Game 57: San Jose Sharks at Tampa Bay Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the San Jose Sharks 6-5 in overtime at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

On a day when talk focused on who was going where, it was widely seen as the beginning of the end of the pursuit of fortune and glory in the 2011-12 season for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Except nobody told the guys who are still here.

"At the end of the day, we're still gonna fight, regardless of what's going on around us. There's 26 games left. That's like a third of the season. So there's a lot of time left. If we start winning games, you never know. But if we throw in the towel because of what's going on around us, it's going to be a pretty miserable two months." - Martin St. Louis

The day began with speculation (confirmed by general manager Steve Yzerman) that steps were being taken to move defenseman Pavel Kubina. Later, just prior to the start of the game, forward Dominic Moore was traded to the San Jose Sharks, the Lightning' opponent tonight (Moore didn't play for either side). The day ended with a hockey game that saw six lead changes.

The Sharks got on the board first, beating starting goaltender Dwayne Roloson on a powerplay goal by Logan Couture with assists from Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau at the 1:16 mark.

Steven Stamkos tied the game when he stretched out while falling to tip the puck past Sharks goalie Antti Niemi at 9:30. Brendan Mikkelson and Steve Downie were credited with assists.

The Bolts took the leadfor the first time on a rare powerplay goal late in the period. Teddy Purcell found the five-hole on assists from Mikkelson and Stamkos at 19:35, putting the Lightning up 2-1 at the end of the period.

Michal Handzus tied the game at 1:44 of the second on a goal that was reviewed. Jamie McGinn and Torrey Mitchell contributed helpers.

In a remarkably short time span, things changed, and changed again.

Steve Downie scored at 14:08 with assists from Eric Brewer and Victor Hedman to give the Lightning the lead again...briefly

Before Downie's goal had even been announced, it was tied again, with Marc-Edouard Vlasic scoring at 14:37 thanks to assists from Tommy Wingels and Dan Boyle.

And shortly after that goal was announced, the Sharks claimed the lead when Colin White got assists from McGinn and Mitchell at 15:44.

The Sharks took a 4-3 lead into the second intermission.

Stamkos tied it up at 2:44 of the third when he found himself with the puck on his stick right in front of the net. Hedman and Ryan Malone offered helpers.

After a five-minute stretch of offensive intensity as good as any the Lightning has produced all season, Martin St. Louis cashed in at 8:01 to re-take the lead for Tampa Bay. Vincent Lecavalier and Purcell were credited with assists.

14:50 a turnover at the blue line led to a two-on-one breakaway for Wingels to tie it up again for the Sharks at 14:50 with assists from Couture and Boyle.

The teams went to overtime, tied at five.

St. Louis ended it at 4:27 of the extra period, scoring on assists from Hedman and Stamkos.

So what does the Tampa Bay Lightning walk away with at the end of a long day that saw the departure of two players and an overtime win against a playoff contender from the Western Conference?

"Character, Character, Character. I think our fans keep coming to the games because they know we fight. And for us, it's not about how many times we fall. It's not what happens to us. It's how we react to it and how we get up. It was like that last year and it's like that this year. We're fighting and you can see the character in the players." - Lightning head coach Guy Boucher
"We're going to focus on winning hockey games and trying to make the playoffs. He's (Yzerman) got to do his job, we've still got to do our jobs and do what we've got to do to win hockey games. And that's the bottom line." - Roloson

The Lightning continue their homestand on Saturday when they face the Washington Capitals.

Game notes:

  • The Sharks last visited Tampa Bay on October 22, 2009 (a 5-2 Lightning win), a stretch of 847 days.
  • The Lightning are now 15-13-2 all time against San Jose, including 10-6-1 at home.
  • Tonight was Steven Stamkos 300th NHL game.
  • Brendan Mikkelson led the Lightning with five shots on the night. His two assists were his first points scored as a member of the Lightning and seventh and eighth of his career (all assists).
  • The Lightning honored Marie McClung and Jode Eye as Lightning Community Heroes during the first period of tonight’s game against the San Jose Sharks. McClung and Eye, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will contribute the money to their charity of choice, Clothes To Kids. As a first grade teacher, Eye saw first-hand the alarming number of students coming to school wearing ill-fitting, worn out clothes with holes in their shoes and no coats to wear in the winter. In 2002, Eye shared her concern with her high school friend, McClung, and together, they decided to co-found Clothes To Kids, which has provided 65,000 school uniforms to low-income children in Pinellas County, free of charge. After recruiting family members and friends to help out with their homegrown initiative, Clothes to Kids has grown in just 10 years and now distributes nearly 12,000 uniforms annually while operating out of two locations throughout the Bay Area. Today, Clothes To Kids is recognized as a "first responder" by Pinellas County Schools, local law enforcement outlets, social service agencies and homeless shelters when there is an urgent need for children's clothing. Both McClung and Eye worked diligently to launch the initiative, recruiting volunteers, identifying eligible shoppers, gathering donations, and operating the store. They have previously served on the Clothes To Kids Board of Directors, and are still actively involved in the organization, currently developing a template to launch additional stores nationwide.
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