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.
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.
Some things you just have to see to believe.
Ben Bishop allowed 5 goals on 43 shots for the victory. He played about as good a game as you can play allowing 5 goals. He made several key saves at key points throughout the game to allow the Lightning to stay in the contest and eventually take the 2 points.
6:28 TB Carle (1), (Filppula, Panik)(PP)
1:24 TB Thompson (1), (Crombeen, A. Sustr)(SH)
9:00 CHI Bickell (3), (Kruger, B. Seabrook)
10:36 CHI Hossa (4) , (Sharp, Toews)
17:21 TB Stamkos (6), (Hedman)
18:53 CHI Kane (5), (unassisted)
1:33 CHI Shaw (1), (Kane, D. Keith)(PP)
11:03 TB Hedman (1), (St Louis, Stamkos)
17:31 TB Stamkos (7), (Filppula)(PP)
18:11 CHI Toews (4), (unassisted)
1:16 TB St Louis (5), (Stamkos, R. Gudas)
You can't buy experience more valuable than what the Lightning got themselves tonight as a young club trying to overcome tilted ice against a very good, very polished Chicago team. The first half of the game I thought they played to the blueprint of what they needed to do almost perfectly. They were limiting odd man rushes to practically nil, getting good goaltending, and they were opportunistic as heck when their chances came. I mean, you have no complaints about scoring when 2/3 of the Bluetooth Line decides to cash in a fairly pretty shorthanded goal.
And then the first wave of adversity came. A bounce went against them on the Bickell goal, Hossa makes a nice tip-in goal, and then Gudas gets himself thrown in the box immediately after. At that point the wheels very easily could have come off, but Bishop made a couple of key saves (without a stick, as I recall) to settle his team down. Then Stamkos makes a tremendous individual play to blow down the ice and rip a laser beam past Khabi to regain the lead. Happy days are here again! Nope. Kane takes the third pair to school and the teams go into the intermission tied 3-3.
Chicago comes out and almost immediately retakes the lead and with a young team you can't help but think there's no way they can scrape themselves off the mat a second time, now trailing for the first time in the game. They did. Bishop again made a couple of quality saves to keep the Lightning alive and then Hedman jumps into the play and makes a really patient goal slipping the puck 5-hole to tie it up and then Stamkos buries another laser off the faceoff on a power play late in the Third Period. We win, right?
Not yet, because then we got into the theater of the absurd. Matt Carle flings a hard pass down the middle of the ice back into the D zone to Gudas which riccochets off Gudas past Bishop and into the net to tie the game. I don't think anybody within a 1,000 mile radius of the Forum expected that to happen, and at that point you expect the team has to come unraveled. Given how poorly the team responded the previous two waves of adversity, needing Bishop to really bail them out, getting a point out of the game was in serious doubt. But, you know, the Johnson and Palat line showed the maturity of grizzled vets the next shift out and settled it down. 1 point secured, we head to OT.
And, in OT, after some harrowing early moments, Gudas takes off those goat horns and helps the Lightning get some good possession going and next thing you know Marty St. Louis is putting the dagger in Chicago's heart. Wow. 3 waves of adversity, and they overcame each of them to get the 2 points.
1. Ben Bishop did what #1 goaltenders do. He kept his team in it and gave them a chance. Just keep your young team within 1 goal, and with some of the weapons they have, particularly Stamkos, they have a puncher's chance.
2. After floundering to handle adversity the first 2 times, the kids figured it out the 3rd time. Palat and Johnson diffused an atom bomb at the end of the Third Period and then Gudas, after getting caught in some unfortunateness twice over the course of the night, is a prominent part of the winning goal.
3. This is the really big one: when the chips were really down in the Third Period, the young bluechippers really stepped it up. Stamkos and Hedman were bad against Boston. Stamkos not as much as Hedman, but he wasn't the factor you needed him to be to lead his team against a better club. Stamkos made a great individual goal to get it to 3-2 and a PP goal to get it to 5-4 at separate points in this game. Hedman, my gosh, he went from -5 and his worst game of the season against Boston to looking like a Norris Trophy candidate at times against Chicago. Assertive. Strong. Leading his team from the backline. If Bishop, Stamkos, and Hedman all hit their stride together this season, this team's going places faster than anyone's original timetable.
My goal for the first 10 game segment of the season was 12 points. 9 games in they're already there. That's an advantageous spot going against Buffalo in the homestand finale with the chance to get 2 insurance points to close out the segment heading into the next 10. Looking at the schedule of the first 10 game segment, they should feel pretty good about what they accomplished, especially when you consider they left at least a point on the ice against Pittsburgh.
Radko Gudas had a helper and was -1 with a bad minor penalty, 3 shots, 4 hits, and 4 blocked shots in 19:16. The penalty he took right after Chicago tied the game at 2 was really cringe-worthy, but he got it back on the final sequence of the game. He atoned.
Tyler Johnson was -1 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 16:59. He was also 59% on draws. He blew an open net in the Third Period that would have tied the game at 4-4 just before Victor Hedman went into beast mode. That was a little cringe-worthy. But, the work he helped do to settle things down shortly after the own goal tied it at 5-5 more than made up for it. Like Bishops big saves, that shift was a game-saver.
Alex Killorn was -3 with 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 18:40. Cooper shuffled the lines a bit to put Killorn with Stamkos at one point and Malone down with Filppula. I must say, I preferred it.
Ondrej Palat was -1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 15:35. He damned near created 2 goals on his own with his puckhandling ability and was smooth and poised in all three zones as usual. It's getting a bit like it was when he was in the AHL now, where you feel good anytime he has the puck because good things are probably about to happen.
Andrej Sustr had a helper, 1 shot, and 1 hit in 14:41. He was on the ice for that undressing by Patrick Kane, but with that said, he was pretty good tonight. Good breakout passes and assertive in the offensive third. I'll take that performance most nights from Sustr.
Richard Panik had a helper and was -2 with 1 hit in 15:48. I thought he was more assertive and more active tonight, helping to screen Khabi on the opening goal by Carle. It's coming along. I wish the stat line was a little more reflective of it. I keep hoping Panik can get that first goal and breakthrough, because it feels like it's coming along and it could be floodgates once he gets it.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie had 1 hit in 3:46. You feel for Nacho being the 1/3 of Bluetooth Line that didn't get a point.
Lightning crap the bed.
1:32 BOS Krejci (1), (Lucic, Iginla)
4:37 BOS McQuaid (1), (unassisted)
14:52 BOS Bergeron (2), (Smith, Eriksson)
15:47 BOS Kelly (3), (Marchand, Soderberg)
0:34 BOS S. Thornton (1), (Paille)
Shots were 23-22, so it's not as if Boston made the Lightning look like a Junior A team. My suspicion is that a lot of the mistakes made tonight are correctible, and Jon Cooper will get a lot of practice time this coming week to drill those lessons into his club. -5 for Victor Hedman and -3 for his pairing partner Sami Salo says a lot.
Radko Gudas was -1 with 7 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 4 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 20:06. So much is made about how tough Jarome Iginla is. Gudas more than held his own fighting Iginla tonight. I think he re-upped his badass certification with how he handled himself in that scrap.
Tyler Johnson was -1 with 3 shots and 1 hit in 19:17. He was also 36% on draws. He made some plays tonight, but unfortunately found himself working at times with the 4th line wingers, who you might classify as "Bluetooth", because Crombeen in particular is hands-free.
Alex Killorn had 1 shot and 4 hits in 15:04. He was ineffective.
Ondrej Palat was -1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 15:19. His ice time is creeping up because he deserves it. He's looking for confident handling the puck and that's the difference, to me, between Palat being a 3rd liner that you can spot on a scoring line, and Palat being a 4th line player. He looked very smooth with the puck tonight, to go along with good defensive play without it.
Andrej Sustr had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 17:15. He was a silver lining tonight after looking awkward, at times, against Minnesota. He was poised and really passed the puck well.
Richard Panik was -1 with 3 shots in 14:01. I'm very frustrated with Panik because he's close to making some impact plays, but he always seems to have a hole in his stick, overskate the play, etc etc. At a certain point potential is irrelevant if you don't apply it to make plays.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie was -1 with 1 shot and 2 hits in 9:00. I don't know whether Boston was simply unwilling to oblige him, but down by 4 or 5 goals I would have expected the team's enforcer to do something. With Thompson and Gudas getting jumped, you wonder why Labrie didn't force a Bruin or two to dance to send a message.
5-2-0. Nice. Daddy likes.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 26 shots for the victory. Another near shutout for the University of Maine product. He's been damned good, and that instills a lot of confidence in the team in front of him.
14:02 TB Johnson (2), (Filppula, Panik)(PP)
11:05 MIN Koivu (1), (Niederreiter, Suter)
14:56 TB Stamkos (5), (Carle, Gudas)
19:42 TB Salo (1), (unassisted)
Bishop and Steven Stamkos were the game's first and second stars.
Solid, solid performance against a very good defensive team. The Lightning really played a smart game, in many cases well beyond their years. To be at 5-2-0 at this point is outstanding. I have 12 points as the target for the first 10 game set of the season. Sitting at 10 points right now, the Lightning have 3 games to try to put at least another couple of points up to make the first 1/8th of the season a verifiable success. It's an outstanding spot to be in, although two challenges lie ahead with Boston and Chicago on their way. Bear in mind, though, if the Lightning get into January in contention for a playoff spot, they're going to be in great shape. Cooper's teams have a penchant for playing well in the second half of the year when it's winning time.
Radko Gudas had a helper, 3 hits, and 6 blocked shots in 16:30. I'm surprised his minutes total was that low, because he looked like he was everywhere tonight, including throwing a massive hip check that drew a retaliation penalty from Minny.
Tyler Johnson had 1 goal, 3 shots, and was 69% on draws in 17:34. It was his best all around game in a Lightning uniform thus far, including some excellent defensive work in the neutral zone.
Alex Killorn had 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, and 1 hit in 14:08. He made a great one-on-one play to beat a defender wide to set up one near goal and set up Stamkos on a 2-on-0 that nearly resulted in another goal.
Ondrej Palat had 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 15:06. It was also Palat's finest game in a Lightning uniform thus far. Defensively, he was strong as always, but we saw Palat also at his best in the other two zones, as well. On the forecheck, he sat on the puck well late in the game protecting the lead, and I finally saw one of the aspects of Palat's game that I like the most, which is puck savvy in the neutral zone to carry it out of danger and into the offensive zone. The more he does that, a la Filppula, the more he's a keeper.
Andrej Sustr had 1 shot in 14:11. I thought this was one of Andrej's rougher nights. He was a little Bambi-legged in the First Period and had a couple of giveaways in the D zone. It was an uncharacteristically green performance from the talented rookie.
Richard Panik had an assist and 2 shots in 13:27. He had his moments on the forecheck and the chances are still coming for him. Sooner or later he will pot one and the floodgates will open.