Effort, "compete level", whatever you want to call it, was an element absent in the Lightning's previous two games, a bizarre, undeserved shutout win against the Toronto Maple Leafs and an embarrassing blanking at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens. Thankfully it reappeared for tonight's game against a New Jersey Devils team that had been eliminated from postseason contention hours earlier when the Philadelphia Flyers beat the Ottawa Senators.
With captain Steven Stamkos a late scratch due to a blood clot near his collarbone that will sideline him for one to three months (a statement from the team is posted below in the Game Notes), it was even more important that the Lightning work hard for the entire game.
"We have to continue to progress, continue to work at our game and play with good habits, good structure. Those are things we need to do from here on out and however long the season is going to go. If we want it to go long, we have to be very attentive to detail and make sure everybody knows exactly how we're supposed to play and demand it from each other." - Brian Boyle
It looked like the Devils opened the scoring at 19:07 on a power play goal from Kyle Palmieri but it was waved opff immediately due to an interference call on Joseph Blandisi.
As it was, the opening period ended in a scoreless tie.
The Lightning would get on the board first at 9:03 of the second when Victor Hedman scored with help from Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov.
The Lightning's efforts to mount more of an attack were severely hampered by a series of penalties, four Holding calls to be exact.
There was an opportunity for New Jersey to seize momentum when they scored the always-dreaded late period goal, a power play tally at 19:32 by Adam Henrique, assisted by Tyler Kennedy and Damon Severson.
The teams entered the third period tied at one.
The Lightning had their share of power plays but struggled against the New Jersey penalty kill. However, they scored what would be the eventual game-winner with a man advantage at 11:32 when Brian Boyle converted his own rebound. He was assisted on the play by Nikita Nesterov and Kucherov.
"I think we did a lot of good things throughout the whole game. Obviously, we were in the penalty box too much in the second period, so we got our legs moving in the third and created a lot of opportunities, got a lot of power plays and created some momentum." - Hedman
Kucherov would add an empty netter with 33 seconds remaining to finish things off. Hedman and Cedric Paquette chipped in with helpers.
This concludes the Lightning's home schedule. Their remaining four games will be on the road with the first of them visiting the New York Islanders on Monday.
- Regarding the Stamkos situation, from an official press release by the Lightning: "LIGHTNING FORWARD STEVEN STAMKOS SCHEDULED TO UNDERGO VASCULAR SURGERY; EXPECTED RETURN IN 1-3 MONTHS
TAMPA BAY - Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos is scheduled to undergo surgery to treat a type of Vascular Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (called Effort Thrombosis) near his right collarbone, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today. The procedure is scheduled to be performed on Monday, April 4 by Dr. Karl Illig, Director of Vascular Surgery at Tampa General Hospital. Stamkos is expected to fully recover and he should be able to return to the ice in 1-3 months.
"Obviously this situation is extremely disappointing because I wanted to help my team clinch a playoff spot and prepare for the start of the postseason," Stamkos said. "During my recovery I will do all I can to help my teammates, and I hope to rejoin them soon in the Stanley Cup Playoffs."
Stamkos will not be available to media until a later date."
- This was the second of three matchups between the Lightning and Devils, with Tampa Bay having won both. They'll meet again on April 7 in New Jersey.
- The Lightning are 29-47-7 with seven ties all-time against New Jersey, with a record of 16-20-3 with five ties at home.
- The Lightning actually had a chance to not only clinch a playoff berth (with a Detroit loss to Toronto) but re-assume first place in the division (with Montreal beating the Florida Panthers). Unfortunately, neither of those things happened.
- With Stamkos out, the Lightning went with three alternate captains; Boyle, Palat and Ryan Callahan.
- Stamkos had not missed a game since March 6, 2014, the last of the 45 games he was out due to a broken leg.
- The Lightning went 1-for-7 on the power play while the Devils went 1-for-6.
- Kucherov's goal was his 30th of the season.
- J.T. Brown won all three faceoffs he took.
- This was the Lightning's 25th home victory. They've reached that threshold five times in the last six seasons.
- The Lightning honored Tod Leiweke as the 41st Lightning Community Hero of the 2015-16 season during the first period of tonight's game. Leiweke, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to Friedreich's Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA). When Tod Leiweke joined the Lightning in 2010, he and owner Jeff Vinik had a vision of creating a world class organization on and off the ice. Leiweke had a true knack to bring the best out of everyone around him and through his tireless dedication to the Tampa Bay community, made it a better place to live, work and play. During his five years in Tampa, Leiweke was very involved with local charities, co-chairing the FARA Energy Ball and Cattle Baron's Ball and acting as a co-chairman of the Steps Forward Project. Leiweke and Vinik brought the Community Hero initiative to life five years ago and it is only fitting that Leiweke is honored during the last regular season game of the five year program. The former Lightning CEO inspired the Lightning, as an organization, to focus on making the local community a better place and to make an impact on other people's lives. In addition to creating the Lightning Community Hero program, Leiweke was the inspiration for the C.H.A.R.G.E employee volunteer program, as well as dozens of other Lightning community initiatives. Leiweke's passion helped inspire and motivate Tampa Bay residents to strive to be heroes in making their own neighborhoods safer and better.
Leiweke becomes the 220th Lightning Community Hero since Jeff and Penny Vinik introduced the program in 2011-12 with a $10 million, five-season commitment to the Tampa Bay community. Through this evening's game, in total, the Lightning Foundation has granted $11.15 million to more than 300 different non-profits in the Greater Tampa Bay area.