On Thursday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning surprised their fans and the New York Rangers by scoring three goals in just 61 seconds. For a team that has been struggling a bit on offense to start the season, it was a bit of a surprise. As was the final score of 9-3. Three goals in just over a minute is pretty impressive, but it’s not a team record. In fact, it’s not even the second fastest they’ve scored three goals.
The record for the fastest three goals in Lightning history belongs to the 2007-08 squad that accomplished the feat in just 42 seconds. Vincent Lecavalier kicked off the scoring with his third goal of the game at the 17:43 mark of the third period. Michel Oullet followed with his 14th at 18:15. Jason Ward wrapped up the trifecta of goals ten seconds later with his 8th. All three goals came against Rick DiPietro and were at even strength. They turned a relatively close game into an 8-4 win for the Lightning.
That was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal year, but it’s not the game we’re going to focus on. Instead we’re going to go with the game that featured the second fastest three-goal outburst in Lightning history. That took place on April 11th, 1994 against the Hartford Whalers.
It was the second season for the Lightning and things were going about as well as expected for a second year expansion club. That is to say, not well at all. Despite having won four of their previous five games heading into the contest with the Whalers they were mired in last place in the Atlantic Division. Of course, compared to the Ottawa Senators, who would finish with a 14-61-9 record that season, things looked down right peachy.
Offense was the primary problem as they would only finish the season with 224 goals scored, second worst in the entire NHL (you guessed it, Ottawa was the worst with just 201). The offense was led by a couple of 29-year-olds in Petr Klima (28 goals) and Brian Bradley (24 goals). Lightning legend Daren Puppa occupied the net for almost the entire season as he appeared in 63 games. Against Hartford, he would get a rare night off as Wendell Young was in net for the game.
On the other side of the ice, the Whalers weren’t in much better shape. They entered trailing the Lightning by 10 points and 4 wins and ahead of only the woeful Senators in the Northeast Division. Their head coach, Pierre McGuire (yes that Pierre) would be fired at the end of the year with the captain and scoring leader, Pat Verbeek, didn’t exactly cry too many tears at his departure.
“There are times you can hate a coach, but you always have to respect him. That wasn’t the case with practically our whole team. I think we can be a great team, but not if Pierre was here.”
If you want to know how the NHL has changed since the mid-nineties, consider that a few weeks before the Lightning/Whalers match-up six Hartford players, including Verbeek and Chris Pronger, and one of their assistant coaches spent a night in a Buffalo jail following a bar room brawl. Not only is there no video of the incident, none of the players were suspended by the NHL. Following an investigation, the players were fined just $500 by the league. The court sentenced the players to 20 hours of community service each.
As for the game. The Lightning were finishing off a four game road trip that opened with a loss to Pittsburgh, but followed up with wins against two playoff-bound teams in Montreal and Boston. Tampa Bay was hoping to finish off the road trip with a win in their final game away from the Thunderdome. Young had picked up the wins and was riding a three-game winning streak. It looked like it would be four in a row as the Lightning came out hot.
John Tucker started the scoring at the 3:11 mark of the first period. Veteran Denis Savard followed it up with his 17th tally of the season at 3:30. He then capped the run with another goal at 3:58. That was enough to chase future Lightning goaltender Sean Burke who was replaced by future Lightning goaltender Jeff Reese.
Heading into the game the Whalers were 0-45-3 in games that they had trailed by two goals. Unfortunately for the Lightning, there was a lot of hockey left to be played and Reese would turn in one of his best career performances. Unlike the Lightning against the Rangers in 2019, the Lightning in 1994 would relax a little and let the Whalers back into the game.
In fact, the Lightning wouldn’t even make it out of the first period with the lead. First it was Robert Kron scoring about 30 seconds after Savard’s second goal of the night. Jocelyn Lemieux found the back of the just over a minute later. The Whalers tied it at the 9:24 mark with a power play goal from Geoff Sanderson. Two of the league’s worst offenses had combined for six goals in just a half of a period.
Shawn Chambers wrapped it up pretty well (while throwing a lot of shade for a team that was in last place in their division) as he told the press after the game^.
”We can’t play great every game but we shouldn’t have lost to these guys,” Chambers said. “We came out flying and looked like we were going to blow them out of the park in the first 10 minutes, but we let down defensively and let them get back in it.”
Not only was it entertaining on the scoreboard, the penalty boxes had their typical mid-nineties work out as the two teams combined for sixty-four penalty minutes including five slashing penalties, eight roughing penalties, a spearing penalty, and two 10-minute misconducts.
The Whalers scored twice in the second to take the lead and while Tucker would add a power play goal late in the second to cut that lead to 5-4, the Lightning wouldn’t be able to pull off the comeback. Verbeek, who most likely would have been serving a suspension if the bar room ruckus had happened in 2019, added an insurance goal (with Savard in the box for spearing) and despite unloading 39 shots on Reese, Tampa Bay could only get the one goal past him. It was a pretty good showing for a goaltender who had gone 0-9-3 in his 12 previous appearances.
Young would not suit up for the Lightning as he was traded to Pittsburgh shortly after the lockout ended. Savard would follow Young out the door in April of the same year as he was traded to Chicago for a sixth round pick. Tucker hung out for a few more seasons but didn’t enjoy the success he had in his first two seasons with the team.
Hartford fired McGuire a few days after the season ended, but it didn’t change their future. After two more seasons without making the playoffs they would relocate to Carolina.
^ “Lightning sizzles but then fizzles” Clark, Cammy . St. Petersburg Times ; St. Petersburg, Fla. [St. Petersburg, Fla]11 Apr 1994