Tampa Bay Lightning
Ottawa now leads the series 2-1 after a blood bath in game three.
I'd like to thank the refs for A.) awarding Ottawa their third goal by not calling a blatant boarding penalty on the Sens third goal and B.) robbing Evgeny Artyukhin of his first career playoff goal late in the third period on a phantom "kicking motion" call on a goal that never should've even been reviewed. Apparently the league office didn't want Ray Emery's stats/confidence to be scarred by a meaningless goal in the final minute of the contest. Ridiculous. The referees certainly didn't cost the Lightning this game, they did that all by themselves, but Kerry Fraser and Eric Furlatt should be severely reprimanded by the league for an inept display of officiating that allowed the game to degenerate into a small scale riot.
I'd also like to thank Chris Neil for proving to the entire league that he is a guttless puke who doesn't have the rocks to stand accountable for his actions on the ice. After challenging a 40 year old goaltender to a fight (very brave) he proceeded to turtle and pee himself in fear when squaring off with Chris Dingman (who couldn't fight his way out of a wet paper sack). My guess is Neil probably confused Ottawa's training staff when he first got to the team when he tried to give them his skirt size instead of his jersey size. And Vaclav Varada? Not much better.
On the positive side, Paul Ranger scored his first two career NHL playoff goals in the game in garbage time. No matter what happens from here on out, I am happy that many more people around the league are finally being exposed to what a fine young player Ranger is. Also, I'd like to applaud the work of Ryan Craig in this game. He came back from a puck in the face to consistently answer the bell to defend his teammates throughout the game. My only regret is that he couldn't get ahold of Varada after he boarded Ruslan Fedotenko and choke the life out of the rotten little weasel.
Ranger was -1 in 23:30 with 7 shots on goal, 1 hit and 3 blocked shots. Tonight may have been the night his offensive potential finally began to blossom. Craig was -2 in 10:26 with 1 shot and one hit. His speed has put him at a disadvantage in this series, but there's still time for him to contribute in other areas, particularly on the Lightning's slumbering power play. Evgeny Artyukhin was +1 (should've been +2) with 3 hits (and should've been 1/1 on shots on goal too).
The Lightning now have to regain their composure going into a critical game four matchup. A loss likely spells the end of the season. A win will throw the pressure right back onto the Sens' backs in game five. Tim Taylor missed the second half of the game with an "upper body injury" which may lead to the first appearance of Rob Dimaio in this series. Either way, the Lightning must balance the need to be physically aggressive with the need to stay out of the box in game four and they must begin to minimize the mistakes made by their defensemen and backchecking forwards alike that are leading to breakdowns and odd man situations.
Game sheet from NHL.com.
Series tied 1-1. Lightning take home ice away from Ottawa. Were it not for one bad period, Ottawa would be down 2-0 in this series. They. Are. Chokers.
John Grahame stops 21 of 24 in the win. Lightning settled down after an uneven first period to outshoot Ottawa 36-24. But it took the goal of the year by Dan Boyle to even the score at 3 in the third period to really shift the momentum in full in this series.
Paul Ranger, who received a ton of ice time in this game, notched his first two NHL playoff points on helpers on Boyle's goal and Brad Richards' breakaway goal. He was even in 21:57 with 1 shot, 2 hits and 1 blocked shot. Ryan Craig was even in 14:49 with 2 shots, 3 hits and 1 block. Evgeny Artyukhin played 3:41 and was -1 with 1 shot.
Win game three and watch Ottawa crumble.
Game sheet from NHL.com.
Opportunity lost. Ottawa leads the series 1-0.
John Grahame, who played well, stopped 34 of 37 before Ottawa tacked on an empty net goal. Grahame held Ottawa scoreless through 40 minutes before allowing three in the third period, only one of which by Spezza he could really be faulted for.
The good news is that the Lightning got 36 shots on goal on Ray Emery. The shame is that they seemingly could not finish to save their lives. The team hit a couple of crossbars that could've meant a critical 2-0 or even 3-0 lead and had multiple other chances that they squandered. They have to bury those chances and get another good goaltending performance from John Grahame to even the series in game two.
Ryan Craig was even in 16:00 in his first career playoff game. He had 2 shots and 1 hit. Paul Ranger played 15:38 of even hockey with 1 shot, 2 hits and 2 blocked shots. Evgeny Artyukhin had 2 hits in 3:22.
Game sheet from NHL.com.
The St. Pete Times is reporting that the Lightning have summoned several of its players from Springfield to join the club as its taxi squad for the playoffs. Nick Tarnasky, Darren Reid, Norm Milley, Jason Jaspers, Zdenek Blatny, Marek Kvapil, Mitch Fritz, Doug O'Brien and Gerald Coleman will practice in parallel with the team as the playoffs go forward.
In the article, Tom Jones also states that Darren Rumble will stay in Springfield as an assistant next season but that he is not a candidate for head coach. In addition, GM Jay Feaster sinks the sentimental idea of Dave Andreychuk becoming Falcons head coach because the team is looking for an experienced bench boss and because Andreychuk simply has no interest in coaching.
If the Lightning are looking to promote from within, that points to only two people: Bill Barber (unlikely) or Johnstown head man Frank Anzalone.