Lightning thieve a win, twice.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 31 shots before mastering his five-hole problem to stop 5 of 6* in penalty shot session for the SO win. He's still not completely on top of his game, but he's rounding into form.
2:38 FLA Sceviour (2), (MacKenzie)(SH)
6:18 TB Killorn (3), (Kucherov)
16:21 TB Palat (1), (Stamkos, Drouin)
5:26 FLA Trocheck (2), (Jokinen, Smith)
15:52 FLA Matheson (1), (McKegg, Demers)
19:54 TB Stamkos (2), (Hedman, Filppula)
TB- Drouin, Point
Steven Stamkos and Alex Killorn were the game's first and second stars.
Overall, the Lightning probably didn't deserve the points tonight, but considering the travesty that unfolded in the Shootout, I can't say justice wasn't served. First off, let's repeat this as many times as it takes for the Lightning to get it into their heads: hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard. Tampa Bay is playing this unsustainable game of taking periods off and they're managing to escape with their lives, but eventually this will catch up to them. Their puck management and overall effort level in the Third Period was shambolic, and their performance on the 4-on-3 power play in the Overtime session was nothing short of an absolute embarrassment. It took a perfect Steven Stamkos one-timer from an impossible angle with the extra attacker for the Lightning to get a point in this one. That's a one in a million shot. You're not getting another one of those "Get Out of Jail For Free" cards this year.
Once the game got into the Shootout, the NHL once again reasserted its long-standing unstated policy that the Tampa Bay Lightning can, will, and almost always will be shafted if a play goes to video replay. I never in my life thought I'd see a call worse than when Zdeno Chara batted in a puck at his eye level in Boston and the league dared to say his stick wasn't above the crossbar. That used to be the gold star standard of awful video replay decisions, besting a prestigious list of candidates that included the Mike Smith "thrown stick" automatic Shootout goal and the old Brendan Shanahan play at MSG where he covered a puck with his glove that was completely over the goal no-goal call. There's a new face on Mount Rushmore, so move aside for Vincent Trocheck scoring* on a SO attempt where he completely lost control of the puck on a deke to his forehand, whiffed on a shot attempt, the puck drifted back diagonally after the whiff, and as the ref was waving off the play and Bishop was casually strolling out of his crease to celebrate Trocheck shot the retrieved puck into the open side. It's like every once in a while the league is bound and determined to smack the Lightning in the face with a decision that is so blatantly awful and slanted that you can't help but get a persecution complex about it. Nobody's THAT incompetent, right? There HAS to be an agenda, right?
So, the Lightning managed to refocus and got the win when young Brayden Point coolly buried the dagger a second time in Panther Nation's sad little hearts (all three of them). Given the circumstances, I felt a lot less dirty about stealing the points. Aw heck, it was the Panthers. I never feel bad about stealing little brother's lunch money. Why lie?
It made for a happy ending to Vincent Lecavalier night. A word about Vincent: I own a lot of Lightning jerseys, but there's only one Lightning player whose jersey I own, and that's Vinny's. He easily occupies a spot among my personal all-time favorite Lightning players beside the likes of John Cullen and big Freddy Modin. Vinny's career in Tampa Bay and his relationship with the fan base was a complicated one. In many ways, I look at Vinny like the Lightning's first born child. Phil Esposito certainly, desperately tried to hype the Lightning first number one overall pick, Roman Hamrlik, as its first real franchise player. But, as good a player as Hamrlik was, we all knew smoke was being blown when comparisons to Raymond Bourque were being made. Many years passed before the Lightning got another crack at the top pick, and it was very obvious almost immediately that Vincent Lecavalier was the real deal franchise player that Tampa Bay hadn't really had to that point in the franchise's existence. And, to his credit, he didn't run away from those expectations even when the going got tough, or publicly pout or pull the ripcord and run out the door to Montreal or some other city where he wasn't being asked to be the main guy to grow a culture of winning from scratch. Was Vinny perfect? No. His defensive game was inconsistent, at best, much to the chagrin of John Tortorella for a great many years and he was routinely abused on faceoffs early in his career. No one would ever accuse him of being the second coming of Mark Messier in the natural born leadership department either.
His time in Tampa Bay, despite whatever faults he had, was still unbelievably impressive. Twelve straight seasons of 20 goals or more between 1999-2000 and 2011-2012, before a strike shortened season finally killed an impressive streak of consistency that underlined his talent and professionalism. He was a key cog on the 2004 Stanley Cup Championship and made the two critical assists on the goals that sealed Game Seven in the Stanley Cup Final that year. A few years later he emerged for a brief time as the most dominant player in the sport scoring 52 goals and 108 points en route to winning the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2007. He may have stayed at that level were it not for a cheap shot and a shoulder surgery that robbed us of seeing more of Vinny in his prime. Still, he was a productive asset to the organization and the city and in 2010-2011 he narrowly missed laying the cap stone of his Lightning legacy when the Lightning fell just short in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals against Boston. Lecavalier was brilliant in that playoff season, scoring 6 goals and 19 points in 18 games during that run. He darned near single-handedly ripped out the Washington Capitals' hearts in the second round of the playoffs that year, and we can only speculate what would have happened if the Lightning had just found a couple more goals against the Bruins, or hadn't squandered a game or two early in the series when they outplayed the B's and didn't get the result. The Lightning, under Lecavalier's captaincy, likely would've gone on to defeat Vancouver in the Stanley Cup Final and he possibly would've gone on to win the Conn Smyth Trophy in the process, completing his resume and sealing his place as the face of the Lightning franchise forever. Alas, it wasn't meant to be (of all the close calls in Lightning history, including the last two seasons, that year's playoff run is the one I'll take to my grave as the bitterest pill to swallow), and as time went by and Lecavalier struggled against father time, elements of the fan base were left feeling unfulfilled.
Part of it, I think, was that Lecavalier is in many ways a renaissance man with hobbies and interests outside of hockey. Personally, I respect him for it, but for the devoted, rabid fans of a franchise it can be difficult to see their franchise player concentrating on anything other than the sport. No, Vincent wasn't the perfect franchise player, but he was OUR franchise player and in my opinion you have to measure his success or failure by one metric only: did he make the franchise relevant? Yes he did.
And, as a human being, nobody could ever be frustrated with Vinny's ultimate commitment to the community when in 2007 he gifted All Children's Hospital with a $3 million dollar donation to build its Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Center in St. Petersburg, long before the the PK Subbans and Jeff Viniks of the world made that kind of philanthropy the cool thing to do in hockey circles. This is a man who grew up in Tampa Bay and comported himself with class and dignity through both successes and failures. A perfect man? No. He wasn't "The Micheal Jordan of Hockey," but he was a pretty darn good man on all levels, and isn't that the kind of people you wish to build a community with, after all?
Point had 4 shots and 1 hit in 14:42 and scored the winning goal in the Shootout session.
Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.