Game 51: Florida Panthers at Tampa Bay Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Florida Panthers in their last regular season meeting by a score of 6-3.

The game really revolved around four players for the Lightning: Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos, Nate Thompson, and Victor Hedman. They took care of a lot of the playmaking, shots, goals, and assists. They had help, naturally, but those are the guys who had the biggest impact.

The player of the night was St. Louis. Not only did he score the game-tying goal, but it was also his 900th game in the NHL. The past 831 games have been exclusively with the Lightning, as his first 69 NHL games had been with the Calgary Flames. Little did they know what they were losing at the time.

St. Louis ended up with a hat trick on the night, which underscores a point. Not only top off his longevity, but also to point out that he's nowhere near done playing. Looks like he may be following in the footsteps of a few other notable players who played well into their 40s. But at only 36 years old, that's still a ways off.

The guy who helped set up all three of St. Louis's goals was Lecavalier. Who also scored a sweet goal unassisted on his only shot of the night. And he had won seven of 12 of his faceoffs (58% winning percentage) as well. Vinny was a force to be reckoned with the entire game - he didn't let up once, and played a very disciplined game.

Stamkos had a goal of his own, assisted on one of St. Louis's goals, and had six shots on goal for the night. The first Lightning goal was scored by Thompson, also unassisted, had three blocked shots, and he'd won six of seven faceoffs (86%) for the night. Both players had very consistently good nights.

As for Hedman, he was also a dominant player. He had some great defensive plays, and offensive breakouts. He had five shots on goal and five blocked shots - leading all players on the ice in blocked shots on the night. Apparently, watching games while having to sit out while he was recovering from a concussion did him some good, because a lot of the little mental mistakes he was making earlier in the season have almost disappeared since he's come back.

Overall, the team played like they did last season. Everyone's contributing, the star players on the team are being the star players, the defense is playing defense (mostly), the leaders are leading, and they're sticking to playing their game. It's great to see, frankly. There still isn't a great chance that they'll make it into playoffs, but they're making it more believable, at least. And even if they don't, seeing them pull it together to make a serious run will take some of the sting out of this season.

I think I can speak for the fans when I say that, right now, everyone's pretty damned proud of this team for trying to make some very positive things happen.

Their next game is Tuesday, 7 February, against the Los Angeles Kings. Game time is the regular 7:30 pm ET. If you aren't attending the game, then please stop by and keep us company. The Raw Charge game thread will be available at 7 pm.

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