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Tampa Bay Lightning Game 16: versus the Minnesota Wild

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The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Minnesota Wild 4-3 in a shootout. Yes, I said shootout. It was the first shootout win of the season.

As the saying goes, it’s better to be lucky than good. In this case, the Lightning were lucky that they were lucky, because they weren’t very good. It was a pretty dismal little game for them, for the most part.

They were again outshot (34-22), out hustled, and just simply out played. No one was really on in the game, except for Antero Niittymaki – yet again. Without the solid goal tending that they had, they wouldn’t have even had a chance at comeback.

The three goal scorers on the night were Steve Downie, Ryan Malone, and Steven Stamkos. The two goal scorers in the shootout were Vincent Lecavalier and Stamkos. So Malone tied it up, and Lecavalier set up Stamkos to win the game.

Now, before you go assuming that Stamkos the Wunderkid won this game single-handedly, he didn’t. He had three turnovers on the night, and didn’t do very well in the faceoff circle having won only 38% of his faceoffs (5-8). He was the worst on the team in both categories, in fact. He also only had one shot on goal. Though his shootout goal was very pretty.

Lecavalier was one of the better players on the ice, despite having one only shot on goal himself. He won 57% of his faceoffs (13-10), recorded two hits, and was even on the night (+/-). His shootout goal was beautiful in terms of direct simplicity – no faking the goalie or making any fancy moves, just going straight in and shooting. That's how he plays best: simply and directly. And, he was put out on the ice as a defenseman in overtime, playing on a tandem with Mattias Ohlund. This wasn’t for a power play, either, but at full strength.

Sometimes teams will play three forwards and one defenseman during the 4-on-4 overtime period, and if that’s the case they’ll set up on the ice in a diamond shape – defenseman at the blueline, two forwards along the boards, and one more forward in front of the net. In this case with Lecavalier, they didn’t do that. They set up in the traditional box with two defensemen on the blue line and two forwards down low. So he really was playing as a defenseman, and not just as another forward on the ice.

As for the defense, I’m not sure what the story is with that. They’re not playing very well as a group. It’s as if all of the coaching focus has been on scoring while there’s been none on defending. The defensemen are bunch up on the ice, not standing guys up at the blue line, trying to jump into offensive plays and pulling themselves out of position to cover the resulting breakaways for the other team. The only highlight for them as a group was that they were managing to clear the puck out of their zone, which was a big improvement.

As I’ve said, sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good. In even tho this come-from-behind win was pretty ugly, sometimes it’s the ugly wins that give you more confidence than the blowouts. Knowing that you had to muck those two points out of your own mistakes helps more in the long run than breezing thru a game without any serious worries. And the fact that they did it together as a team – both the good and the bad…well, making the good parts happen together despite the bad, that’s very encouraging.

The next game is Saturday, 15 November, in Tampa against the visiting Los Angeles Kings at 7:30 pm ET.