Day-After Digest: Game 6 (Lightning 5, Panthers 2)
Part game recap, analysis and scouting report, the Day-After Digest appears after every Lightning game.
By Mike Gallimore
By defeating Panthers, the Lightning extended their divisional lead to three points as Winnipeg fell in regulation to Montreal. After taking a 2-1 lead into the first period, Tampa Bay put together its best middle frame of the season, outscoring Florida 2-0 in the process, before closing out the visiting state rivals. The Panthers were visibly frustrated for much of the final twenty minutes of action and took three misconduct penalties, including a ten minute infraction on Tomas Kopecky.
Steven Stamkos opened the scoring with a power play marker shortly after the first period midpoint and Cory Conacher followed with a tally of the highlight reel variety. Tom Pyatt, Dana Tyrell and Vincent Lecavalier also scored for the Lightning. Lecavalier finished a beautiful passing sequence set up initially by Victor Hedman, who carried the puck into the Panthers end, banked a pass off the end boards to Cory Conacher who sent a drop-pass to a trailer, Benoit Pouliot, who wasted no time firing a cross-ice feed through a soft spot in Florida's defensive coverage to the opposite hash and directly into the Lightning captain's wheelhouse.
Despite the lopsided result and with the Lightning much more sound and consistent defensively, the Lightning were still far from flawless. The Panthers managed several breakaways, one of which they scored on, and other quality scoring chances as a result of no-look passes, poor reads and, in one instance, an Anders Lindback turnover after stopping a dump-in, holding the puck too long and attempting a last-second clear. The puck sailed right into hard-charging Peter Mueller, leaving Lindback vulnerable behind his own net and caused him to scramble back into position. The miscue ended costing Tampa Bay its early lead just fifteen seconds after earning it at the other end of the ice as Mueller was able to jam in his own rebound after trying to bank the puck in the net off of Lindback.
In his postgame remarks, Boucher wouldn't admit to being concerned about Lindback's tendency so far this season to allow a weak goal or two, stressing instead the need to "have patience" with the goalies, especially a young netminder, like Lindback, that is still developing.
"He's got to feel he's allowed to make mistakes," Boucher added. "We have his back because he has the players' backs very often."
Bailing out the skaters in front of him Lindback did do, delivering some key saves in the match, including a stop on a shorthanded breakaway attempt by Scottie Upshall early in the first period. On the play, Upshall went to his backhand and, with the entire bottom portion of the net taken away by a tremendously extended left leg, tried unsuccessfully to lift the puck over the Lindback's glove.
One of the other promising developments to date this season has been the return of scoring depth as it is not only the top lines but also the bottom lines that are producing. Through six games, the Lightning have nine forwards who have found the net.
Last night it was speedy wingers Tyrell and Pyatt chipping in and, while they were on the ice together, looking like a dynamic duo as they worked feverishly and threw their bodies around at both ends while leading rapid, north-south counter-rushes and continually driving the net.
Benoit Pouliot, too, was also a force as he matched a physical presence that led to several punishing checks with consistent back-checking and efficient (and sometimes flashy) puck movement be it by skating or passing it. Even accounting for an egregious turnover at mid-ice while on a power play that resulted in a shorthanded goal against, Pouliot had what was, so far, probably easily his best showing as a Bolt.
"That third line gets on and they're very difficult to stop because of their speed," Boucher said in praise of the unit. "They play deep, 200-feet hockey. They tire the other team out."
The lineup remained the same from the Flyers game on Sunday with Marc-Andre Bergeron, P.C. Labrie and Brendan Mikkelson.