RALEIGH, NC - MARCH 03: Steven Stamkos #91 celebrates with teammate Teddy Purcell #16 of the Tampa Bay Lightning after scoring the game-winning goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during overtime at the RBC Center on March 3, 2012 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Lightning won 4-3 in overtime. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Sorry for the late post. I just got home from driving back from Raleigh. It's a three and a half hour drive one way from there to where I live in Virginia.
But the game was totally worth the drive. There were times that the Lightning looked tired, and the last half of the third did not look promising for them, but they pullled it out and kept their playoff hope alive. Such as they are. Even if the Lightning don't make playoffs, these past few weeks have been one heck of a ride.
Which isn't to say that the Lightning didn't have problems. They struggled to get out of their zone in the first period. The shots on goal might have been even, but time of possession definitely seemed skewed the Hurricanes way. And the second and third periods, the Lightning had problems getting through the neutral zone.
And was that just me, or did they pull out the 1-3-1 for the first time in months? Only the players that were familiar with that formation actually did that. None of the recently acquired guys participated in that, of course, but that was rather unexpected.
The gift that was the full two-minute 5-on-3 was almost a tragedy in the third period. You've got to give credit to the Hurricanes, however. They had their sticks in passing lanes and they weren't going to give the Lightning much of anything. But Teddy Purcell's power play goal with only a few seconds left in that situation saved the day.
And then the gift that was the roughing penalty in overtime would have also been a tragedy had it not been for Steven Stamkos's game-winning goal. The penalty where Brandon Sutter tried jumping/diving over Mathieu Garon could have gone either way - or no way at all. Stamkos could've gotten called for it, Sutter could not have gotten called for anything, or everything could've been called at once. This is the NHL, after all.
Still, take what you can get, I guess. This is perhaps the mentally toughest team that the Lightning have had for years. Nothing can stop these guys - not trades, not injuries, not illness, not anything. A quarter of the lineup is gone, and they're still winning. And that is perhaps the most amazing thing to see. Especially considering how they started the season.
As I've said, the chances of them making playoffs are still small. A lot of things would have to go wrong for the rest of the conference, and a lot of things would have to go right for the Lightning. While that's certainly been happening, it's got to continue to happen for another month. Tampa Bay is currently two points out of eighth in the standings.
The next game is Tuesday, 6 March, versus the Ottawa Senators. Game time is the regular 7:30 pm Eastern. If you're not attending the game, then stop in and say hi to us. The game thread will be available at 7 o'clock.