The Lightning come within an eyelash of taking a point away from a very fired up Capitals team.
Mike Smith allowed 3 goals on 31 shots for the loss. What a tough spot to be put in for your first game back. "So, uh, Smitty. You got the Caps tonight. They've won 9 in a row and they're super angry the way we whipped them last time we played them. Go get 'em tiger!" Give credit to Smith for battling and giving the Lightning a serious chance to get points out of this one.
WSH 0:57, Backstrom 23 (Ovechkin, Fleischmann)(PP)
WSH 12:56, Laich 16 (Semin, Fleischmann)
TB 5:00, St. Louis 16 (Foster, Stamkos)
TB 7:42, Stamkos 29 (Foster, St. Louis)(PP)
WSH 13:34, Ovechkin 35 (Backstrom, Poti)
There's no such thing as a moral victory, and I doubt the club feels very good about losing a point with under 10 to play. But, watching this game out of the corner of my eye while the Norfolk game was on, you could tell the Caps came out with playoff intensity and they were out there to try to embarass the Lightning after Tampa Bay spanked them so badly in the last meeting they had. For the most part, the Lightning handled the Caps' surges and they blocked a ton of shots to keep the overall shot total close at 31-27 even though they got outchanced. And, they played opportunistic hockey in the third and capitalized on a key power play opportunity that almost was enough to steal a point out of the capitol city. In other words, even in defeat, the Lightning managed to let Washnington know the last game in Tampa was not a fluke. The gap is closing in the Southeast.
How long has it been since a Lightning game didn't have a prospect in it? It's the first time in about a season and a half, at least, with Paul Szczechura being sent to the Admirals for a brief conditioning stint. On a somewhat related note, it'll be interesting to see if the Lightning send some reinforcements like Szczechura to Norfolk over the Olympic break to see if they can aid in the Admirals' own quest for the playoffs.
With the point, the Lightning have entered into a five team pile-up for the final two playoff spots in the conference. But, if they were even mediocre in shootouts, they'd be snugly in.
Antero Niittymaki allowed 1 goal on 32 shots before allowing 2 of 3 shooters to defeat him in the penalty shot session.
TB 9:47, St. Louis 15 (Stamkos)
ANH 6:36, Wisniewski 3 (Getzlaf, Whitney)(PP)
ANH- Getzlaf, Wisniewski
Do I really need to say much more about the Lightning's shootout futility this season? I don't know what it is about the Lightning that makes them so ineffectual at it, despite having some ridiculously skilled players. The gimmick at the end of the game aside (which I, A. Hate, and B. Isn't really that exciting), both teams played a strong game and both teams got strong goaltending. It was a chippy game, and the Lightning answered the bell fairly well against an Anaheim team that has a lot of size and toughness.
Paul Szczechura had 1 shot and 1 hit in 9:26. He's now 4 games from graduation here on Bolt Prospects.
In case you needed a reminder of what a special talent #4 is...
Antero Niittymaki stopped all 33 shots he faced tonight for the shutout. It's been a heck of a bounce back these past couple of games from Niitty after being somewhat terrible in 2 of the 3 games prior to that.
TB 9:50, St. Louis 14 (Downie)
TB 2:23, Lecavalier 14 (Tanguay, Downie)
TB 5:54, Stamkos 28 (Foster, Lecavalier)(PP)
Vincent Lecavalier, between the legs, 2-0 Lightning. Eat your heart out, Montreal. Have I professed my continuing admiration for Steve Downie and Matt Smaby lately? Downie had a pair of assists tonight and was second star of the game while Matt Smaby continues to single-handedly force opposing teams to respect the Lightning at Tampa Bay's blueline and in the neutral zone. Don't get me wrong, Mattias Ohlund will hit you. But, #32 will harm you. He only got credit for 1 hit tonight. As Bobby Taylor has said on the television broadcasts before, though, the scorekeepers seem to routinely short change Smaby on his hit totals at the Forum. Downie and Smaby: they're both gentlemen and scholars, I tell you.
Paul Szczechura had 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, 1 hit, and he was 67% on draws in 10:54. Szczechura is now 5 games away from graduation from prospect status here on Bolt Prospects.
Arthur Blank owns the Atlanta Falcons, Liberty Media owns the Atlanta Braves, and Atlanta Spirit LLC owns the Atlanta Hawks, but Niitty owns the Atlanta Thrashers.
Antero Niittymaki allowed 1 goal on 38 shots and blanked the Thrashers on 5 shootout attempts to improve to 15-0-0 lifetime against Atlanta. He owns that team. It's hilarious.
ATL 5:23, Antropov 13 (Little, Kubina)
TB 7:28, Stamkos 27 (Foster, Malone)
The Lightning totally did not deserve to win tonight. After a strong opening, they really took their foot off the gas pedal toward the end of the first period. It was a slow, lethargic effort, and only by the grace of some luck and Niitty getting sharper as the game went on did they pull two points out tonight. They were ultimately outshot 38-27 in the game and they absolutely can't survive on efforts like this if they're going to make the playoffs.
Paul Szczechura was -1 with 2 shots and 2 blocked shots in 9:45.
The Lightning snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
Antero Niittymaki allowed 2 goals on 22 shots for the win.
TOR 7:05, White 9 (Kessel, Gunnarsson)(PP)
TB 11:46, Stamkos 26 (Lecavalier, Foster)
TOR 9:08, Stajan 15 (Hagman, Kulemin)
TB 16:11, Malone 21 (Lecavalier, Stamkos)(PP)
TB 4:50, St. Louis 13 (Stamkos, Lecavalier)(PP)
If the power play stays hot, that's one thing that will give the Lightning a big edge down the stretch of this season. It saved the game tonight, and that was as close to a must-win as it could be.
Vincent Lecavalier has climbed up to a point a game pace for the season. Steven Stamkos goes over a point a game pace. Martin St. Louis remains well over a point a game pace for the season. And, the ironic thing is that Rick Tocchet might be right: Steve Downie might be playing better hockey than all of them.
Paul Szczechura had 2 penalty minutes and 1 shot in 10:05.