NHL Game Night 10/5: Lightning at Thrashers

That was entertaining. TB-3 ATL-2 (SO) I thought the Lightning played their system to a tee tonight with only a couple of blemishes on an otherwise masterful defensive performance. To hold ANY NHL team, much less one with Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa on it, to just 11 shots in 65 minutes of play is amazing. Some of that is due to the Thrashers having a completely watered down roster with little if not nothing at the center position this year, but a lot of it also has to do with an outstanding total team effort from Denis, the defensive corps and hard backchecking from the Lightning's forwards. Game sheet from [url=http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/boxscore?gid=2006100528]yahoo.com[/url] because the NHL website is still working out the bugs on their new design. The Lightning got both their goals from Bolt Prospects alumni [url=ryan-craig]Ryan Craig[/url] who made both deposits from his office square in front of Karri Lehtonen. The first was a deflection on the power play on a Brad Richards point shot while the second came off an Andreas Karlsson centering feed where Craig carried Garnett Exelby on his back while getting off a backhand offering that beat Lehtonen low to the ice. In the shootout, Vincent Lecavalier smoothly potted the game winner deking to his backhand and making Lehtonen look outright foolish, but the real story on penalty shots was Marc Denis. Playing like a man who didn't want to miss his reservation at Baraonda down on Peachtree, Denis denied the Thrashers on three of three shots to secure the second point in the standings and gain the good will of a Lightning fan base which watched John Grahame lose far too many games like these last season. True, Denis only had to make 9 saves (12 if you count his shootout stops), but he also made a couple of critical saves to buy the Lightning time to get back into the game. One came on a Marian Hossa breakaway in the first period and another came on an Ilya Kovalchuk power play point shot in the third. The Lightning needed those saves to stay in the game and Denis delivered. Tampa's got a goaltender this year. The third line of Craig/Karlsson/Alexeev really ramped up their forecheck in the third period after looking very much like a line with 2 members who hadn't played in the league in over two years and showed their size and speed may very well be difficult for teams to handle late in games. I won't be too optimistic until Alexeev and Karlsson show some ability to pot goals in their own right, but the line looked good. The Richards line had several good forechecking shifts but on the whole I didn't think the "big three" of Richards, Lecavalier and St. Louis necessarily played their best games tonight. The Lightning power play went 1-for-7 on the night and squandered two solid opportunities at the end of regulation and during overtime, so there is room for improvement there as well. Due to a work visa issue with Denis, [url=karri-ramo]Karri Ramo[/url] had to be recalled from Springfield for the game as an emergency policy forcing the demotion of [url=nick-tarnasky]Nick Tarnasky[/url]. Now that Denis' paperwork is legal though, expect Tarnasky to be back. As a consequence tonight, however, the Lightning went with seven defensemen and eleven forwards. Doug Janik played 10:58 and looked a little nervous. I would be too if they gave me #3. Eric Charron put a stink on that number that I'm not sure time has yet erased. Eric Perrin showed a lot of hustle in 7:49 with 1 shot on goal.