In a season that has been marked by a search for consistency, one thing you've been able to count on fairly regularly is for the Lightning to play up or down to the level of whatever opponent they're facing. Good, solid efforts against league powerhouses have frequently been offset by dismal, sloppy outings against non-contenders. So coming off a three game stretch featuring wins over the defending world champions and two teams jostling for playoff spots in the Western Conference, how would the Bolts fare against the team with the worst record in the league in the last game before the extended All-Star break?
Not great maybe, but certainly not too bad.
"I don't think we'd like to have the break right now in terms of how we're rolling in games, but if you're going to get a break, you want to finish on a winning note." - Martin St. Louis
In a solid-if-not-spectacular win, the Lightning did what it had to do to fend off the Blue Jackets who came into tonight's game with an NHL-worst record of 13-29-6. The Lightning got on the board first when Mike Angelidis, making his NHL debut after being called up from Norfolk, made a steal at the blue line, skated in and put it past Columbus goaltender Curtis Sanford unassisted at 13:20 to get things started.
"Unbelievable. During the celebration, I thought I was going to faint. It's a dream come true." - Mike Angelidis
"The guys that are working in the American League are doing a good job and the guys themselves are figuring out what they need to do when they come up here. It's a must if we want our organization to win in the future. It's a really good sign, a major building block." - Lightning head coach Guy Boucher
The Blue Jackets countered less than two minutes later on a goal from Brett Lebda, his first of the season, on assists from Derick Brassard and R.J. Umberger.
The period ended with the teams tied at one.
The Lightning re-took the lead at 8:19 of the second on the power play. Vincent Lecavalier ever-so-slightly deflected a shot from Bruno Gervais that fluttered past Sanford's outstretched glove. Martin St. Louis had the secondary assist (photo by MTBoltFan).
At 16:56, St. Louis doubled the lead to two when he scored on an assist from Lecavalier.
The Lightning carried the 3-1 advantage into the second intermission.
At 5:40, Columbus pulled to within one when Ryan Johansen, with help from Umberger, beat Lightning goalie Mathieu Garon. On the night, Garon stopped 22 of 24 shots that came his way, while Sanford stopped 27 of the 31 he faced for Columbus.
Nate Thompson gave the Bolts some insurance at 11:29 when he somehow found the tiniest of five-holes with assists from Dominic Moore and Trevor Smith.
The Lightning head into the All-Star break with a record of 21-23-4, riding a season-long winning streak of four games, in 11th place in the Eastern Conference and currently nine points out of the playoff picture.
"During the last four games, we never talked about the standings. We never started talking about the anxiety of making or not making the playoffs. We stayed away from that and that's why we got those four games. We isolated every game and tried to make them the masterpiece of the day, period. And the rest, we'll keep on grinding. You know, going up a hill and you see how steep it is, it aint encouraging. It's rock by rock, it's two feet, three feet at a time. and eventually when you've done a lot of those three, five, six and ten feet, eventually you realize how high you are. And I think right now, we're just fighting to get our game to the level we think we can get." - Boucher
The Lightning's next game is next Tuesday, January 31st, against the Washington Capitals at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
- The Lightning have now scored the opening goal in four straight games (all wins). The Bolts are 15-8-2 when scoring first.
- The Blue Jackets are 3-21-2 when giving up the first goal.
- Angelidis became the fifth player in Lightning history to record his first NHL goal in his first NHL game. The others: Alexander Selivanov (January 20, 1995), Paul Mara (April 17, 1999), Jimmie Olvestad (October 5, 2001) and Ryan Craig (December 17, 2005).
- Lecavalier is on a season high point-scoring streak of six games (3 goals, 6 assists).
- St. Louis is on a three game multi-point streak (3 goals, 5 assists) and a six game streak for recording assits (8).
- The Lightning are 12-1-0 when leading after two periods.
- In all the hoopla over the goal scored by Angelidis, the fact that Evan Oberg, who has racked up over 12,000 miles flying between Norfolk and Tampa, finally made HIS on-ice NHL debut also. Here's the photographic evidence provided by MTBoltFan.
- The Lightning recognized Lewis Hill as a Lightning Community Hero during the first period of tonight’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Hill, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to his charity of choice, United Methodist Cooperative Ministries. After discovering that one in every five children go without a daily meal, Lewis was determined to make a difference in the community and began efforts to address the problem. He volunteered countless hours at local charities, and not before long, established Pack-A-Sack 4 Kids, which provides approximately 500-600 children in Pasco, Pinellas and Manatee Counties with healthy and nutritious food each school year. As part of the Pack-A-Sack 4 Kids program, Hill volunteers at least 25 hours each week meeting with school counselors and Bay Area leaders. He actively promotes the program to recruit new community partners to support participating schools and also works to identify, purchase and distribute low-cost food items to community advocates so that they can afford to pack sacks for more children in need.His own self-established community initiative is just one way Hill dedicates his time to serve. His other endeavors include holding a position on the Board of Directors for United Methodist Cooperative Ministries and managing the distribution of donated funding from his church to households in need of paying utility bills. He has also volunteered for the Pinellas County Coalition for the Homeless as a monitor for its Cold Night Shelters and annually organizes groups in downtown Clearwater to provide a Thanksgiving Dinner for less fortunate local residents.