 hits in 17:32. Though not to quite the same extent as Johnson, Palat also did darned near everything you would want him to do tonight EXCEPT bury that key goal. He had a great chance where he beat a Wings defender around the corner and muscled his way to the front of the cage only to be robbed by an amazing Howard save and he missed a one-timer chance late in the Third Period that was nearly the insurance goal the Lightning were looking for to seal the game in regulation.
Andrej Sustr had 2 penalty minutes (on a pretty bogus, ticky tack call), 1 shot, and 2 hits in 12:47. He, rightfully, sat a couple of games after getting a little too big for his britches offensively the last time he was in the lineup. Tonight, he was back to the quality he had been showing prior to that game. There's a clear, obvious difference in poise between Sustr and Barberio. Crystal clear.
Richard Panik had a helper (THE helper) and was +1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 13:43. Tonight might've been his best game in a Lightning uniform. My biggest critique of Panik so far this season is that he's seemingly had a hole in his stick and hasn't been able to be as strong on the puck as I would expect Richard to be. He was extremely strong on the puck in the First Period tonight, didn't see much ice time in the Second Period because of all the penalties in that frame, started to come on with the rest of the kid line in the Third. And, then, he made it happen in Overtime. He swooped in on an unsuspecting Wings defender. Ripped the puck off his stick cleanly. Immediately wheeled the puck in front directly onto Teddy Purcell's tape. Game. Set. Match. Panik attack! I thought Panik played really well tonight. I thought Brett Connolly played pretty well, too, showing a lot of confidence and handles on a line with Filppula and Purcell during regulation. It's good problems to have that all the youngsters (sans Barberio) had good nights tonight.
Bishop is the truth.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 38 points for the win. He absolutely stole the game for the Lightning, stopping multiple breakaways and robbing Boyd Gordon going post to post to stop a 2-on-1 chance late in the Third Period. As lousy as I thought the Lightning were in front of him, Bishop was that much more excellent.
7:37 TB Stamkos (12), (unassisted)
10:11 EDM Fedun (2), (Eberle, Hemsky)
19:07 TB Stamkos (13), (unassisted)
18:33 TB Johnson (4), (Panik, Gudas)
10:22 EDM Hall (4), (Eberle)(PP)
Bishop and Steven Stamkos were the game's first and second stars. It's a short list of Lightning players you could say had a good game after those two.
Maybe it's a function of the long layoff, but I'm disappointed by the effort from the team tonight coming off their best all-around game of the season against St. Louis. I get that you're going to have clunkers over the course of the year and good teams find ways to win games like these. But, to go from their best game of the year to one of their worst shows a level of inconsistency that is very worrying. That's not a recipe for sustainable success, and you worry about a hangover from this game. When you make that many mistakes and exhibit that many bad habits and get away with them, without the negative consequences, they have a way of lingering for a game or two afterwards. It happened after the game in Sunrise and I worry about it happening here.
On the bright side, the Lightning check into the midpoint of this second 10-game segment of the season at 8 points. That's a good spot to be, 4 points back of the minimum 12 you want them to get out of every segment. So, 5 games to get at least 4 points is good position, but I'll tell you: they'd be hard pressed to win a dog show most nights playing as poorly as they did against the Oilers.
Radko Gudas had a helper and was +4 with 3 shots, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 22:42 to go with 2 PIMs. That's a hefty stat line, no doubt about it.
Mark Barberio had 1 blocked shot in 15:33. Probably his second best game of the season. He was very active offensively in the first and had some nice breakout passes throughout the game. The flip side is that he still is terrifyingly soft along the wall in 1-on-1 battles.
Tyler Johnson had the GWG, 2 shots, 1 hit, and was 45% on draws in 17:43. He's on pace for about 22 goals now, which is pretty darned good. That said, I'd like to see him shoot more.
Alex Killorn was +2 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 19:10. He hit the post trying to score on a gaping cage on a First Period PP.
Ondrej Palat had 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 13:32. And, he had at least 2 really good defensive plays that I noted that cancelled out Edmonton scoring chances. He's on that short list of guys I'd say had a good game.
Richard Panik had a helper and was +1 with 3 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 14:43. Skill. He's got it. He had a very quiet night and then all of a sudden he breaks an Edmonton defender down scientifically 1-on-1 and dishes to TJ for the game winning goal. Was it a good game for Panik? Maybe not, but they don't win tonight without that single individual effort.
The Lightning are becoming more than the sum of their parts.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 30 shots in another masterful performance. He makes big saves when the team needs them, and he made sure he kept the Lightning tied long enough for them to take over the game in the Third Period.
7:50 STL Pietrangelo (4), (Backes, Steen)
10:44 TB Killorn (4), (unassisted)
1:43 TB Stamkos (11), (Killorn, Barberio)
03:45 STL Schwartz (3), (Shattenkirk, Berglund)
8:37 TB Connolly (1), (Gudas, Filppula)
16:01 TB Filppula (5), (Killorn, Brewer)
Alex Killorn and Bishop were the game's first and second stars.
What a fantastically entertaining game between two of the better teams, record-wise, in the NHL. More to the point, the Lightning went toe to toe with one of the best teams in the league in a real heavyweight match that was neck and neck through 40 minutes before absolutely pulling away in the Third Period. The Lightning probably were ahead 60/40 or 65/35 in scoring chances by night's end, and that's no small feat against a really great Blues team that has a fantastic record so far this year. In the Third Period, it really appeared that the Lightning's ability to skate and crisply pass the puck was starting to wear out St. Louis. They clutched. They grabbed. The Lightning finally got a PP out of it, and although Connolly's goal came just after the PP expired, it was a goal where the Lightning made the Blues pay for the infraction.
I've talked about looking at this year in 10 game segments, and the Lightning really would benefit in not looking at where they are in the standings and just focusing on these little seasons within the season. 4 games into segment #2 of the season, they're 3-1-0 with 6 points, which is halfway to the minimum 12 you want in each of these sets. It's a good spot to be in heading into Thursday night's matchup against a struggling Edmonton club.
Radko Gudas had an assist, 5 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 21:21. Nice, low, tip-able shot on the game winner. He made it easy for Connolly to get a stick on that one.
Mark Barberio had a helper, his first NHL point, and was +1 with 3 hits and 1 blocked shot in 12:57. He also took an ill-advised tripping call after which it seemed like he got a lot less ice time. The same Barberio critiques apply. He looks great on O. He looks scary on D.
Tyler Johnson had 3 shots and 1 hit in 14:20 and was 43% on draws. He really seems to be settling into that third line utility role. If you need some offensive energy, he can do that. If you need a solid defensive shift, he can do that, too. Such a luxury for Cooper to have.
Killorn had 1 goal, 2 assists, and was +3 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 19:30. He could've easily had 2 goals as he posted an empty net attempt. For any of the remaining Ryan Malone dead-enders, it's over. He's your first line left winger. That line looks to have another gear or two with Killorn on it, and the puck handling and passing play he made to set up Filppula's insurance goal was the very definition of outstanding.
Ondrej Palat was -1 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 13:48. You can more or less cut and paste my comments about Johnson here. The two players do seem to be joined at the hip.
Richard Panik had 2 hits and 1 blocked shot in 10:52. You'd almost like Panik to get as basic as getting pucks on net right now, and go up from there. He better be nervous Connolly had a goal and 3 shots in about the same ice time tonight. That's a mano a mano competition.
Lightning solve a dilemma en route to victory.
Ben Bishop stopped all 31 shots he faced for the shutout. He didn't have much work until the last 5 minutes of the game when, inexplicably, the Lightning became sieve-like and were allowing the Canes to run Bishop. Shame on the skaters, and good on Bishop for keeping his goose egg in tact anyway. That there was some (U of) Maine Justice!
9:54 TB Hedman (2), (Thompson, Crombeen)
11:38 TB Stamkos (10), (Killorn, St Louis)
17:14 TB Killorn (3), (St Louis)
The Lightning managed to turn this from another clunker into something extremely positive to build on. They were flat as a pancake again in the First Period and half of the Second Period until Justin Peters decided to kick a Hedman shot that was wide off the end boards into his own net. And, then it was on, with the top line leading the way with the notable change of Alex Killorn running with the big guns instead of Ryan Malone. The impact of that change was obvious, and that should seal Malone's fate from here on out. He's too slow for the top line and that needs to be Killorn's spot. Malone needs to embrace what he is this season. I'd like to see him start to take on more of an Andreychuk-type spot with the team. Commit to being a strong checking liner. Try to get your points when you can on the PP. Let the young guys who have wheels get the big minutes.
Radko Gudas was +2 with 3 hits and 4 blocked shots in 21:08. He was much more under control in this game than against New Jersey and the results of that were obvious. He was solid as a rock tonight.
Mark Barberio had 4 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 15:17. I liked the decision to spot him in this game. It gave Sustr the chance to settle down a little in the press box and Barberio a chance to get some playing time in a game where any mistakes he made weren't going to necessarily be fatal. There was bad and good. I thought the was excellent offensively in the first half of the game. Early in the Second Period, he was about the only Lightning player taking shots (had 4 blocked and 1 missed the net) and he nearly had an assist on one play in the First Period. The critique, though, is the same. He terrifies you in his own end because of how soft he is on the puck. A stiff breeze gets him off the puck clean. A stern look gets him off the puck clean. And, then, obviously there's the issue of the two penalties taken in a close game. It was his best game of the year so far, in my opinion, but there's still considerable room for improvement.
Tyler Johnson had 2 shots and 1 blocked shot and was 30% on draws in 15:26. He was guilty of overpassing in the First Period. It's just that simple. He's got one of the best shots on the team. If I had his shot, you couldn't stop me from shooting the puck. I'd start shooting the puck from the parking lot. I'd be shooting pucks from the bench. There's be pucks going on net from the restroom in the intermission. If I had a shot as good as Johnson's, there's nothing in the world that would make me give up a clean look and pass it off. He's got to get greedier.
Killorn had 1 goal and 1 assist and was +2 with 3 shots and 1 hit. 3 takeaways for Killorn, too. That spot on the top line needs to be his. Period. The discussion ended tonight.
Ondrej Palat had 1 shot, 3 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 13:04. That's a great stat line for a guy that didn't seem to do much other than squander a 2-on-1 shorthanded in the First Period with Johnson.
Richard Panik had 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 11:01. My thought was Cooper's decision to put him on the fourth line was an attempt to get Panik to play chippier. One of the problems with Panik's game so far is he's not being the instigator he was at times in the AHL. Ultimately, it doesn't pay that Richard looks like a Bond villain if he plays like a Bond girl. Unfortunately, I didn't see that edge. He's lucky Connolly didn't set the world on fire tonight, but the Lightning have his spot under the microscope. They have to.
Lightning take their first bad loss of the season.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 22 shots for the loss.
1:36 NJ Henrique (4), (Elias)(SH)
10:54 NJ Jagr (3), (unassisted)
15:23 TB Stamkos (9), (Purcell, R. Malone)(PP)
When I say "bad loss", I mean a loss against a team you expect to have a good chance to get a point or two against. Yes, the Lightning played poorly getting beat 5-0 by Boston and they left at least a point on the ice with their late loss to Pittsburgh, but this was the first time they really allowed themselves to fall behind schedule by losing to a team they could've gotten points from. You hate losing games like this because it starts to put pressure on you to steal more points out of games against top flight opponents, and that's a dangerous spot to be in.
The energy level was pretty poor. The puck handling and passing were pretty clumsy. Just a soft effort where the team really didn't appear to be bearing down and focused on the task at hand. At best, that led to an anemic 17 shots on goal. At worst, that led to turnovers, and turnovers by Carle and St. Louis led to New Jersey's two goals. Two flat games in a row now (I partly blame the Panthers game hangover for this one), and they should consider themselves fortunate to have gotten 2 points out of the 2 games, to be honest.
Radko Gudas had 3 shots, 2 hit, and 2 blocked shots to go with 2 penalty minutes in 23:05. I really didn't like his game tonight, although the coaches rewarded him with some late PP time. Got caught out of position more than once, took one bad penalty, and I didn't like the incident at Brodeur's cage at the buzzer. That's pointless and stupid when you just beat the wrap from the Panthers game incident. Cooper's got to calm him down, because he's getting out of control again.
Tyler Johnson had 3 shots and was 41% on draws in 16:30. He was stopped on a breakaway and had another clean look from the RW circles later in the game where he missed the net.
Alex Killorn had 2 shots in 15:45. This, actually, might have been one of his better efforts. He got robbed on one chance by Brodeur.
Ondrej Palat had 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 13:49. He made an amazing pass to spring Johnson on his breakaway and got stung blocking a shot on a pretty big Third Period PK.
Andrej Sustr was -1 with 2 penalty minutes in 12:30. After a very good game against Florida, he might've been a little too big for his britches in his approach tonight. Not as much care with the puck in his own end and maybe a little out of control jumping into the play on the offensive end.
Richard Panik had a hit in 13:12. He had a couple of looks in a Third Period power play and he just didn't do anything with them. I worry about his confidence getting shot at some point.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie was -1 in 7:16. I'm going to ask an honest question and leave it right here. Two straight games where the team came out flat. Did anyone see Labrie trying to get in a scrap? I didn't. I question the logic of having a guy on the roster that's there for an obvious reason, dressing him, and then not seeing that role carried out. I saw Crombeen trying to get something going. Maybe I've missed it, but I haven't seen that from Labrie.
Lightning survive another wild/weird game.
Anders Lindback allowed 3 goals on 32 shots in regulation and OT before stopping 3 of 4 in the penalty shot session for the win. I thought he looked pretty shaky the first half of the game and got stronger as it wore on, even though he allowed the 2 in the Third Period.
0:41 TB St Louis (7), (Stamkos, R. Malone)
04:35 TB Stamkos (8), (Malone, Carle)
13:48 FLA Matthias (1), (Winchester, Goc)
9:58 TB Gudas (1), (Panik, Killorn)(PP)
5:39 FLA Bjugstad (1), (Upshall, Kulikov)
8:51 FLA Boyes (5), (unassisted)
TB- Filppula, Stamkos
Steven Stamkos was the game's first star.
I thought the Lightning really sleepwalked through most of the first two periods and were fortunate that the Panthers were loose with the odd man rush to start the game and the bad Markstrom rebound that staked them to the 2-0 lead. Things were at 3-1 and the Lightning were still looking a little lethargic when the whole bizarre Radko Gudas/Scottied Upshall incident happened.
For those who missed it. Gudas was spilled at the opposing blueline and down on his butt with his back to the Panthers bench when Upshall displayed his classlessness by shooting Gudas with water from the bench. Radko got up and broke the blade of his stick over the top of the boards (Upshall looked terrified) and next thing you know Gudas was tossed from the game, leaving the Lightning down to 5 d-men on the second half of a back-to-back. For the record, I think the officials overreacted. Kicking Gudas out implies Radko intended to injure Upshall. Upshall was sitting on the bench with nowhere to run to. If Gudas wanted to use his stick to injure Upshall, he most assuredly would have. Players bang their sticks into the boards and glass all the time, and whenever it is called (typically for trying to show up the refs) it's a 10 minute call but not a match penalty.
The weirdness then ratcheted up another notch, because I thought the whole incident actually woke the Lightning up and they started to play their best hockey early in the Third Period. But, they didn't get the payoff and Nick Bjugstad got a very nice tip in goal followed by Ondrej Palat making a horrible, uncharacteristic puckhandling gaffe in his own end that resulted in the tying goal. Fortunately, Lindback kept Florida out the rest of the way, and the Lightning continued to look pretty good in the shootout, partly thanks to the infusion of Valterri Filppula.
Honestly, I'd just as soon not play the Panthers because even though the Lightning are now 9-1-1 in their last 11 against the Panthers, something about the Panthers gets the Lightning out of their structure and into a weird emotional dynamic I don't like. I think there's a hangover after these games that bothers me. It's especially true when the team goes down to Sunrise, which is like playing a hockey game in a mausoleum it's so empty. Seriously, I get that moving franchises is typically a bad thing, but how is the 5 people that were in the stands today preferable to an energized fan base in Quebec City? It's such a night and day difference in support between Tampa Bay and South Florida, where they evidently stayed home to celebrate the Dolphins' loss to the Patriots that they got to watch on TV.
Gudas had 1 goal and 22 penalty minutes to go with 4 shots and 3 blocked shots in 12:32. Scottie Upshall is a dead man the next time these two teams play. I can't say it plainer than that. Upshall's a dead man. Gudas does't forget stuff like this (neither does Jon Cooper, btw).
Tyler Johnson was -2 with 2 hits in 18:07. He was also his standard 54% on draws. Markstrom nearly kicked the game winner right onto his stick late in the Third Period.
Alex Killorn had a helper and 1 hit in 17:04. He was very active on the forecheck again and very good handling the puck. I remain concerned he's not getting shots on goal lately.
Ondrej Palat was -2 with 1 hit in 15:44. His mistake on the Boyes goal was bad and he should feel bad.
Andrej Sustr was +1 with 2 shots, 3 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 18:46. For everyone who was trying to tell me about the quality of Mark Pronger-io's game last night, please refer to Sustr's game tonight to see where the bar is set. He was fantastic at both ends of the rink. Good one on one and strong on the puck. Good passing it out of his third. Good keeping pucks in at the point on the attack using that big reach. Just, flat out, good.
Richard Panik had a helper and was -2 with 2 penalty minutes and 2 hits in 13:38. He was a non-factor after taking a First Period boarding call. It's like all the aggressiveness just bled right out of him.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie had 3 hits in 5:21. It did not escape notice that Cooper put Labrie and Crombeen out to start the Third Period, and that there were no takers from the Panthers side of the ice.