Antero Niittymaki made 45 starts for the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2009-10, the lone year he sported the black and blue for the club. There is a strong arguement to be made that his best game as a Bolt was on November 3rd, 2009 when he turned aside 40 of 41 shots in a 2-1 Overtime win against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
While Niitymaki and Ryan Malone (who scored the OT winner) were the stars at the time, that game has taken on significance for another player that appeared in the game. A just turned 22-year-old forward made his Leafs debut and led the team with 10 shots on the Lightning goaltender, but finished a -1 with two penalty minutes.
That forward’s name - Phil Kessel.
Last night Kessel played in his 990th consecutive regular season game, breaking the tie he he briefly shared with Keith Yandle and became the NHL’s new Iron Man. To make it an even better night, he scored his 400th goal:
THERE IT IS!— NHL (@NHL) October 26, 2022
Phil "The Thrill" Kessel scores career-goal no. 400 on the same night he set the NHL's Ironman record with 990 consecutive games played! Couldn't have written it any better.
: @espn ➡️ https://t.co/0fabdNvPG5 pic.twitter.com/tY7qKpYbh0
It all started back on that November night in 2009 in a game between two teams whose better days were ahead of them.
The Lightning would finish the season 12th in the Eastern Conference with a 34-36-12 record. It would be the final season of the OK Hockey Era (aka the Dark Times) and the losing record would result in the dismissal of both head coach Rick Tocchet and General Manager Brian Lawton.
The Leafs were even worse, finishing dead last in the Eastern Conference with a 30-38-14 record. They didn’t even reap the benefits of such a dismal finish as the first round pick (second overall) went to the Boston Bruins in the deal for Kessel. Imagine the Taylor vs. Tyler debate if the Leafs had been involved?
As for the game itself, Kessel was making his debut for the Leafs as he returned from rehabbing a torn rotator cuff. The Leafs desperately needed his offense as they entered the game with just one win. He provided some excitement, but only a moral victory.
For the Lightning, they were a little better off, but kind of scuffling along. The pressure was on Vincent Lecavalier who entered the game with just one goal. Vinny responded with a goal in the second period that held up until five minutes into the third when Ian White scored on a power play (one of eight they had on the night). Malone won it in overtime when he banged in a rebound (while knocking goaltender Jonas Gustavsson into the net). The win moved the Bolts over .500 for the season at 5-4-4.
Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman both appeared in the game with Stamkos firing two shots on net in 21:22 of ice time while Hedman played 25:46.
Kessel managed his 10 shots in 23;50 of ice time as he began his streak that has lasted for almost 13 years. A streak that was almost over before it began thanks to a big hit from Mattias Ohlund:
Lightning / NHL News
Lightning lose to Kings, 4-2 [Raw Charge]
The first half of the game was pretty good. The second half, not so much. They don’t have long to dwell on it as they’re back on the ice today.
The latest Block Party has Anthony Cirelli!
Missing Tony on the ice?— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) October 24, 2022
Coby and @SethKush caught up with him on this week's episode of the Block Party.
Phil Kessel and the Iron Man Streak [The Athletic]
The Athletic chats with Blake Kessel, brother of Phil and Amanda, about Phil’s streak and his passion for hockey.
Canadiens’ Price casts light on players’ stress and life in spotlight [Montreal Gazette]
Carey Price’s battles with alcohol were private until this year. Now he’s speaking about it and the pressure that professional athletes face with their lives under the microscope.
I mean, Toronto has to fire Sheldon Keefe at some point, right?
I don’t know, an 0-5-2 start is pretty bad. I guess they could be 0-7 and that would be worse, but there is a lot of firepower in the Pacific Division that they would have to overcome if they want to make it to the playoffs.
An old friend is on the injured shelf for a little while.