Day-After Digest: Game 5 (Lightning 5, Flyers 1)
Part game recap, analysis and scouting report, the Day-After Digest appears after every Lightning game.
The Lightning got off to a rocky start falling behind at the tail end of the game's opening shift but after seeing Vincent Lecavalier drop his mitts and go toe-to-toe with Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn and surviving four-minutes down a man after B.J. Crombeen was charged with three minors on the same shift and only drew a single penalty, Tampa Bay took control, seizing a 3-1 lead heading into the second period. The Flyers regrouped in the middle frame, earning two additional power plays and peppering Lindback with eleven shots while mostly holding the Lightning offense in check, but were unable to convert any chances. Tampa Bay scored early in and nearly midway through the third period to put the game out of reach and leave the visiting bench and their supporters in the crowd stunned.
"After the emotion came down, our players stayed focused for the rest of the game," Boucher said.
The Lightning got plenty of production out of their key forwards as Vinny Lecavalier, Teddy Purcell and Steven Stamkos all scored and Marty St. Louis racked up four assists. Purcell tied the game late in the first period when he skated into a feed from Stamkos, who, trying to find Purcell, took a quick pass in tight space from St. Louis in the slot, wheeled around and sent the puck into open space towards the right hash. Lecavalier cranked a vintage one-timer from the left circle high that beat Leighton high to extend the Lightning's lead to 3-1. Eric Brewer and Victor Hedman, who's been much more decisive about and aggressive in heading up ice to lead or join rushes than he has been in seasons past, also scored for Tampa Bay. Boucher touched on this progression in Hedman's play, crediting the presence of Carle and Salo as relieving some of the pressure on both the young defender and the vet Brewer, suggesting that they particularly allow Hedman some "freedom" before clarifying that when Hedman is making reads, he's now "not as scared to see the opening and take advantage of it."
"We're a very, very different team. We're big now, we're tough and we're committed to defense," Boucher said before elaborating, "You add that to our offense and it certainly makes for something positive right now."
Aside from allowing a bad angle goal when Sean Couturier sent a "shot" from the boards near the goalline to his right than snuck in between his skate and the post just 0:59 in, Anders Lindback managed to keep his composure and was otherwise superb tonight. He stopped the remaining twenty-four shots he faced, including high-quality scoring chances that came from a few odd-man rushes and several attempts from prime real estate. In particular, it was a sprawling left pad save on Matt Read nearly midway through the first with the Flyers still on the power play that seemed to turn momentum in the Lightning's favor.
"At some point he just shuts the door," Boucher said in praise of the young Swede, adding, "That's the mark of good goaltenders. He battles, he's got talent, has an amazing attitude and never gets nervous. That's a good mix."
With Boucher opting to skate twelve forwards and six defensemen, Dana Tyrell was back in the lineup at the expense of Marc-Andre Bergeron. Brendan Mikkelson and P.C. Labrie were the other scratches. Despite not playing since last Monday's away tilt against the Islanders, Labrie was in high spirits and eager to share how excited he is to be a part of the big club and eagerly awaits his next opportunity. He made sure to mention how refreshed he feels after playing nearly half of a season with Syracuse, adding that the short training camp helped him re-focus and boosted his confidence since he wasn't able to display what is such a big part of his game: hitting and fighting. He also touched on how being called up and sticking with the Lightning has provided the opportunity to learn from B.J. Crombeen, whom the young forward says he watches intently during games to soak in and learn as much as he can from the veteran grinder.
G A +/- SOG PIM ES-TOI/G SH-TOI/G PP-TOI/G TOT-TOI/G 0 0 -0 0 0 11:56 1:29 0:00 13:25
GP G A +/- SOG PIM ES-TOI/G SH-TOI/G PP-TOI/G TOT-TOI/G 5 1 1 -1 6 18 12:01 0:36 0:04 12:41
Aulie's transformation from tentative liability to a confident young NHLer has been the quieter prospect storyline to start this season but tonight Aulie stole the show by logging rock-solid minutes during which he was largely unnoticeable for all the right reasons. He did stand out, in a good way, a couple of times. In the first period, Aulie decisively stepped up and successfully prevented a Flyers zone exit, won the puck ensuing puck battle along the boards and threw the puck at Leighton. Then, late in the game with the score already overwhelmingly in Tampa Bay's favor, Aulie drifted back into his own end, but shallowly, instead of trying to level the puck carrier with a big hit. As the Flyers forward cut to the middle, Aulie tracked him and, in anticipation of a shot that soon followed, dropped down to take up as much of the shooting lane as possible. The puck hit him square on and, after absorbing the impact, he calmly gathered and steered it out of the zone. This effort garnered him specific mention by Boucher in his post-game remarks.
G A +/- SOG PIM ES-TOI/G SH-TOI/G PP-TOI/G TOT-TOI/G 0 0 +0 1 0 10:10 0:00 2:47 12:57
GP G A +/- SOG PIM ES-TOI/G SH-TOI/G PP-TOI/G TOT-TOI/G 5 2 5 +4 8 4 11:08 0:21 3:09 14:39
Conacher took a back seat tonight as he failed to register a point for the first time in his NHL career but still put his wheels on display leading several rushes and hustling back to disrupt opposing zone entries. Conacher's best chances came on two odd-man breaks during which he had the puck on his stick and led the rush but he tried, on both occasions, unsuccessfully to feather passes through an opposing defender to a teammate.
Best of Boucher
"I know the guys wanted to retaliate and show Vinny they were gonna have his back but the reality is...scoring a goal hurts [the opponent] a lot more than anything else."
For the middle match of their five-game homestand, the Lightning (4-1-0, 8 PTS) will meet the Panthers (1-4-0, 2 PTS), who haven't won since their season opener, on Tuesday. Florida should be fresh from licking their wounds following the 7-1 drubbing they took at the hands of the Flyers in Sunrise on Saturday. The Panthers have only played twice on the road so far this season but in those two matches have scored just once while allowing a whopping eleven goals against. Florida, which overcame hundreds of man-games lost to injury last season to earn a playoff berth, will enter the match still beset by key injuries up front and on the blueline that seem to be jeopardizing, given such a condensed season, the likelihood of a return trip to the postseason.
Up front, Florida is presently a mess of injuries and non-production. Key cog Kris Versteeg and role players Marcel Goc and Sean Bergenheim, who injured his groin overseas, have yet to play in even a single game and, coupled with the fact that Florida has too many forwards its relies on to provide secondary scoring, like Mike Santorelli, Shawn Matthias, Scottie Upshall and Tomas Kopecky, who have a combined two goals so far. As for the free agent additions, Peter Mueller has tallied two points to date, 39-year old Alex Kovalev has gone scoreless since his three-point effort in season opener and George Parros has done a whole lot of squat while averaging about 6:00 per game. These struggles aside, the Panthers are finally bearing the fruits of general manager Dick Tallon's (or, better, his staff's) labor via the draft as Jonathan Huberdeau (2011 1st rounder), Drew Shore (2009 2nd rounder) and Quinton Howden (2010 1st rounder) have all made their NHL debuts. Howden, though, may be shipped back to AHL San Antonio for more seasoning when Versteeg and Stephen Weiss, who's missed the last two matches, return to the lineup.
Florida's hasn't looked very good on the back end, either. Erik Gudbranson's shoulder isn't right and he's yet to make his season debut and the rest of the defensive corps, which is relying on Brian Campbell to help spark the offense, Ed Jovanovski, Mike Weaver, free-agent signee Filip Kuba and four-year starter Dmitry Kulikov to do the heavy lifting while Michael Caruso, Keaton Ellerby and Tyson Strachan provide depth minutes, is struggling. Campbell has two goals and four points but, so far, the loss of Jason Garrison to free agency is looming large the other defensemen have struggled to contribute much of anything in the way of offense, managing just a combined two assists.
Despite minor rumblings that Florida might have been (or still is?) interested in returning Roberto Luongo to South Florida, the club has stuck with its internal options. With the presumed heir apparent in net, 22-year old former first-round pick, Jacob Markstrom, still waiting in the wings while playing for the AHL affiliate, the Panthers have instead opted to roll with the same tandem that backstopped the franchise last season en route to helping end the ten-season absence from the annual quest for Lord Stanley's trophy: Jose Theodore, who was resurgent last season, and Scott Clemmenson, an effective second option in net throughout his career. Both are in their mid-30's but, though their durability may be question marks, each is generally consistent and reliable so long as the skaters in front of them hold their own and also capable of delivering a gem and stealing a game. At present, it must be viewed as the position of least concern for 2nd-year coach Kevin Dineen.