Part game recap, analysis and scouting report, the Day-After Digest appears after every Lightning game.
The Lightning got off to a rocky start falling behind at the tail end of the game's opening shift but after seeing Vincent Lecavalier drop his mitts and go toe-to-toe with Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn and surviving four-minutes down a man after B.J. Crombeen was charged with three minors on the same shift and only drew a single penalty, Tampa Bay took control, seizing a 3-1 lead heading into the second period. The Flyers regrouped in the middle frame, earning two additional power plays and peppering Lindback with eleven shots while mostly holding the Lightning offense in check, but were unable to convert any chances. Tampa Bay scored early in and nearly midway through the third period to put the game out of reach and leave the visiting bench and their supporters in the crowd stunned.
"After the emotion came down, our players stayed focused for the rest of the game," Boucher said.
The Lightning got plenty of production out of their key forwards as Vinny Lecavalier, Teddy Purcell and Steven Stamkos all scored and Marty St. Louis racked up four assists. Purcell tied the game late in the first period when he skated into a feed from Stamkos, who, trying to find Purcell, took a quick pass in tight space from St. Louis in the slot, wheeled around and sent the puck into open space towards the right hash. Lecavalier cranked a vintage one-timer from the left circle high that beat Leighton high to extend the Lightning's lead to 3-1. Eric Brewer and Victor Hedman, who's been much more decisive about and aggressive in heading up ice to lead or join rushes than he has been in seasons past, also scored for Tampa Bay. Boucher touched on this progression in Hedman's play, crediting the presence of Carle and Salo as relieving some of the pressure on both the young defender and the vet Brewer, suggesting that they particularly allow Hedman some "freedom" before clarifying that when Hedman is making reads, he's now "not as scared to see the opening and take advantage of it."
"We're a very, very different team. We're big now, we're tough and we're committed to defense," Boucher said before elaborating, "You add that to our offense and it certainly makes for something positive right now."
Aside from allowing a bad angle goal when Sean Couturier sent a "shot" from the boards near the goalline to his right than snuck in between his skate and the post just 0:59 in, Anders Lindback managed to keep his composure and was otherwise superb tonight. He stopped the remaining twenty-four shots he faced, including high-quality scoring chances that came from a few odd-man rushes and several attempts from prime real estate. In particular, it was a sprawling left pad save on Matt Read nearly midway through the first with the Flyers still on the power play that seemed to turn momentum in the Lightning's favor.
"At some point he just shuts the door," Boucher said in praise of the young Swede, adding, "That's the mark of good goaltenders. He battles, he's got talent, has an amazing attitude and never gets nervous. That's a good mix."
With Boucher opting to skate twelve forwards and six defensemen, Dana Tyrell was back in the lineup at the expense of Marc-Andre Bergeron. Brendan Mikkelson and P.C. Labrie were the other scratches. Despite not playing since last Monday's away tilt against the Islanders, Labrie was in high spirits and eager to share how excited he is to be a part of the big club and eagerly awaits his next opportunity. He made sure to mention how refreshed he feels after playing nearly half of a season with Syracuse, adding that the short training camp helped him re-focus and boosted his confidence since he wasn't able to display what is such a big part of his game: hitting and fighting. He also touched on how being called up and sticking with the Lightning has provided the opportunity to learn from B.J. Crombeen, whom the young forward says he watches intently during games to soak in and learn as much as he can from the veteran grinder.