As the second month of the season draws to a close, the Lightning found themselves at something of a crossroads tonight, bringing a pair of conflicting streaks with them. In one corner were the Lightning coming off a disappointing road trip, where they lost four straight games while being outscored 17-6. In the other corner were the Lightning that had won five straight at home and, while no longer holding the best record in the Eastern Conference, were still in pretty good shape at 14-8-1 . Clearly, something had to give.
The major subplot of tonight's game involved the celebration of Lightning captain Marty St. Louis playing his 1,000th game in the NHL (last Tuesday in Los Angeles). If there's one thing we know about Marty after all these years is that it's apparent that he'd much rather play the game than stand around and talk about it. Once the speeches and gift presentations from Brad Richards, Dave Andreychuk, Steve Yzerman, former referee Don Koharski, Steven Stamkos and owner Jeff Vinik were finished, Marty celebrated his night in style.
"You have events like this and you never know how the game is going to go. For us to pull out the game the way we did and for him (Marty) to contribute the way he did, there's a little storybook in it. It was fun." - Lightning head coach Jon Cooper
"It was pretty emotional. Seeing my kids and my wife and then when they started the video, I couldn't watch. I kind of lost it." - Martin St. Louis
And you know it's been a dramatic night when a rookie scoring his first NHL goal on his first NHL shift and a 37-save shutout from your goaltender are almost afterthoughts.
The Bolts got on the board quickly with Nikita Kucherov, freshly called up from Syracuse, scoring his first NHL goal (on his first shot, taken during his first shift, by the way) at 2:12 on assists from Teddy Purcell and Eric Brewer.
At 3:10, St. Louis found the puck sitting unattended just inside the Rangers blue line. He skated in and doubled the lead to two. Valtteri Filppula were credited with assists on the play.
"I was excited and then I took a nice fall. That was fun, I didn't really care. I was so excited to score. I don't know what happened, I've been that excited before, but I think it was a little too hard this time. I'm just happy I didn't take Hedman out as well, but you know the emotions were pretty high." - St. Louis
The Lightning would hold that 2-0 lead through the first period.
At 3:12 of the second, St. Louis split two defenders on a short breakaway, received a pass from Filppula and scored his second goal of the night. Andrej Sustr picked up the secondary assist.
Teddy Purcell drove the lead to four at 16:52, coming down the right side on a contested three-on-two. Looking to pass but not liking his options, he flicked the puck at the net and registered his sixth goal of the season, unassisted.
The Lightning went into the second intermission leading 4-0 and the Rangers starting goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was finished for the night, having surrendered four goal on 22 shots over forty minutes.
On the other end of the rink, Lightning netminder Ben Bishop had stopped all 27 shots he'd faced to that point. He would remain perfect, stopping ten more in the final period en route to the shutout, his second of the season and fifth of his career.
Purcell would close out the scoring with just over a minute remaining in the game, scoring on assists from St. Louis and Alex Killorn.
The Lightning are 15-8-1 on the season and will carry the now six game home winning streak into their next game on Wednesday when they host the Philadelphia Flyers.
- Among the video tributes played on the scoreboard throughout the game to commemorate Marty's 1000th game were messages from Stanley Cup teammates Brad Richards, Freddy Modin, Vincent Lecavalier, Dan Boyle, head coach John Tortorella and general manager Jay Feaster, as well as other former teammates. Richards also participated in the pregame festivities, joining former captain Dave Andreychuk to present a framed graphic timeline of all 1000 games.
- With three points (2 goals, 1 assist), St. Louis breaks the tie with Steve Thomas for 92nd on the NHL's all-time scoring list. His 936 points now trails Jason Arnott by two for 91st place.
- Kucherov became the seventh player in Lightning history to record a goal in his NHL debut.
- Tampa Bay has outscored opponents 19-12 in the first period this season.
- In his last six periods, plus one overtime, Ben Bishop has stopped 78 of 79 shots.
- Bishop is now 4-0-0 with two shutouts in his career against the Rangers.
- The Lightning honored Elio Navarro as the 11th Lightning Community Hero of the year during the first period of tonight's game. Navarro, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to the Xable Foundation, Idlewild Baptist Church, the Jewish Community Center, Families of SMA and the First Baptist Church of Temple Terrace. Since 2004, Navarro has started two non-profit charities to support the growth of power soccer in the Tampa Bay area. He traveled the country to train hundreds of new athletes, mostly kids between the ages of five and 15 who suffer from forms of Muscular Dystrophy, Cerebral Palsy, amputees and spinal cord injuries. Navarro learned the sport of soccer while he taught it, but ended up taking teams from the Tampa region to national tournaments each year. In addition to coaching, Navarro has produced more than 250 online webcasts to further his outreach, expanding his visibility across the nation. He inspires hope to those who are disabled and want to participate in sports. He lives a full life with no boundaries and wants to show through example that kids can grow up living a full life. Navarro has also helped launch the USPSA, the governing body of Power Soccer in the country.