There's an old axiom that states that good teams beat the teams they're supposed to beat. The way that axioms become old is by being true. The Tampa Bay Lightning have flirted with defying that axiom at their own risk this season, especially lately. It's certainly not something to panic over, although you could be excused for being concerned. The Lightning's last opponent, the Ottawa Senators, qualify as a team the Lightning should beat and the Islanders practically embody it. That's not disrespect to those teams; it's a fact based on the current standings. And while the Bolts came away with three of a possible four points in those games, they've been perilously close to walking away empty-handed both times. Sure, it's the NHL where anybody can beat anybody else on a given night and the end result is all that matters, but these are opponents the Lightning are "supposed" to beat. One might have expected the Bolts to have dispatched at least one of them without needing to go to the shootout. And even if the level of competition doesn't concern you, the inability to put forth three full periods of effort probably should, at least a little bit. Point being, so far, they haven't exactly jumped on what looked like a relatively easy lie down this last leg of the stretch run.
"First and foremost, we got two points but we have to play much better. We've played better and lost some games. In saying that, the boys were down a goal going into the third, they got the goal we needed and finally the shootout, so you've got to give them some credit." - Lightning head coach Jon Cooper
"Two points are two points right now; they're not all going to be pretty." - Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop
There are nine games left (18 points to be had) and at this point, it looks like every single one of them is going to be a battle. Hold on tight, folks.
Tonight's game began with a scoreless first period and nearly identical bottom lines on the stat sheets.. The Lightning were far less lethargic and sloppy than in their last effort but they also weren't exactly sharp. They did a good job of disrupting New York's attempts to set up an offensive attack but aside from short bursts, they never really mounted much of an attack of their own until the third period.
They did open the scoring early in the second period when Ryan Callahan, who was clearly the Lightning's best and hardest working player on the night, scored at the :29 mark, with a deflection of a shot by Radko Gudas. Valtteri Filppula was credited with the secondary assist.
A near disaster was avoided at 6:57 with the Lightning on a power play and Bishop way out of his net, when a shorthanded goal was waved off due to an offsides call.
Callahan tied it up, netting his second goal of the night at 5:50, this time cleaning up on a rebound from a shot by Eric Brewer.
"That's usually where I find my goals, close to the net and in front of all those dirty areas and I got two tonight" - Callahan
"He makes a living in that area. Wherever there's paint on the ice, he does a heck of a job." - Cooper
For the third straight game, regulation ended with the teams tied. For the second straight game, overtime failed to resolve the situation, leading to the shootout.
As far as shootouts go, this one was pretty entertaining. For one thing, the Lightning ended a streak of 16 fruitless individual attempts when Michael Kostka solved Islanders netminder Evgeni Nabokov as the second Lightning shooter. There was also a nifty successful spin-o-rama from Steven Stamkos. Cal Clutterbuck picked up a game misconduct after failing to convert his attempted shot and Teddy Purcell hit a post. All in all, it lasted 13 rounds, the longest in the NHL so far this season, and finally ended when the Bolts' Sami Salo scored and the Islanders' Johan Sundstrom did not.
"I've done enough shootouts now, I feel confident in the shootouts. I feel my percentage is fairly decent so I'm not too worried when the game is on the line there." - Bishop
The Lightning will now head out on their next-to-last road trip of the regular season, for back to back games at Buffalo on Saturday and Detroit on Sunday. They will return home Tuesday to host the Montreal Canadiens, who currently hold a two point lead over the Lightning for second place in the Atlantic Division.
- The Lightning have registered at least a point in each of their last ten games (6-0-4).
- Similarly, Valtteri Filppula's individual point streak is up to ten games (four goals, 10 assists)
- When the Lightning return from Detroit, six of their remaining seven games will be at the Tampa Bay Times Forum (six consecutive home games and a final road game at Washington).
- The Lightning's streak of games with at least one power play goal was snapped at five.
- Eight of the last nine games have been decided by one goal, including the last four straight.
- As of now, the Ottawa Senators are the only team in the Atlantic division that have as many as 10 regular season games remaining
- The Lightning honored Sid Losh as the 35th Lightning Community Hero of the year during the first period of tonight's game. Losh, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to the Children's Cancer Center. As a person who always donates his time, energy and efforts, Losh never does it for the accolades or recognition in return. He silently volunteers his time meeting the needs of children who suffer from cancer at the Children's Cancer Center in Tampa. Losh is a cancer survivor himself and the kids he volunteers around are naturally drawn to him because they share a common struggle. He has dedicated his volunteering time to provide a safe, fun environment where the patients can be worry-free and relaxed. Losh is in his fifth year as a volunteer at the Children's Cancer Center, which is remarkable since most volunteers only stay for one year. He assists many programs at the center, including a survivorship group for children and their families, as well as an oncology active treatment group. Losh is a calming presence for families and patients going through difficult times.