And the road warriors keep rolling...
Marc Denis stopped 30 of 35 before stopping 4 of 4 shooters for the extra extra session win. It wasn't pretty, but with the chips down Denis got it done. Vaclav Prospal and Martin St. Louis each had 1 goal and 2 assists in the win. YoungStar Paul Ranger added 1 goal and 1 assist and Doug Janik (AKA Secret Weapon 3) had 2 assists. Vincent Lecavalier and Filip Kuba had the Lightning's other goals with Kuba's being a smoking slap shot on the rush to tie the game with 2:54 left in regulation. Nikita Alexeev and Eric Perrin had individual helpers.
If you look up "sore losers" in the dictionary, you might spot the Carolina press corps. Denying Prospal a three stars selection on a night when he had 3 points? Ridiculous. Giving first star to a guy who had a couple of goals bounce in off of him? More so.
I wish there wasn't an All-Star Break at all, because this Lightning team is rolling like a battle hardened war machine right now. To go into Buffalo, New Jersey and now defending champion Carolina and grind out 2 points in hostile road environments should make the league take notice. The Lightning appear done messing around this season. The character of a real contender is starting to show. Now they just need Feaster to pull the trigger on one or two more trades to get them the reinforcements to put this team over the top. The Lightning now move 2 points behind Carolina for 2nd place in the division and remain 8 points back of Atlanta. Lurking. Waiting for the Smirkin' Chikins to slip. The Lightning have also opened a 4 point gap on a gaggle of teams in 8th place and are within 5 points of 4th place Montreal for a little first round home ice.
Carolina 5:32, Eric Staal 21 (power play) (Scott Walker, Andrew Hutchinson)
Tampa Bay 6:51, Vaclav Prospal 8 (Martin St. Louis, Dan Boyle)
Carolina 18:23, Eric Staal 22 (Scott Walker, Anton Babchuk)
Carolina 0:34, Ray Whitney 19 (Dennis Seidenberg, Justin Williams)
Tampa Bay 3:22, Vincent Lecavalier 30 (Martin St. Louis, Paul Ranger)
Carolina 7:35, Andrew Ladd 4 (Anton Babchuk, Justin Williams)
Tampa Bay 8:06, Paul Ranger 2 (Nikita Alexeev, Eric Perrin)
Tampa Bay 12:02, Martin St. Louis 30 (Vaclav Prospal, Doug Janik)
Carolina 9:31, Scott Walker 16 (Andrew Hutchinson, Andrew Ladd)
Tampa Bay 17:06, Filip Kuba 8 (Vaclav Prospal, Doug Janik)
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.