Lightning manufactures a huge win when the absolutely had to have one.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 33 shots for the victory. As with the victory against Montreal, if this doesn't get you fired up about Ben Bishop nothing will. The guy's hurt, and Cedrick Desjardins was telling everyone who would listen he was going to start tonight. Bishop showed physical bravery and mental toughness outlasting Howard and the Wings in a game the Lightning had to have. They couldn't lose this game. Their backs were against the wall and, depleted or not, they had to win this game. Bishop willed them over the finish line to the Olympics break. Simply inspiring.
17:18 DET Alfredsson (14), (Datsyuk)
1:44 TB Palat (13), (St Louis, Hedman)(PP)
11:19 DET Jurco (3), (Sheahan, DeKeyser)
17:14 TB Pyatt (1), (Salo, Brown)
16:49 TB Killorn (14), (Purcell, Pyatt)
18:57 TB Palat (14), (Johnson, Salo)(EN)
Bishop and Ondrej Palat were the game's first and second stars.
Was that the Lightning's best game of the season tonight. No. Absolutely not. There were several stretches in this contest where they were owned, territorially, by the Wings. But, the effort was there. They scratched, they clawed, they held on by their fingernails, and they got the break they needed on the Pyatt goal to have a tie game going into the Third Period before they manufactured Killorn's greasy goal.
It's huge. I can't tell you how different this feels being at 71 points in 3rd in the East, 8 points up on 9th place going into the break as opposed to 69 points and being in a Wild Card spot by just 6 points. The win tonight gives the Lightning 8 points 8 games going into this segment of the season. They still would have to win both remaining games in this segment to hit that magical 12 points you'd like them to have, but they had 3 insurance points going into this segment, so they just need 1 more point in the next 2 games to be where they want to be heading into the stretch run of the season. That's a stretch run where, once the 3 weeks of the Olympics break is up, they should get back a healthy Anders Lindback, a healthy Valtteri Filppula (who had a fractured ankle and not a hurt hip, as I speculated after the Leafs game), and knock-on-wood a healthy Steven Stamkos, to say nothing of Bishop getting an opportunity to heal (his back must be incredibly sore from carrying this team). So, they'll be rested and healed and have a ton of home games to play, especially in March. Catching Boston for the Atlantic Division title may be extremely difficult now after this last little slump, but pinning down the 3 seed and sailing into the playoffs in solid shape is now entirely do-able.
Young team. Flagging health. Flagging confidence. They had to have the win. Great win. Big win. Huge win.
Mark Barberio was -1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 18:13. I wasn't thrilled with his game tonight. When the possession tilts against the Lightning, Barberio becomes a liability and not a plus. But, you know, he's one of those guys who fought and clawed his way through the game. So, there's that.
J.T. Brown had a helper and was +1 with 5 shots in 14:57. Sooner or later shots are going to start going in for J.T., and then watch out. Teams have no answer for his speed and work ethic. None. And, he showed his skill a bit tonight undressing Brian Lashoff to create a First Period breakaway. He just can't seem to find the finish.
Vladislav Namestnikov had 1 hit and was 50% on 6 draws in 11:55. It seemed to me like he needed to make a quick adjustment to the size/strength at this level in the NHL in the First Period, but once that sunk in he looked fairly comfortable, even landing a huge hit on Brendan Smith in the Third Period. Namesy's not quite there in terms of his play without the puck, especially on the defensive end, but you could clearly see he's going to be an NHLer in the cup of coffee he got tonight helping the team get a huge win.
Nikita Kucherov had 3 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 12:06. He did just about everything, along with Brown, but score tonight including drawing a penalty shot where he was stopped on a deke to his backhand. Like Brown, when they start going in for Kucherov he's going to go nuts.