1-2-2 on the opening road trip. Home cooking, please.
Mathieu Garon stopped 36 of 38 before allowing 1 of 3 shooters to convert in the penalty shot session for the shootout loss. He was outstanding tonight. He stood on his head for much of the first 40-50 minutes of the game while the Lightning finally figured out how to compete a bit.
FLA Jovanovski (1), (Kopecky, Booth)(PP), 11:48
TB Bergeron (1), (Moore), 9:43
FLA Versteeg (1), (Kulikov, Campbell), 17:05
TB Bergeron (2), (Kubina, St. Louis), 17:44
Marc-Andre Bergeron was the second star of the game and supplied one of the first real "oh hell yes" moments of the season, hulking up at the right point and banging his stick before finally receiving the setup for a game tying cannon.
The team still got outshot 38-30, but you saw signs in this game that the compete level and the pride level is coming back. Credit to Steve Downie for having the guts to fight a much bigger man in Eric Gudbranson, a fight he should've gotten killed in, and for holding his own. Credit to guys like Tom Pyatt and Mattias Ritola and Blair Jones for hustling, and digging, and taking the body. They started to show some pride tonight, and it was infectious. All of a sudden, the top line guys broke out of their stupor and started playing a bit like top line guys in the final frame. It feels like the flood gates may open in the home debut in the new blue unis.
It seems like this team lost some of its identity over the offseason with Sean Bergenheim departing and Dana Tyrell not making the team and breaking up the Hall/Thompson/Tyrell line. It's taking some time for the team to re-find its footing and its work ethic, but the first baby steps look like they might've happened tonight.
Brett Connolly had 2 shots and 4 hits in 11:10 tonight. I liked that he was around the net and he actually didn't look out of place along the wall. More games like that, even if he's not as creative and dangerous, will keep him in the league, in my opinion.
Mattias Ritola had 2 shots, 3 hits, and 1 penalty minute in 13:05. I'm really liking how Ritola looks so far this year. He was rusty in his first game, but he's been noticable in puck pursuit in every game since and he had everything right but the finish tonight on a partial breakaway.
Blair Jones had 3 hits in 6:18. The young man was absolutely crushing Panthers tonight. #49 is Guy Boucher's V8 powered snow plow out there.