In a game defined entirely by special teams play, the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 in overtime at the St. Pete Times Forum on Thursday night. Martin St. Louis scored the game winning goal with only ten seconds remaining in the extra period with a blistering shot from the point, during a four-on-three overtime power play.
The game repeated basic trends that we have come to expect from the Lightning - work hard in the first, lay off in the second and play catch-up in the third. Of course the only thing that disrupted that trend was going to overtime and actually winning.
Oh, yes, and the power play and how it led to basically all scoring in this matchup of Eastern Conference bottom-dwellers.
The first period saw a lot of play in the Leafs zone but the Bolts couldn't make a play on net. Similarly, the Leafs - if they ever did breach the Lightning zone - couldn't get anywhere near the Lightning net, let alone take a shot on goal.
Past the midway point of the first period, both teams had only accounted for six shots on goal. The first would end with all of eleven shots being attempted by both teams combined. 7-4 in the Lightning's favor.
The most noteworthy thing about the first was Matt Walker dropping them -- twice -- in the period. He fought Jay Rosehill, knocking him down with a powerful right hand blow. A while later in the period, Walker laid a strong mid-ice hit on Rosehill, causing him to lose his gloves:
Colton Orr rushed to his defense, leading to the pair squaring off in a grappling match. Orr was hit with an instigator and, combined with Jamal Mayers slashing penalty at 6:04 of the 1st, resulted in two minutes of 5-on-3 for the Lightning. The net result, however, was the same inconsistency that the Bolts have been suffering from all season. It was a virtual clinic on how not to perform on a five-on-three power play.
Lack of energy showed up in the Bolts game in the 2nd period and the Leafs capitalized. Ian White scored on a power play (result of a cross-checking call to Andrej Meszaros) and the Leafs took a 1-0 lead.
Steven Stamkos (who would ultimately have 3 points in this game) tied the match up several minutes later in the afterglow of another failed Lighting power play that had been a from-the-point barrage of shot, stymed again and again by Leafs goalie Josef Gustavsson. The penalty was over for all of five seconds when Stamkos lit the lamp to even the score.
Matt Stajan scored on another power play for the Leafs, giving them a 2-1 lead in the middle fo the third period, and the creeping sensation of dread lingered over the Lightning faithful -- playing catchup hasn't worked otu well for the Lightnign as of late. Usually when a hole is dug, they keep digging and allow for the opposition to solidify a narrow lead. That wasn't the case this time as Ryan maloen tied the score at two with his power play tally.
Ultimately there were 22 penalties called between the two teams. The Leafs were called for 12 infractions and the Lightning for 10. Ron Wilson lamented after the game:
"We should have been more disciplined. We weren't and we lose because of it."
But the most fatal penalty for the Leafs was a Too Many Men on the Ice call with 43 seconds left in overtime. That resulted in the 4-on-3 power play and Martin St. Louis' heroics.
Vincent Lecavalier assisted on all three Lightning goals, Antero Niitymaki made 20 saves and the Lightning pick up a desperately needed pair of points with tonight's win.
Next matchup is Saturday at Times Palace with the Atlanta Thrashers in town. Game time will be 7:30 PM.
The Lightning won a game that went to overtime for the first time since November 22, 2009, a 4-3 win against Atlanta.
Tampa Bay has converted on 27.7 percent (5-18) of their power play chances in the previous four games.
Vincent Lecavalier extended his season-high point streak to six games (3 goals and 10 points).
Lecavalier's three assists tied a personal season high, a mark previously recorded 12/26 vs. ATL.
The Lightning improved to 3-10 this season in overtime.