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Lightning Round: The Bolts are closing the gap on the Bruins

Contract details, All Star details and Brad Marchand flubs a shootout.

Los Angeles Kings v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Scott Audette /NHLI via Getty Images

With the shootout win against Los Angeles, and Boston’s shutout loss to Columbus, the gap between first and second place in the Atlantic Division has been trimmed to six points. Tampa moved ahead of the Bruins in wins with 28, but still trail in regulation/overtime wins 27-26. Things are actually closer than that since the Lightning still have two games in hand.

On December 8th the Bruins had an eleven point lead over the second place Florida Panthers. The Lightning were meandering around in sixth place, a whopping fifteen points behind Boston. Since then the Bruins have put up a pedestrian 7-5-6 record in 18 games while the Lightning have rolled to a 14-4-1 record in 19 games.

The difference in the standings comes down to the Bettman Point. Boston has 12 of them while the Lightning only have 4. The fact that Boston has lost a full 25% of their games in a shootout (record 0-7) or overtime (record 3-5) is mind blowing. Monday’s shootout attempt by Brad Marchand pretty much sums up their success in the exhibition contest this year:

So what does this all mean? At this point, not much. It’s a long season and all teams, even really good ones, are going to go through slumps. The Lightning might catch and pass the Bruins, but that doesn’t mean that’s the way things are going to be at the end of the season.

Boston is most likely going to eventually figure out how to get scoring from more than one line and the Lightning aren’t going to keep beating everyone except for Louis Domingue. Toronto may figure out how to play defense again and join the race as well.

Anyone who wrote off the Lightning after their slow start is looking a little foolish right now. The same would go for anyone who starts gloating over the Bruins’ struggles. There is just too much hockey left to be played to figure out who is going to be on top of the standings at the end of the season. So just sit back and enjoy the ride.

The game against the Kings:

Steven Stamkos had a goal in regulation and in the shootout to propel the Lightning to a 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings. Things got off to a rough start as the Bolts fell behind 2-0 early in the first period. They battled back to tie it at two, and again at 3 late in the third. [Raw Charge]

The Organization

The Crunch figured out the offense thing this weekend. They’re still working on the defense, though. Some thoughts on their weekend. [Raw Charge]

They also officially sent Zach Fucale back to the Solar Bears. [Syracuse Crunch]

Forbes had an in-depth look at how the Lightning honor the military on a nightly basis. [Forbes]

The Game:

Who needs an agent? Nicklas Backstrom agreed to a five-year $46 million contract extension with the Washington Capitals. The deal will take him through his age 37 season where he will still be feeding the puck to Alex Ovechkin for one-timers. Chances are Backstrom just wants to stick around until Ove breaks Gretzky’s record. [The Washington Post]

Andrei Vasilevskiy replaced Tuukka Rask in the upcoming All Star Game. On Tuesday Rask left the Bruins game just over a minute in after taking an elbow to the head from Blue Jackets’ forward Emil Bemstrom. [NHL.com]

Sidney Crosby returned to action for the Penguins after missing 28 games. He’ll probably need a game or two to get back up to speed. Oh, he had a goal and three assists. Well then. Carry on. [Pensburgh]

The NHL is one step closer to making this Wayne Gretzky/Mats Sundin McDonald’s commercial a reality. ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski reported that the All Star Skills competition will feature players shooting at targets on the ice from the stands. Awesome. [ESPN]]

Birthdays:

If today is your birthday - awesome! Happy Birthday! Sadly, you do not share it with anyone who has suited up in a Lightning uniform. However, you do share it with Mike Murphy. Who’s that you say? Mike Murphy is a retired goaltender who appeared in two games with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2011-12. He retired with a perfect save percentage but an imperfect record.

That’s right, despite not allowing a goal in either appearance for the Canes, he managed to finish his NHL career with an 0-1 record. In fact, he’s the only goaltender in NHL history to record his first loss before allowing a goal. How does that happen?

Thank the NHL for the way they determine game-winning goals. Murphy was the back-up goalie for Carolina in a game against Calgary. It wasn’t going well. In the third period Murphy replaced Cam Ward with the Canes trailing 6-3.

Eric Staal scored to make the game 6-4 and Caroline coach Kirk Muller pulled Murphy for an extra skater. Jarome Iginla scored into the empty net to make it 7-4 and Murphy went back into the game. Carolina ended up scoring two garbage goals to make the final score 7-6. Since Murphy was the goalie of record when Iginla scored his “game winning” goal, he took the loss. You’re probably not going to see that again.