The Lightning have undergone a lot of changes since this truncated season began, some by design, most out of necessity. The current formula of getting offensive production from rookies and so-called "secondary" players, mixed with improved defense and goaltending is yielding the best results (and generating the most hope among fans) since the first two weeks of the season.
"To have three guys that are fast and can grind it out and play different styles, it brings an edge to our team" - Lightning forward Dana Tyrell
Tyrell was talking specifically about he and his linemates Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson, but it could apply equally to most combinations of skaters taking the ice right now for the Bolts.
Tonight's game started out with a frantic, physical pace that never lessened. The Lightning broke out on top first when Palat scored at 6:38 thanks to assists from Tyrell and Sami Salo.
The Flyers struck back at 13:55, on a goal by Maxime Talbot from Andrej Mszaros
The Bolts regained the lead at 17:03 when Tom Pyatt scored on assists by Johnson and Hedman, allowing Tampa Bay to carry a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
Philadelphia tied the game again at 15:21 of the second when Claude Giroux cashed in on a turnover in front of starting goaltender Anders Lindback. Lindback stopped 28 of the 30 shots that came his way on the night and has not given up more than two goals in any of his last five starts.
"It's all about getting back to fundamentals and staying calm and not trying to do too much. (Goaltending coach) Frantz (Jean) has been working with them really well." - Lightning head coach Guy Boucher
The Lightning would score what would be the eventual game winner at 9:25 of the third on a deflection by Teddy Purcell, with Keith Aulie and Steven Stamkos getting the assists.
The Lightning swarmed the Flyers in their own zone for the final four minutes, making it almost impossible for them to mount any kind of offensive push to tie the game late and earning multiple ovations from an appreciative home crowd. That hard work resulted in a very special empty net goal, when Stamkos registered the 200th of his NHL career. Alex Killorn and Martin St. Louis provided helpers.
Not all the night's news was good, however. Hedman left the game in the second period and forward Ryan Malone followed late in the third. Both suffered what the club is referring to as "upper body injuries" and will be further evaluated tomorrow.
The Lightning will now head out for a Canadian road trip and will be in action again on Wednesday when they take on the Maple Leafs in Toronto.
- Stat of the night? The Lightning concluded this year's festivities with the Flyers by successfully killing off four penalties, making them 12 for 12 against Philadelphia on the season.
- St. Louis now has 890 points, and trails Peter Bondra by two for 100th place on the all-time NHL list.
- The Lightning have played 100 games since October 29, 2011 (that's 1.22 full NHL seasons, for those who remember such a thing as full NHL seasons). That was the last time they shut out an opponent, with Dwayne Roloson turning aside 28 shots and Vincent Lecavalier scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win over Winnipeg at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
- Philadelphia is 0-11-0 in games when they trail after two periods.
- Stamkos becomes the fourth youngest player in NHL history to reach the 200 goal milestone.
- The Lightning honored Andria Rogers as the 31st Lightning Community Hero of the year during the first period of tonight's game. Rogers, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to the Train Up Program (trainupfirst.com), the Ryan Nece Foundation (ryannecefoundation.com) and Starting Right Now (startingrightnow.com). Rogers, a mother of four and a worker at Plant High School, works with teenagers from at-risk homes to gain a better education. In 2009 she was asked to help gifted athletes increase their GPA's so they could accept Division I NCAA athletic scholarships. Rogers, realizing that the core issue was a lack of organization, time management and motivation, she created the Train Up Program. Her focus has been to help at-risk youth student-athletes in the Tampa Bay community. Under Rogers' tutelage, she has helped more than 350 students and significantly bettered their grades and test scores, fully preparing them for college life. Knowing that athletes can amaze everyone with their abilities on the playing field, Rogers is combining knowledge with that skill set to help youth shine in the classroom. She is slowly making everyone she helps role models in our community.