By necessity, the Lightning are a team in transition, with an influx of rookies already on the roster and facing other major changes in the upcoming offseason with high hopes of building a bright future. Tonight, Marty St. Louis reminded everyone that some of the veterans still have something to contribute, netting the seventh hat trick of his career and assuming sole possession of the lead in the NHL points-scored race in the process..
"It's a big win for our team. I thought we started well and we played good, got better as the game went on." - Lightning forward Martin St. Louis
Determined not to repeat the lethargic opening period that plagued them in their last game (among far too many this season), the Lightning came out energized and motivated. There was sloppiness (especially when it came to passing) and some close calls but the effort was much improved from the last game.
"I thought we played well tonight. I think we were probably a little bit of the benefactor of a couple of posts early, but it just seems like those have been going in against us and now they don't." - Lightning head coach Jon Cooper
The period ended with Toronto up 1-0.
Just under 10 minutes later, the Bolts took their first lead of the game, with St. Louis first goal of the night on an assist from Thompson at 15:48. That goal temporarily knotted the scoring lead at 56 between he, Stamkos and Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby.
The Lightning looked to carry a lead into the second intermission but Toronto tallied the dreaded late-period goal to tie it again, with Joffrey Lupul scoring at 14:37 on assists from Clarke MacArthur and Cody Franson.
If that goal affected the Lightning's morale, it didn't manifest on the ice. The Bolts regained the lead for good at 3:13 of the third on Radko Gudas's second goal of the season and his career with Teddy Purcell and Stamkos offering helpers.
At 17:11, he capped off the night, registering his first hat trick since February 26, 2012 and the Lightning's first of the season., scoring into an empty net on a dish from Vincent Lecavalier.
"It was a little frustrating. We are down 1-0 again and we feel like we are always playing from behind. But we didn't let it get past that and we played well. We played the whole 200 feet of ice tonight. It was fun to watch." - Cooper"
The Lightning will now head to Boston tomorrow night to make up the February 9th game against the Bruins that was previously postponed due to a heavy winter storm in the northeast. They'll return to the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Saturday to face the Florida Panthers to conclude the season.
- Stat of the night? NHL SCORING LEADERS: St. Louis - 58, Stamkos - 56, Crosby - 56
- The Lightning took the season three-game series with Toronto, 2-1.
- Both of Gudas's goals have come against the Maple Leafs.
- Stamkos was a +5 on the night, which is a career best for him. Sami Salo registered a +5 on January 25 against the Ottawa Senators.
- The Lightning are now 8-3-1 in their last 12 games against future division opponent Toronto.
- The Lightning honored Heather Barrow as the 38th Lightning Community Hero of the year during the first period of tonight's game. Barrow, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to High Risk Hope, St. Joseph's Hospital Foundation and the Junior League of Tampa. Barrow had a premature baby herself and is now helping other expecting mothers and their families prepare for similar difficulties. There are over 15 million babies that are born prematurely each year in the United States and it is also a growing issue around the world. After she learned that there was a growing crisis of premature births she founded High Risk Hope, an organization that unites physicians, nurses and volunteers to increase survival rates. Barrow's mission is to improve the morale of high risk mothers and after touching more than 500 families with her help. In an effort to provide comfort, High Risk Hope acts as a life line, assembling Bed Rest Baskets and NICU knapsacks containing both essential and thoughtful items. They also offer home-cooked meals and deliver them right to families' homes. Barrow is thankful that she and her son have both grown up happy and healthy after being born prematurely and her objective is to help others do the same.