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Peca Makes Immediate Impact in Return to Crunch Lineup


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Matthew Peca knew exactly how much time he missed.

One day shy of five weeks on the shelf with an upper body injury, the Syracuse Crunch forward was counting the days until he could return. The 22-year-old scored on his first shift and finished with two points in a 3-2 win over Binghamton Friday, and added the game-winner in the shootout in a 5-4 victory over the Senators Sunday during a three-game weekend.

Peca made an immediate impact with his return and now he’s hoping to be a regular contributor as the Crunch make a push for the playoffs.

"I was just excited," Peca said of returning. "I felt in shape, I felt comfortable, and I knew my injury had healed so I was ready to get back. It didn't feel like I missed any time really."

NHL Game Night: 2-29-16 Lightning at Maple Leafs

Another workmanlike effort puts the Lightning into a 1st place tie in the Atlantic.

TB-2
TOR-1

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 32 shots for the victory. After struggling to find the right formula for keeping Vasiy sharp and developing earlier in the year, the Lightning organization appears to have figured it out. His spot starts with Syracuse have been working and he was sharp as a Ginsu again this evening.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
4:53 TB Johnson(10), (Kucherov, Coburn)
15:28 TB Johnson(11), (unassisted)

Third Period
17:45 TOR Kadri(12), (Rielly, Gardiner)

Tyler Johnson and Vasilevskiy were the game's first and second stars.

The Lightning played a pretty strong road First Period and probably deserved to have a 1-2 goal lead coming out of the opening frame. But, with Garret Sparks playing well and getting plenty of luck from his friend the iron, the Lightning couldn't quite build up the big margin through 40 minutes, and come the Third Period they were running on fumes against a younger, fresher team. But, at no point did they panic. They played a poised game and they protected the lead and got the 2 points.

The Lightning's big playoff acquisition: the healthy return of Jason Garrison. It was not a moment too soon, either, with Andrej Sustr leaving the game in the Second Period with an unspecified malady.

With the victory, the Lightning have tied the Panthers at 78 points for the top spot in the Atlantic, with the Panthers holding a game in hand. The Lightning also have picked up 6 points so far in this 10-game segment of the season, meaning they have 7 more games to pick up the remaining 6 points they need to hit that minimum target of 12 points. In other words, they've set themselves up nicely to potentially build some padding in the standings for the first time this year. And, now that the calendar is flipping over to March, that's exactly what you want.

Nikita Nesterov had 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, and 3 hits in 15:03. That's Nikita's 40th game of the season, meaning his next appearance will graduate him from prospect status on the website. Marchessault's still got a decent chance to get to graduation this year, but that's about it. It's a far cry from where the Lightning were three years ago with rookies becoming NHL'ers left and right.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

KHL Playoff Game Day: 2-29-16

KHL Western Conference Quarterfinals
(2)Jokerit 3 vs. (7)Novgorod 2
Novgorod Leads the Series 3-2
Carter Ashton, Novgorod, 0-0-0, E, 2 PIM, 1 SOG
Playoff totals: 3 GP, 0-0-0, E, 27 PIM
Regular season totals: 46 GP, 13-10-23, +3, 61 PIM

Carter Ashton took a minor for roughing in 17:45 of ice time in Novgorod's 3-2 Game Five loss to Jokerit Helsinki. Jokerit's winning goal came off the stick of ex-NHL'er Niklas Hagman.

(3)Yaroslavl 0 vs. (6)St. Petersburg 2
St. Petersburg Wins the Series 4-1
Nikita Gusev, St. Petersburg, 0-1-1, E, 0 PIM, 1 SOG
Playoff totals: 5 GP, 1-2-3, +1, 0 PIM
Regular season totals: 56 GP, 20-29-49, +15, 14 PIM

Nikita Gusev had a playoff helper on the eventual game winner in St. Petersburg's 2-0 blanking of Yaroslavl. He played 16:21 in the match. Ex-Isles pick Miko Koskinen continued his series mastery of Yaroslavl with a 21 save shutout. SKA advances to the Western Conference Semifinals with the victory.

Patience Continues at Deadline

The NHL's trade deadline came and went Monday and the Tampa Bay Lightning did not make a move, much to the surprise of many.

Jonathan Drouin, who has been suspended since January 20, was not dealt to anyone, likely meaning Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman couldn't find what he felt was fair value for him. Yzerman said all along he would not deal Drouin unless he got a strong return for the former No. 3 overall pick.

Trade Deadline Preview

As Trade Deadline Day gets underway, let’s have a look at what the Lightning need, what they could give, and what could be out there.

Needs:

Righty D

It’s no secret the Lightning want a righty puckmoving defenseman. Reports have circulated that a righty D was at the top of the “concept” wanted by Yzerman in any Drouin trade, though that has opened up to a broader acceptable return.

Juniors Game Night: 2-28-16

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

Baie-Comeau Drakkar 1 @ Shawinigan Cataractes 5

W Dennis Yan, SHAW: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 3 SOG, 2 Hits
Season totals: 54 GP, 30-33-63, +6, 74 PIM
2014-2015 Season: 59 GP, 33-31-64, +23, 71 PIM

Shawinigan scored three times in the third period to blow open a close game. Yan has four points in his last 10 games.

Ontario Hockey League

Windsor Spitfires 4 @ Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 3

W Cristiano DiGiacinto, WSR: 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM, 3 SOG
Season totals: 55 GP, 16-25-41, +15, 74 PIM
2014-15 totals: 63 GP, 21-24-45, -16, 100 PIM

Logan Brown (2016) had a hat trick for Windsor.

Peterborough Petes 2 @ Oshawa Generals 5

D Dominik Masin, PBO: 0-0-0, -2, 0 PIM, 3 SOG
Season totals: 49 GP, 8-22-30, +27, 40 PIM
2014-15 totals: 48 GP, 7-19-26, -13, 68 PIM

D Matt Spencer, PBO: 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM, 1 SOG
Season totals: 52 GP, 4-18-22, -6, 46 PIM
2014-15 totals: 67 GP, 6-24-30, -15, 64 PIM

C Anthony Cirelli, OSH: 1-0-1, E, 0 PIM, 7 SOG, 13/26 FO, *Second Star*
Season totals: 56 GP, 20-33-53, -12, 25 PIM
2014-15 totals: 68 GP, 13-23-36, +34, 22 PIM

Cirelli scored his 20th goal of the season and was a game star for the third straight game as the Gens moved further ahead of the Hamilton Bulldogs for the final playoff berth in the East with a 5-2 win over the Petes.

Saginaw Spirit 2 @ Hamilton Bulldogs 1 (OT)

W Mitchell Stephens, SAG: 0-1-1, +1, 0 PIM, 3 SOG, 18/28 FO
Season totals: 31 GP, 15-13-28, +1, 12 PIM
2014-15 totals: 62 GP, 22-26-48, -17, 44 PIM

Stephens had the only assist on Saginaw’s overtime-winning goal.

Western Hockey League

Moose Jaw Warriors 4 @ Saskatoon Blades 1

C Brayden Point, MJ: 1-2-3, +2, 0 PIM, 7 SOG
Season totals: 39 GP, 31-46-77, +26, 21 PIM
2014-15 totals: 60 GP, 38-49-87, +6, 46 PIM

Point had three points and new Panthers prospect Dryden Hunt also had a goal and two assists (and nine shots) as the Warriors beat the Blades, 5-2.

United States Hockey League

Omaha Lancers 2 @ Team USA 6

G Kris Oldham, OMA: Did not play
Season totals: 27 GP, 12-11-4, 2.74 GAA, .908 sv%, 1 SO
2014-15 totals: 33 GP, 21-6-4, 2.49 GAA, .908 sv%, 1 SO
(University of Nebraska-Omaha signee)

Oldham got the night off after starting both Friday and Saturday.

NHL Game Night: 2-28-16 Lightning at Bruins

Jack Edwards' tears are sweet.

TB-4
BOS-1

Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 33 shots for the victory.

First Period
6:01 BOS Miller(5), (Kemppainen, Ferraro)
11:19 TB Killorn(12), (Stralman, Callahan)(PP)
14:39 TB Callahan(9), (Killorn)

Second Period
8:18 TB Callahan(10), (Stamkos, Stralman)(PP)
10:04 TB Stamkos(28), (unassisted)(PS)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Ryan Callahan, Steven Stamkos, and Bishop were the game's three stars.

Right now, the Lightning are playing fairly tight defense and they're pretty ruthless in capitalizing on their chances. The combination is absolutely potent, and these laughers where they build a 3 goal lead at the end of 40 minutes never get old. They're also really helpful on the front end of back-to-backs where you can conserve energy for the back end by playing an efficient Third Period. It's amazing how easy they made it look tonight given how close the two teams are in the standings, what was at stake, and the fact that Boston has been hell on earth for the Lightning over the past couple of decades.

With 20 games left to go in the season, the Lightning are 2 points back of the Panthers for the division lead. They're also 1 ahead in the win column and 4 ahead in ROW. Florida's margin is purely built on loser points, and I suspect Florida's recent flurry of trade acquisitions was prompted by the realization they're a paper tiger. Go get your banner, Lightning.

Jonathan Marchessault was -1 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 8:56.

Nikita Nesterov was -1 with 1 blocked shot in 15:17.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 2-28-16 Crunch at Senators

Crunch steal a wild, improbable win.

SYR-5
BNG-4 (SO)

Adam Wilcox allowed 4 goals on 32 shots before stopping 4 of 5 in the penalty shot session for the 5-4 SO win.

First Period
BNG Puempel, (14) (Varone, Kostka), 1:19 (PP)
BNG Leduc, (8) , 3:46

Second Period
BNG Puempel, (15) (Akeson), 8:53

Third Period
SYR Blunden, (17) (Richard, DeAngelo), 5:42 (PP)
SYR Blunden, (18) (DeAngelo, Richard), 9:32 (PP)
SYR Vermin, (4) (Blujus, Dotchin), 15:26
BNG Kostka, (5) (Varone, Akeson), 19:11
SYR McGinn, (17) (Richard, Tambellini), 19:51

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shootout
SYR- Blunden, Peca
BNG- Akeson

Mike Blunden and Tanner Richard were the game's first and third stars.

A 3 goals deficit in pro hockey SHOULD be a death sentence. Syracuse improbably erased a 3 goal deficit after 40 minutes only to see ex-Lightning property Mike Kostka put Bingo ahead with under a minute to go. Not to be deterred, Tye McGinn tied the game with under 10 seconds to go before Matthew Peca eventually put it away in the Shootout. When you cough up a 3 goal lead like that, it's emotionally devastating. When you come back and win a game by erasing one, it can be emotionally galvanizing. We'll see if the Crunch get a bounce off of this win.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

KHL Playoff Game Day: 2-28-16

KHL Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
(7)Ekaterinburg 3 vs. (2)Magnitogorsk 1
Series Tied 2-2
Vasily Koshechkin, Magnitogorsk, DNP
Playoff totals: 2 GP, 2-0-0, 2 SO, 0.00 GAA, 1.000 sv%
Regular season totals: 50 GP, 22-15-9, 4 SO, 2.12 GAA, .925 sv%

Caps first rounder Ilya Samsonov was between the pipes for Magnitka after two straight shutouts by Vasily Koshechkin, and he allowed 3 goals on 28 shots to drop Game Four to Ekaterinburg. Ekaterinburg was paced by 2 goals from defenseman Alexei Vasilevskiy, brother of Lightning netminder Andrei.

NCAA Game Night: 2-27-16

No. 9 Boston University Terriers 0 @ No. 10 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 1

D John MacLeod, BU: Did not play
Season totals: 24 GP, 1-1-2, -4, 22 PIM
2014-2015 totals: 37 GP, 2-7-9, +19, 58 PIM

MacLeod was scratched for the fourth straight game. BU won Friday in South Bend, 3-2.

No. 17 Minnesota State Mavericks 2 @ Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves 1

W Jimmy Mullin, MSU: 0-1-1, +1, 0 PIM, 0 SOG
Season totals: 24 GP, 1-8-9, -2, 6 PIM
2013-2014 totals (Miami): 19 GP, 1-6-7, 23 PIM

Minnesota State completed a 2-game sweep of Alaska-Anchorage in Anchorage with a 2-1 win Saturday. Mullin had two assists in the series.

*USCHO poll used

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