Tonight's match-up, aside from featuring some of the game's best rookies as well as past draft choices that have worked out nicely, pitted two of last season's worst teams (Tampa Bay 28th, Colorado 29th) that have turned themselves into probable playoff participants in less than a year. It was pretty much guaranteed to be entertaining
Imagine the disappointment when both teams came out somewhat tentatively and neither was able to score in the first period.
There would be no such disappointment in the second period. At 7:15, the Lightning broke the seal on a goal from Tyler Johnson on assists from Victor Hedman and Ondrej Palat.
Mark Barberio got his third goal of the season at 8:48 when his shot deflected off the leg of Colorado defender Patrick Bordeleau and eventually crawled across the goal line. Valtteri Filppula and Alex Killorn were credited with assists.
Filppula extended the lead to 3-0 at 18:04, playing his own rebound off his own leg for his 19th of the season. J.T. Brown and Nikita Kucherov chipped in with assists.
Then things got really interesting really fast.
Just 19 seconds later at 18:33, John Mitchell got the Avalanche on the board with assists from Gabriel Landeskog and Tyson Barrie.
And a mere 31 seconds after that, Colorado scored again, this time thanks to Barrie From Nathan MacKinnon and P.A. Parenteau at 19:04.
With all the comfort that comes from a three-goal lead late in the second period erased in a minute and a half, the Lightning carried a 3-2 lead into the second intermission.
The Avalanche made a change in goal to start the third, replacing Sami Aittokallio with Semyon Varlamov, who played in last night's 3-2 Avalanche win at Florida. Aittokallio, seeing action only his second glimpse of NHL action, has yet to complete a game at this level. He was pulled in the third period from his previous appearance (April 11, 2013 versus Los Angeles), after suffering leg cramps. Aittokallio stopped 15 of the 18 shots he faced while Varlamov went on to stop nine of 11. For the Lightning, Ben Bishop was at times (necessarily) spectacular in turning away 25 of 27 shots against him.
At 14:38 of the third, the puck was sitting loose to the left of the Colorado net, Johnson flew in from the right circle, scooped it up and potted his second goal of the game to give the Bolts some much-appreciated breathing room. Martin St. Louis and Hedman offered assistance.
Just over two minutes later at 16:55, Johnson put the lid on things by separating Lightning fans from theirs, scoring on assists from Hedman and Sami Salo to clinch his first hat trick and wrap up the win.
"It's better to get the win. I'm glad that's over with and now I have one of those, so it's good. It's one of those things that you have to get lucky with. Tonight was a good night for me and I couldn't have done it without my line mates. I just happened to be in the right spot." - Johnson
The Lightning will now head out on the road for four games over the next ten days, beginning with a visit to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday. They'll return to the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Thursday, February 6 when they'll host Toronto.
- Johnson became the second Lightning rookie in team history to record a hat trick in his rookie season. Steven Stamkos is the other.
- Johnson's points-scored streak extends to five games.
- Also, Marty St. Louis's current streak is now at ten.
- Tonight's win snapped a streak of seven games that had all been decided by a single goal, during which the Lightning went 4-2-1.
- Ondrej Palat is heating up again. He now has five points (two goals, three assists) in his last three games,
- For the second game in a row, Victor Hedman posted three assists.
- Radko Gudas recorded a game-high nine hits and ranks third in the NHL with 179 this season.
- Patrick Roy, visiting as the head coach for the Avalanche for the first time tonight, probably doesn't like coming here very much. He's never won a game in Tampa Bay going 0-7-1 during his playing career and now 0-1 as a coach.
- The Lightning honored Amy Shimberg as the 25th Lightning Community Hero of the year during the first period of tonight's game. Shimberg, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to Meals on Wheels. Shimberg has been committed to making Tampa Bay a better place to live for more than 40 years, volunteering thousands of hours to those in need. She is always looking for ways to help those in need. Shimberg has always led a life of putting others before herself. She asks her own family members and friends to donate Girl Scout cookies to Meals on Wheels recipients rather than enjoy the cookies themselves. She began serving Meals on Wheels to the homebound in the late 1970s and has continued to this day, serving every Wednesday, for a total of more than 16,000 meals. Shimberg has also served on the Meals on Wheels board for 25 years, twice as president. Her dedication to the company is unmatched and one of the main reasons Meals on Wheels is the success it is in Tampa Bay.