Holmer and the road warriors just smacked the champs in the mouth in their own barn. I like it.
Johan Holmqvist pitches a 31 save shutout for the win. The shutout is the first of Johan's career and he improves his season record to 17-10-0. Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier continued on their MVP caliber tears through the NHL with 1 goal and 1 assist each. Vaclav Prospal added 2 assists of his own as well. The other Lightning goals came from Ryan Craig and Doug Janik. Eric Perrin, Ruslan Fedotenko and Brad Richards added individual helpers.
The well oiled war machine that is the Lightning on the road extended their franchise record winning streak away from the SP Times Forum to 7 straight games. More importantly, the Lightning have caught the Carolina Hurricanes at 58 points with the Lightning still holding a game in hand. And, by virtue of Atlanta's 5-2 loss to the Islanders tonight the Lightning are now with single digits of the division leader at 8 points behind. The Lightning still hold a game in hand on Atlanta and, more importantly, have two more head-to-head games left on the schedule for a total of six potential points the Lightning can pick up quickly. I am reminded of 2002-2003 when the Lightning ran down the Washington Capitals from behind like a hungry lion runs down a misfortunate antelope.
If the Lightning can stay focused and remain hot for the next couple of weeks, then the spotlight should fall squarely on GM Jay Feaster. Feaster knows as we all do that the team is just a deal or two away from being a serious title contender. It will be incumbent on him to pull the trigger and hit the right targets to give this team the reinforcements they need. If he does, look out. Dare we use the pun, Lightning could strike twice?
Rookie Blair Jones had 5:39 of ice time tonight and was 40% on draws with 2 penalty minutes (and looked about 1,000,000% more comfortable than last time out).
Tampa Bay 15:12, Ryan Craig 12 (power play) (Martin St. Louis)
Tampa Bay 19:23, Doug Janik 2 (Eric Perrin, Vaclav Prospal)
Tampa Bay 2:49, Vincent Lecavalier 32 (Ruslan Fedotenko, Vaclav Prospal)
Tampa Bay 9:29, Martin St. Louis 32 (power play) (Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards)
Game sheet from NHL.com.
All hail King Holmer.
Johan Holmqvist stopped 29 of 32 shots faced in overtime and regulation before stopping 2 of 2 in the shootout to remain a perfect 15 for 15 in the shootout this season. A bit of a softie on the Richardson goal tonight, but Holmqvist made up for it on several stops tonight. This was not necessarily a game the Lightning deserved to win, but as road warriors they've been finding ways to grind out two points out of these games lately. The win is the Lightning's sixth straight road win which is a new team record.
Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier each had a goal and an assist to lead the Lightning offensively. Ruslan Fedotenko had the other Lightning goal (and played great tonight) and Ryan Craig, Dan Boyle, Andreas Karlsson, Paul Ranger and Filip Kuba added individual helpers. Lecavalier and Brad Richards (who also played great tonight) had the Lightning's shootout talleys.
For anyone wondering, Blair Jones played just 4 shifts tonight for 2:36 of ice time. He had 1 blocked shot and was 2-for-2 on faceoffs. His last three shifts he must've been in stealth mode, because his first period shift was the only time I saw him all night.
The win, coupled with a Carolina loss against Toronto tonight, moves the Lightning within 2 points of second place in the Southeast Division with a game in hand and the Hurricanes on the slate for Thursday night. The team also maintains pace with Atlanta 10 points back of the division lead with 1 game in hand on the Thrashers and 2 head-to-head matchups remaining on the schedule. The Lightning can almost certainly make a run at this, especially with the bottomfeeding Panthers on the schedule 5 more times.
Tampa Bay 6:32, Martin St. Louis 31 (power play) (Ryan Craig, Dan Boyle)
Philadelphia 7:23, Mike Richards 2 (shorthanded) (Alexei Zhitnik, Joni Pitkanen)
Philadelphia 18:49, Jeff Carter 7 (shorthanded) (Simon Gagne, Denis Gauthier)
Tampa Bay 19:24, Ruslan Fedotenko 11 (power play) (Andreas Karlsson, Paul Ranger)
Philadelphia 3:13, Peter Forsberg 9 (Joni Pitkanen)
Tampa Bay 12:06, Vincent Lecavalier 31 (Filip Kuba, Martin St. Louis)
Tampa Bay: Lecavalier, Richards
Game sheet from NHL.com.
8th place and 1 game over .500. If they can stay in 8th place or better (preferably better) up to the All-Star break, the Lightning will be set up well for the stretch run.
Johan Holmqvist stopped just 18 of 22 shots faced for the win. I thought Johan was subpar tonight and wonder if Denis will get back in Saturday in Buffalo. Vincent Lecavalier was MVP caliber tonight scoring 2 goals and 1 assist while his linemates Martin St. Louis and Vaclav Prospal had 1 goal and 1 assist and 1 goal and 2 assists respectively. The names on the Caps may change, but those three when together always seem to dominate Washington, and Lecavalier should've had the hat trick on an empty net bid set up by St. Louis to put the cherry on top. Dan Boyle had 2 assists while Ryan Craig had the game's opening goal on a crafty wraparound. Eric Perrin and Cory Sarich each had individual assists.
Nick Tarnasky played his 40th game of the season tonight and will graduate from prospect status by site criteria Saturday against Buffalo. On a side note, I though Nick played one of his better games in his brief NHL career tonight. Torts must've agreed, because Nick got over eleven and a half minutes of ice time tonight in what was a 1 goal game or tied the entire night.
The win moves the Lightning into 8th in Eastern Conference by virtue of their tiebreaker advantage over Toronto in wins. They also move to within 10 points of Atlanta in the Southeast Division. They would've moved to within 4 points on second place Carolina, except the Panthers (who can do absolutely nothing right and need to be contracted by the league) blew a 3 goal third period lead to lose 6-4. Great move running off Luongo, South Florida.
The Buffalo game on Saturday shapes up as another big one for two reasons: 1.) To continue the momentum from the past three games, and by momentum I mean winning streak, 2.) To gain the confidence only beating the best team in the East and one which has spanked the Lightning regularly over the past two seasons. A win in Buffalo's barn might very well get the Lightning's swagger back.
Tampa Bay 4:54, Ryan Craig 11 (Eric Perrin)
Washington 7:01, Alexander Semin 23 (power play) (Brian Pothier, Alexander Ovechkin)
Tampa Bay 8:46, Vincent Lecavalier 25 (Vaclav Prospal, Dan Boyle)
Washington 5:40, Alexander Semin 24 (Lawrence Nycholat, Matt Pettinger)
Washington 10:02, Ben Clymer 6 (Donald Brashear)
Tampa Bay 11:15, Vaclav Prospal 6 (Cory Sarich, Vincent Lecavalier)
Tampa Bay 12:24, Vincent Lecavalier 26 (Martin St. Louis, Dan Boyle)
Washington 19:50, Chris Clark 15 (Alexander Ovechkin, Brian Pothier)
Tampa Bay 3:22, Martin St. Louis 28 (Vaclav Prospal)
Game sheet from NHL.com.
One other thing I forgot to add: Andre Roy did a fantastic job holding his own in a fight against Donald Brashear in the second period. The Lightning haven't had anybody do that against a top heavyweight in forever, and that also helps you get your swagger back in a way.
Would have really been nice to hold onto this one in regulation and deny Pittsburgh the point.
Johan Holmqvist was outstanding in stopping 20 of 22 shots faced in regulation and overtime before stopping 3 of 3 penalty shots in the shootout. Ryan Craig led the way offensively with 1 goal and 1 assist and the Lightning got their other goal from The Real Secret Weapon, Nick Tarnasky. Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards all had assists. St. Louis also scored the game winning shootout goal on an unorthodox move going sideways in the slot and potting a backhand 5-hole on M.A. Fleury.
Really a strange game that the Lightning could've buried the Pens in regulation in were it not for M.A. Fleury. You know it's a strange night when Lecavalier gets stoned on two breakaways and a shootout attempt but Tarnasky can pot a nice goal on a good high shot from the middle of the slot. The Lightning move to 1 game under .500 and to within 2 points of 8th in the conference.
Tampa Bay 7:09, Ryan Craig 10 (power play) (Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier)
Pittsburgh 19:55, Sidney Crosby 20 (Mark Recchi)
Tampa Bay 14:04, Nick Tarnasky 2 (Ryan Craig, Brad Richards)
Pittsburgh 17:27, Mark Recchi 10 (power play) (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin)
Tampa Bay- Martin St. Louis
Game sheet from NHL.com.