Although the effort wasn’t as strong as it had been in the last two, you’ve got to like the Lightning’s comeback from 3-1 down. It was a game that had a little bit of emotion, some nice offensive play and a lot of excitement. Overall, while I wasn’t totally impressed with everything from the Bolts tonight, it was nice to see a victory after falling behind early. Tonight’s post-game re-cap will contain a summary of each period from my point of view.
The First Period
It wasn’t the prettiest of starts; in fact, I would go so far as to describe it as a little nerve-wracking. For the first minute and half, the puck was really held by the Canadiens in the Bolts’ zone. It wasn’t pretty, but Garon made a few key saves and kept us solid as he has for the last two games. What really impressed me after that first 90 seconds was the effort level once again. Everyone seemed to be skating hard, working hard on the boards and just fighting for pucks. It’s great to see a team WANT to get that much better. I give Guy Boucher a lot of credit, something I haven’t done in a while, for inspiring this group to just outwork the opponent no matter what team it is.
Isolating the first period, I was really impressed with Kubina for the first time in a while. Sure he made a few questionable defensive plays, but playing alongside Brewer seemed to elevate his desire. One moment that really stuck out for me was when Plekanec was trying to skate onto a loose puck at center ice. Kubina skated like a rocket and just beat him to the puck. It’s that kind of effort that is going to make a difference down the stretch. Sticking with Kubina, I’m not exactly sure that he was trying to slap the puck to Stamkos on the first goal, but nevertheless, it worked. He made a nifty play at the line to pivot and just get the puck down the ice. It’s that kind of simple play that this defense needs to really focus on making. In this case, the simple play resulted in a goal. Who else would you expect to score it? It was the Stamkos show once again. As I’ve voiced before, it’s his ability to score in so many different ways that really amazes me. Every opponent knows about his half-wall play, but I’m not sure the Canadiens were expecting that perfect deflection.
Of course, the 1-0 lead was short lived as Mike Cammalleri scored on the power-play to even up the game. Special teams are really becoming an issue for the Lightning as they can’t seem to score on the power-play and the penalty kill doesn’t exactly inspire confidence with the defense we have. The goal itself was a great shot from Cammalleri as he caught Garon in a bit of a bad position and was able to just snap it past him. When you take a look at the Habs roster, it’s pretty clear that they are going to have to rely on Cammalleri a lot moving forward. Tonight’s game was played without Gomez or Gionta. Remember when those three guys were brought in to be the new face of the Habs?
From that point on, things seemed to unravel a little bit for our Bolts. The Habs’ energy level just seemed to be that much greater than that of the Lightning. Garon had to stay sharp and make some big saves just as he did against the Philadelphia Flyers a couple nights ago. What was reassuring was that the Habs don’t boast the same offensive power that the Flyers do. Despite the Habs kind of taking over the play, I thought a few Bolts kept their energy levels up. Those players would be Tyrell and Downie. Despite Downie’s shortcomings, I thought he played a really solid period. He was hard on the boards, physical and he had an assist. That’s the kind of play we need out of him. Coaches always talk about playing “between the whistles and not after them.” That’s what we need out of Downie more consistently. It’s a shame he’s kind of cemented himself into the black books of the referees in the NHL, I thought there was a couple of plays where interference was run against him that wasn’t called.
The Lightning ended the period on the powerplay, and does it really surprise anyone that they weren’t able to convert? It’s like the team is trying to be too fancy on the PP. Especially with a goaltender as good as Price, it’s so important to get traffic to the front of the net. We haven’t seen any traffic for quite some time. At the end of the first, the Habs had outshot the Lightning 10-8.
Bolts Player of the Period: Steve Downie
The Second Period
When a team begins a period with two and a half minutes of power-play time, you would think that they would be able to convert. Well, as Lightning fans, it’s about time we start expecting otherwise. This team just has a real problem generating any offensive pressure on the power-play. It’s gotten to the point where we might as well just turn down the two minute advantage. Those are the chances that come back to haunt you in a game, and in a season. That couldn’t hold truer tonight. Shortly after the Lightning blew their lengthy power-play chance, the Habs managed to squeak one through the 5-hole of Garon. Now, that’s the kind of weak goal we can’t be allowing here in Tampa Bay. It’s tough to really fault Garon on it because three players were standing in front of him, but still, you’d like to see him close the 5-hole on that one. To the players standing in front – IF YOU AREN’T GOING TO BLOCK THE SHOT, GET OUT OF THE WAY!
It was a well-deserved goal by the Canadiens as they really started to take over the play after the midway point of the first period. While I still felt as though the Lightning were winning a lot of puck battles, they just weren’t able to match the speed that the Habs were utilizing through the neutral zone. Unfortunate to say the least, but this game looked as though it was slipping away. That was completely affirmed when Downie took a slashing penalty midway through the period. It was right after he and Stamkos had generated a really nice chance as well. Come on, Downie! I was giving you so much credit in the first period, don’t do that. Speaking of Stamkos, man can he dangle. You don’t truly appreciate it until you watch it game after game after game.
The penalty kill actually looked pretty good. What I liked about it was that the box formation remained intact. If you asked me about the Bolts penalty kill coming into this game, I would have told you that they chase too much. That wasn’t the case on the Downie slash kill. Garon was sharp, and the killers were calm. To me, that was an incredibly key point in the game. Either the game is 3-1 and the Canadiens have a lot of momentum, or it remains 2-1 and the Lightning build on a solid kill. Thank goodness it was the latter.
Just as you would have thought after that big kill, the Lightning intensity really was jolted up a level and everything seemed to be going well. Tyrell continued to act as a spark plug and the players were utilizing speed to win puck battles. Then, just as you would come to expect this season, one stupid defensive play allowed the Habs to score another one. This time it was Cole left all alone in the slot and he wasn’t going to make a mistake on that play. As I noted in my pre-game post, if Price and Cole weren’t on the Habs, they’d be in trouble this season. Well, it just so happens that they were the best players on the ice for the Canadiens tonight.
Play kind of died down after that goal and there wasn’t a lot going on. Then, JT Wyman scored his first National Hockey League goal. Here is my quick note of congratulations to the young player. You can bet that’s a goal that Price would love to have back, but also one that may be slightly exaggerated when Wyman tells his grandchildren about it. Once again, congrats to Wyman. After that goal, the pace of play really seemed to pick up. There was some excitement going on with end to end rushes and a little bit more drive in both sides. We were set up for GREAT third period between these two teams.
Bolts Player of the Period: JT Wyman
The Third Period
The stage was set for a huge comeback heading into the third period. Down by the goal, the Lightning knew what they had to do to get the victory. The period started out similarly to the first period with the Canadiens getting some good zone time. The Lightning just couldn’t manage the puck well enough to generate any offensive pressure. The TSN turning point has got to be when Garon made his huge save to start the period. It’s that kind of goaltending that just inspires a team. When you have confidence in your goalie, it makes it so much easier to go out there and just make things happen offensively. Hey, what do you know? Only a few short seconds later, the Lightning scored. MA Bergeron, the former Hab, floated one right over Price’s left shoulder. That was a big goal for the Lightning to tie the game early in the third. We had ourselves the start of a brand new hockey game.
The third was really the Lightning’s period. Had it not been for Price, this could have been a very different looking period. I love seeing great goaltending. There is something about a goalie making superhuman saves that is just a lot of fun to watch. It’s especially good when you have one of the world’s best players, Steven Stamkos, going up against a great goalie like Price. I was really impressed by the fight for offense in the third. Every member of the Lightning had something to contribute offensively; whether it was a key shot, a move on the cycle or a great rush. That is something we’ll have to see more of going forward.
Leave it to the captain to make the difference. Despite being down 3-1 earlier in the game, Vinny completed the comeback and scored the goal that gave the Lightning the 4-3 lead. All of a sudden Vinny has 15 goals on the season. That’s comparable to the total of some of the league’s top scorers.
You know, there aren’t many good times to take penalties in hockey. In the last two minutes of a one goal game is quite possibly the worst time. Thank goodness the Bolts were able to kill off that late penalty backed by the strong play of Garon.
My last point regarding tonight’s game is about the latter half of the third. Despite having the puck essentially hemmed in their zone after the Vinny goal, the Lightning didn’t give the Habs very many Grade-A chances. Would you have liked to see them move the puck with a little more success? Sure, but it wasn’t the end of the world.
Bolts Player of the Period: Vinny Lecavalier
At the end of the day, a win is a win is a win. It’s another two points for the Lightning in their quest for a top-8 position. Take a look at the standings, the Lightning have games in hand on a lot of teams and they should come in handy as the season progresses. Tonight’s win is just another small stepping stone on the road towards greener pastures. So far on this key stretch of six games, the Lightning are 2-0. It’s a nice position to be in as we move into thinking about the Carolina Hurricanes game.
Thanks for reading this rather detailed post-game analysis and I hope you enjoyed this win as much as I did. I’ll be back tomorrow with my pre-game for the ‘Canes game.
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