The Lightning have had 44 goaltenders appear in a game during their franchise. Prior to Thursday night, 12 of those gentlemen had returned to the face the Lightning at the Ice Palace/St. Pete Times Forum/Tampa Bay Times Forum/Amalie Arena. On Thursday Ben Bishop became the thirteenth ex-Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender to be welcomed back. The all-time leader in every known category (except penalty minutes. Mike Smith and his 45 PIMS may be around for awhile). Things did not go well for the big man as he lost 6-1, allowing six goals on 28 shots.
It is, without a doubt, the worst performance a returning goaltender has had on Channelside Drive. How did the others go? Let’s take a look.
12. Rick Tabaracci - 11/22/97
Following a summer trade to Calgary, Tabaracci returned to the Ice Palace as the goaltender for the Calgary Flames. He did not fare well against the Lightning, a team desperate for wins. Alex Selivanov, Karl Dykhuis and Rob Zamuner (2 goals) propelled Tampa to only its 4th win in 22 games to start the season. Tabaracci stopped only 17 of the 21 shots he faced that night in the 4-3 loss.
11. Mark Fitzpatrick 11-6-1998
Fitzpatrick appeared in 34 games for the Lightning in 1997-98, compiling a nifty 7-24-1 record. He was mercifully traded to Chicago for Michal Sykora. He returned to the Ice Palace in November and actually played fairly well stopping 22 of 24 shots, but he gets many, many negative points for allowing Kjell Samuelsson’s only goal in a Lightning uniform. A young Vincent Lecavalier scored the other goal in the 2-2 tie.
10. Dustin Tokarski 10-13-14
In 2013, beloved Norfolk Admiral/Syracuse Crunch goaltender Dustin Tokarski was traded to Montreal for Cedrick Desjardins. Tokarski ended up backing up Carey Price in Montreal for part of the next season and in the second game of the season he was called into duty after Price was lit up by Steven Stamkos’ hat trick. Tic-Tok played the last 20 minutes of the 7-1 loss, stopped 15 of 18 shots (the Lightning had 41 for the game) and gave up goals to Ryan Callahan, Ondrej Palat and Vlad Namestnikov. It was Namestnikov’s first career goal.
9. Kevin Weekes 10-12-02
Weekes role as franchise goaltender lasted a season and a half before he was dealt to Carolina for Shane Willis and Chris Dingman at the 2002 trade deadline. After winning his season debut against the Thrashers he was resting comfortably on the bench while Arturs Irbe got the start against the Lightning. His rest lasted one period as Irbe gave up three goals in the first. Weekes finished out the game stopping 14 of 16 shots in the 5-1 loss. Jassen Cullimore and Ruslan Fedotenko scored for the Lightning.
8. John Grahame 10-26-06
Just over four years later history would repeat itself. The Lightning let John Grahame walk after the 2005-06 and he signed with the Hurricanes. On the 26th of October he had a great view of Marty St. Louis’ hat trick against Cam Ward in the first two periods. Grahame entered the game in the third period and closed out the 5-1 loss stopping 5 of the six shots he saw. Only Vincent Lecavalier was able to sneak one past him.
7. Nikolai Khabibulin 3-22-12
Thanks to a couple of work stoppages and the NHL’s former scheduling policy, Lightning fans had to wait almost 8 years to welcome back the only goaltender to win a Stanley Cup in their franchise history. Despite being at the tail-end of his career, the 39-year-old netminder turned back the clock to his heyday and stopped 19 of 21 shots in a 3-2 shootout loss. Tom Pyatt scored twice as Dwayne Roloson beat his old team, the Edmonton Oilers.
6. Mike Smith - 3/10/14
Another candidate for franchise goaltender that the Lightning let walk away in free agency in the summer of 2011. It would be a few seasons before he returned to the Tampa Bay Times Forum as a member of the Phoenix Coyotes. He earned two points for the upstart Coyotes (37 wins) in the 4-3 shootout win, stopping 28 shots against the Lightning. The Triplets were in fine form as Tyler Johnson scored a goal and Ondrej Palat added a pair.
5. Anders Lindback - 3/3-15
The original Big Tall Goalie was displaced by Ben Bishop and wound up in Buffalo after a stint in Dallas and Finland. He faced a barrage of shots (35) from the Lightning and to stop 32 of them, but his offense let him down as the Sabres were shut out by Andrei Vasilevskiy (his first career shutout). Steven Stamkos, Ryan Callahan and Victor Hedman scored for the Lightning.
4. Bill Ranford - 1/28/2000
Bill Ranford won a Conn Smythe trophy during his first stint with the Oilers. By the time he reached the Lightning in 1998 he was a shadow of his former self. He posted an .881 save percentage in 32 games before being dealt to the Red Wings. He then ended up Edmonton for one final season. At the end of January he stopped 30 of 33 shots and picked up the 239th and next to last win of his career. Pavel Kubina, Mike Sillinger and Chris Gratton scored the goals for the Lightning.
3. Sean Burke 2-6-07
Sean Burke played for a lot of teams during his 18 year career. He did a decent job of backing up John Grahame in 2005-06, winning 14 games. The next year, at age 40, he finished up his career in Los Angeles (along with two other goaltenders that wore Lightning uniforms - Mathieu Garon and Dan Cloutier). Against the Lightning he stopped 27 or 29 shots in a 3-2 shoot out loss. Lecavalier and Blair Jones scored for the Lightning. Yes Blair Jones actually scored a goal for the Lightning.
2. Dan Ellis - 4-21-13
Another former Lightning goaltender who ended up in Carolina, Ellis played for four teams after leaving the Lightning. For the Hurricanes he had an outstanding start in his return to Tampa, stopping 35 of 37 shots and picking up a 3-2 win. He did give up goals to Steven Stamkos (who was a scoring machine in the lockout shortened year) and Marty St. Louis.
1. Karri Ramo 4-3-2014
Karri Ramo made his Lightning debut at the age of 20.Over parts of the next two seasons he played well enough to give Lightning fans just enough hope that he might be their answer in net. Or, at the very least be a competent backup to Mike Smith. Management had other ideas and dealt him to Montreal for Cedrick Desjardins. Yes, two players on this list were traded for Desjardins at different times. Things didn’t really work out too well in Montreal and he ended up playing a couple of seasons in the KHL. Calgary brought him back and in 2014 he managed to exact a little bit of revenge by stopping 31 of 32 shots in a 4-1 Calgary win.