Despite being sent to Syracuse for more ice time, Andrej Sustr hasn't seen much game action.
The 6-8 defenseman, hurt on his second shift since being reassigned by the Tampa Bay Lightning earlier this month, practiced with the Crunch Tuesday. After missing five games, he is nearing a return to the lineup.
“It’s been pretty good,” Sustr said of working his way back into game shape Tuesday. “I’m aiming for this weekend.”
With Syracuse on a five-game losing streak, the addition of Sustr is a major shot in the arm to a struggling Crunch defense that has surrendered 23 goals in the past five games.
Thank you, Al Trautwig.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 34 shots in his return to the Lightning crease for the victory. He had a little luck with posts and crossbars but looked really sharp and, just as important, the Rangers decided to attack his strength by going at him in tight. That's a fool's errand against Bishop.
11:55 NYR Richards (12), (Callahan, Hagelin)
1:10 TB Hedman (10), (St Louis, Purcell)(PP)
1:19 TB Kucherov (7), (Gudas, Brown)
Bishop and Valtteri Filppula were the game's first and second stars, officially. Unofficially, I'd like to thank MSG's Al Trautwig, who was my first star. The man actually uttered aloud that Lundqvist wanted the shutout in the First Intermission. Never has the s-word jinx been so strikingly illustrated. Paul Kennedy, pay attention to what happened tonight. Trautwig put the jinx on and the Lightning scored a pair of goals in the first 1:19 of the ensuing period (9 seconds apart) and the Rangers lost the game. The s-word jinx is real. It's really real.
Kidding aside (sort of), it was only a moderately better effort from the Lightning tonight versus the past couple of games. They came out with the proper level of emotion and desperation but that fizzled when the Rangers got their first goal and they carried the balance of the play throughout the night. The Lightning were very lucky to get 2 points tonight. But, you know, manufactured points still count in the standings, and with Boston going down to Toronto tonight the Lightning again hold a tie for the Atlantic Division lead at 60 points with the B's holding a game in hand. The Lightning have 3 games to go in this segment and 4 points to go to get to the target minimum of 12 points, so you can see how critical the victory was tonight.
Again, thank you Al Trauwig. What a rookie mistake from a guy who should absolutely know better.
Mark Barberio was -1 with 1 hit in 12:01. I was going to say something nice about him after the First Period. Then he allowed a breakaway in the Second Period and looked positionally lost the rest of the contest. Maybe next time.
J.P. Cote had 2 hits and 2 blocked shots in 12:33. The Rangers tried to test him with some soft dump ins to his corner to try to test his wheels and he did ok. Better than I thought he would, frankly.
J.T. Brown had a helper and was +1 with 1 hit in 9:59. Cooper showed some love for his rookie putting J.T. out for the critical PK late in the Third Period.
Andrej Sustr had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 8:18. Again, I think he's smacked into the rookie wall at high speed and his diminishing ice time may be a reflection of that. He needs 3 more NHL games this season to earn graduation from prospect status on the website.
Richard Panik had 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 12:21. Time to give some love to the improvised line of Malone/Pyatt/Panik tonight. They set the tone early on the forecheck and they stayed effective throughout the game. Panik created a decent chance at a possible insurance goal in the Third Period flattening Brad Richards and creating an ill advised turnover by the former Lightning center. That was good to see. He needs 4 more NHL games this season to earn graduation from prospect status on the website.
Nikita Kucherov had the game winning goal and was +1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 9:18. He also had 5 shots that either missed the net or were blocked, so that's 7 shot attempts in a little over 9 minutes, which is a decent work rate on paper. More to the point: Kucherov scored for the first time on a regulation breakaway. I feel like we're supposed to sacrifice something or build a monument or perform some other great deed to commemorate the moment. I thought it might never come.
Half a game won't cut it.
Anders Lindback allowed 3 goals on 28 shots for the loss. There was a theme on all three goals: long screened shots. The problem is I'm not sure Lindback can play any better than he did over the past couple of games, which is maybe slightly better than mediocre. Ben Bishop should be back tomorrow, and it's not a moment too soon.
3:46 CBJ Johansen (17), (Murray)
5:07 TB Killorn (12), (Carle, Gudas)(PP)
6:04 TB Hedman (9), (Johnson, St Louis)
3:09 CBJ Horton (2), (Johnson, Anisimov)(PP)
17:22 CBJ Wisniewski (4), (Johnson, Horton)(PP)
The Lightning left a point on the ice here in the game against Columbus and another in the game against Washington, and they've got to stop coughing up points late in games if they want to stay on track. With that said, they may not have deserved to get a point out of tonight's game with the way they played. 20 minutes of Lightning hockey won't do. They got jumped all over in the First Period and were very lucky to escape unscathed. They recovered and played their game in the Second Period looking excellent in terms of structure and how they were moving the puck up and out of the zone in transition. Third Period? Flat as a pancake at first and then way too loosey goosey defensively late. I don't know what's going on (I hope it's not players prematurely getting fat and happy with their spot in the standings) but 5 of the last 6 periods of hockey have been bad hockey and it's got to stop.
Radko Gudas had a helper, 2 ill-advised retaliation minors, and 3 hits in 18:40. He did manage to draw a retaliation penalty from Umberger in the Third Period, so he 50% made up for his lack of discipline. Tonight was his 41st NHL game of the season, so he graduates from prospect status here on the website. Congratulations.
Mark Barberio was +1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 14:02. He held up better against this style of opponent than I would have imagined.
J.P. Cote had 2 shots, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 10:37. He seemed to be more active offensively tonight than in past games, to be sure.
J.T. Brown had 1 blocked shot in 11:10. He had one brisk rush in the First Period and not much else. It was an off night for his line.
Andrej Sustr was -1 with a phantom cross checking minor and 2 hits in 11:08. As I said about 2-3 weeks ago, he really looks like he's hit a rookie wall to me. There's no shame in it, but sometimes it takes an offseason of training to be able to get over that wall. That said, as it stands now, he's probably the next in line to graduate from prospect status on the site.
Nikita Kucherov had 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 13:34. Again, it was an off night for his line and the rare night he didn't have at least one breakaway.
You stay classy Philadelphia.
Anders Lindback allowed 3 goals on 38 shots for the victory. This was one of the few games this season where you can say that Anders was a reason the Lightning won the game. He had the cape on in the First Period and made several key saves that made the difference in this game. Steve Mason allowed 2 softies and Lindback outplayed him. Therefore, Lightning win.
4:33 TB Killorn (11), (unassisted)
5:21 TB Purcell (9), (Filppula, Carle)
6:44 PHI Voracek (11), (Giroux)
7:28 TB Malone (4), (Thompson, Crombeen)
11:14 PHI Simmonds (15), (Giroux, Timonen)(PP)
14:35 PHI Voracek (12), (Meszaros)
15:41 TB Filppula (18), (Killorn, Purcell)
19:03 TB St Louis (20), (Johnson, Gudas)
18:12 TB Malone (5), (Crombeen, Carle)(EN)
For the Lightning, this game probably helped make up for the point or two they deserved but didn't get out of the Capitals game. Coach Cooper's going to (rightfully) be upset by a poor defensive effort this afternoon against the Flyers coming off of some pretty strong defensive efforts in recent games, including the Capitals game. Too many odd man rushes. Too many breakaways. And, they really struggled to get out of their zone cleanly for the last 50 minutes or so of the game. But, they got a fortunate bounce on Killorn's First Period goal and a couple of softies out of Steve Mason and they managed to kill off a key 5-on-3 in the First Period, and that helped pull them through. With the victory, the Lightning pull into a tie with Boston for the top spot in the Atlantic Division with the Bruins set to play the Sharks later. At the halfway point of this 10 game segment the Lightning have 6 points, so they're on pace to get the 12 points you want, at a minimum, out of every 10 game set. So, certainly, this was a big win.
It came at a price, though, with Sami Salo leaving the game with an apparent foot injury and Hedman leaving the game with an apparent head injury. Hopefully neither will miss significant time, and the Lightning should get Ben Bishop back next week.
Now, onto more pressing business: the Philadelphia Flyers took this afternoon to remind us all what a colossal pack of dirtbags they are from the players to the broadcasters all the way to the peanut vendors. Yeah, that's name calling, but it's also the truth. Class and the Philadelphia Flyers have never shared the same address, and it showed again in today's game. CSN Philly's play-by-play man Steve Coates should really take a look in the mirror after today's broadcast. Seriously. He started off by accusing Gudas of being a dirty hitter in the First Period, which is interesting considering Gudas has never been suspended for a hit in the NHL and the closest he came to a suspension was for slamming a stick on the boards at the opposing team's bench. Fast forward to the Third Period with the game getting out of hand. The Flyers, as is their M.O., responded to adversity with their usual display of poor sportsmanship taking runs and cheap shots at Lightning players, including Tyler Johnson taking a pretty significant slash in the Flyers end. Coates had the gaul of accusing Johnson of embellishing to draw a call even as it became very clear Johnson was hurt as he was protecting his arm skating slowly off the ice. Moments later, Scott Hartnell (who has had suspensions for dirty play in the NHL, not to mention being accused of biting an opposing player) was called for a dirty hit to the head of Victor Hedman. Hedman's had some concussion issues over the course of his career and looked absolutely livid on his way off the ice to go get medical attention. How did Coates and CSN Philly react? They had the stones to run a package that highlighted Hartnell's hitting as one of the bright spots of the game and praised him for his physical play. The hypocrisy is so thick you'd think he'd have to take a bath after narrating that montage. When you consider he's on a broadcast team with Keith Jones who used his spot as a studio host on NBCSN earlier this year to brand the Lightning "the weak sisters of the Atlantic Division" (how's that one working out for you, Keith?) I think you can see why the Lightning and its fans might have a beef with Philly. That's to say nothing of the clown show a couple of years back when Philly stopped playing in protest of the 1-3-1 because they had no earthly clue how to break it (because their coach's incompetence was somehow the Lightning's fault). You add it all up, and you've got a team that combines a special mix of undeserved arrogance with the complete absence of respect for the game and that makes them really easy to dislike (and that's before you even mention their degenerate fans). Fortunately, when my head hits the pillow at night, I know I don't support a team that hasn't won a Stanley Cup since the Watergate era, and therefore I don't feel like I have to overcompensate by trying to be king of the jerks to every other team's fans. Oh by the way, Flyers fans, before you start your peacock strut about how tough your team (allegedly) is and the typical garbage about "hockey in Florida isn't relevant," maybe you should instead focus on the fact your franchise hasn't had a decent goaltender since Ron Hextall was a young man. Ponder that for a moment, if you can. It certainly cost your club 2 points this afternoon.
Radko Gudas had a helper and was +4 with 2 penalty minutes, 5 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 18:53. It should be noted that none of those 5 hits resulted in a penalty for an illegal hit to the head, unlike the allegedly wonderful play of pure-as-the-driven-snow Scott Hartnell. Color me shocked, because to hear Steve Coates tell it, Radko Gudas clubs baby seals before and after every morning skate and has a pre-meal ritual on off days of stealing the handbags of elderly women so he can pay for his drink with their grocery money. In any event, tonight was Gudas' 40th NHL game of the season, which means he'll likely graduate from prospect status on Bolt Prospects in Monday's game against Columbus.
J. P. Cote had 3 hits and 1 blocked shot in 10:48. Lindback bailed him out on a transition breakaway in the First Period that exposed his lack of make-up speed.
J.T. Brown had 3 shots and 1 hit in 12:49 in his return to the lineup from a shoulder injury.
Andrej Sustr had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 15:50. After Gudas, either Sustr or Panik will probably be the next to graduate on the site.
Nikita Kucherov had 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 16:21. He was a dangerous with a partial breakaway on the first shift of the game in the First Period and a free-and-clear breakaway in the Third Period. If he potted even half of the breakaways he gets himself, he'd be threatening to enter the Calder Trophy discussion.
Bizarre and potentially costly loss for the Lightning.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 1 shot before leaving the game with an apparent hand/arm injury. We dare not speculate on what the injury actually is, although the play looked rather harmless. He reportedly received x-rays and will be re-evaluated tomorrow when the team gets to Winnipeg. I wish there was news to calm the nerves, but none is forthcoming right now. Anders Lindback allowed 4 goals on 25 shots the rest of the way for the defeat. I would hardly call that Lindback's best hockey with Edmonton's game winning goal coming on a goal that Lindback appeared to have stopped and then kicked into his own net.
2:43 TB Kucherov (6), (Carle, Gudas)(PP)
4:18 EDM Eberle (13), (Nugent-Hopkins, Hall)
6:09 EDM Eberle (14), (Gagner, Smyth)(PP)
15:42 EDM Gazdic (2), (Schultz, Jones)
8:47 TB Hedman (8), (Palat, Johnson)
14:25 TB Filppula (16), (Carle, Purcell)
8:20 EDM Gordon (7), (Hemsky, Smyth)
10:30 EDM Hall (16), (Ference, Gagner)
It's a disappointing effort by the Lightning, and one of the few times this season I think they failed to respect their opponent and lost because they didn't put a full effort in. I can excuse the First Period. The team looked shell shocked after their Vezina candidate left the game abruptly to get x-rays. I'll attribute the lethargic play and turnovers in the opening 20 minutes to that. But, I can't excuse the Third Period. It's like they expected Edmonton to just collapse under their own badness until Lindback decided to spot them the game winning goal. You hope that, A.) The Lightning learn the game gives you nothing for free, and B.) They don't regret failing to get a point or two out of this game in March and April when they're trying to nail down a playoff spot.
Radko Gudas had a helper, 1 shot, and 3 hits in 20:33.
J.P. Cote had 2 shots, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 9:58. He handled Edmonton's speed better than I might have anticipated.
J.T. Brown was -1 with 1 shot and 5 hits in 14:13. His line was the Lightning's only active line in the First Period. Unfortunately, Brown hobbled off the ice late in the Third Period. Hopefully his name won't be added to the MASH Unit roster.
Andrej Sustr was -2 with 1 blocked shot in 10:44.
Richard Panik had 1 shot and 2 hits in 9:11. I'm beginning to feel like it's a waste of time putting him in the extra forward role. He doesn't seem to be in any flow when he gets opportunities with the puck.
Nikita Kucherov had a wicked 1-timer PP goal but finished -2 with 4 shots and 1 hit in 13:06.