NHL Game Night 1/21: Sabres at Lightning

Momentum is wearing a Lightning hat right now.

BUF-3
TB-5

Mike Smith allowed 3 goals on 34 shots for the victory.

First Period
04:45 TB Eminger (4), (Halpern)(PP)
05:19 TB Downie (2), (Murphy, Pettinger)

Second Period
00:19 BUF Roy (17), (Pominville, Lydman)
01:23 TB Krajicek (1), (Meszaros, Prospal)
04:04 BUF Kotalik (10), (Rivet, Gaustad)(PP)
13:52 TB Halpern (3), (Recchi, Wishart)
16:55 BUF Roy (18), (Vanek, Pominville)(PP)
19:54 TBL Murphy (1), (Recchi)(PP)

Third Period
NO SCORING

All of a sudden, the Lightning have a power play thanks to Eminger, Recchi, and the newcomer Murphy really playing well from the point in the past couple of games. Here's the thing about Murphy: if you can keep him healthy he's going to hit the scoresheet. I remember a few years ago following Erikki Rajamaki when he played for Murphy's team, Ilves, in the SM-liiga. Murphy used to show up all over the box score like a rash when he played in Finland. I don't think the Dan Boyle comparison is necessarily apt, but Brian Rafalski might not be far off. You have to keep him in one piece though.

The Lightning pull into the break at 5 games under .500 about 9 points out of a playoff spot (that lay down in the second period against the Panthers really stings right now). They have six days off for the break before Montreal rolls into town next Tuesday. Those are six days where you have to hope the team gets Paul Ranger back and back for good. If they do, they've got a real shot to get back to .500 in February, and then the decisions at the deadline become a little bit more interesting. Yes, guys like Roberts and Kolzig are probably still goners, but I could foresee a scenario where Mark Recchi is kept, a la what the team did with Dave Andreychuk at the end of the 2001-2002 season. One thing I know for certain: the Lightning are starting to evolve into the kind of team you don't want to see come into your town as a seven or eight seed in the first round of the playoffs.

Ty Wishart got his first NHL assist off a blocked shot he was mysteriously not given credit for and was +1 in 9:43. I suppose, technically, you get the block or the helper, not both. He plays such a laid back game. Some would call it calm. Others might call it borderline comatose. He was solid tonight, though.

Steve Downie had 1 goal, 1 shot, and 3 hits and was +1 in 9:25. We're seeing the future of the Tampa Bay Lightning right now with Downie becoming a fixture on a line with Stamkos. Given the massive drop off in terms of quality of blueliners in the draft crop after Hedman, I have a suspicion the Lightning may be looking for a centerman to put between those two when the June draft comes around. The team might be playing its way out of position to grab the guy I think would really fit in with what Tocchet is doing, Brayden Schenn. If the Lightning pass Toronto in the standings, which feels like a likelihood, it might be tough for the Leafs to pass up little brother.

David Koci had 6 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 1 hit in 4:32. This was the first game where I really thought he was borderline stupid discipline-wise.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.