Game 22: Florida Panthers at Tampa Bay Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Florida Panthers by a score of 5-1 in front of a crowd of 17,841 tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa.

The one key word that keeps coming up over and over again when people talk about what this year's Tampa Bay Lightning has been lacking is "consistency". After back-to-back games (plus the first period of the loss to Toronto, if you want to include that) in which the Lightning won by sticking to their gameplan of using their speed to dictate the tempo, create turnovers on defense and generate scoring chances on offense, they may be on their way to reaching one of the definitions of that word, which is "the achievement of a level of performance that does not vary greatly in quality over time".

"It's been about that since day one, first day of camp. It's about being ourselves. We're showing it now. It's just a question of team commitment. The leaders not only buying into it, but really leading the way in it...We're skating, we have a shooting mentality and we're tough to get through in the neutral zone. That's been us, it just hasn't been us consistently. So the last two games we've playe 60 minutes of that and it's paying off." - Lightning head coach Guy Boucher

The Lightning jumped out to the early lead, when Marty St. Louis found himself next to the net at 2:07 of the first with helpers from Brett Connolly and Brett Clark. The Bolts successfully killed off two penalties to hold the 1-0 lead into the first intermission. The Bolts dictated the pace of the game, displaying the speed and disciplined aggression they showed last night against Florida. They outhit the Panthers 15-3 in the first and wound up outhitting them 32-19 over the course of the game, which is not normally an aspect of the game associated with the Lightning's stye of play.

"We want to suffocate the opponent. A byproduct of that is the hitting sometimes. It's not necessarily what we set out to do. We're not hitting just to hit, we're establishing our process...We wanted to make sure our speed was on the ice, that our pack mentality was there and that our transitions were extremely fast and that's what we did." - Boucher

The second period was more of the same...much more. Tom Pyatt doubled the Lightning lead at 3:49, scoring his first goal as a Bolt with an assist from Marc-Andre Bergeron. At 6:02, the Lightning scored again when Steven Stamkos, standing at the side of the net deflected a shot from an off-balance Teddy Purcell with an assist by Dana Tyrell. Ryan Malone took it to 4-0 at 10:35 on an assist from Stamkos.

Considering the Lightning's propensity to have lapses within the 60-minutes of a game, holding a 4-0 lead going into the third may have been cause for concern but the Lightning didn't back off. Florida spoiled Mathieu Garon's shutout bid when Shawn Matthias scored on an assist from Jack Skille at 17:43. But by then, it was far too little, much too late. As if to illustrate that point, Stamkos scored again with just under a minute remaining to make the final score 5-1. Garon finished with 24 stops on 25 shots.

The Lightning head back out on the road again and will be in action against the Minnesota Wild on Monday.

Game notes:

  • The Lightning broke their streak of games in which they've given up the first goal. The last time the Lightning notched the opening score was in a 4-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on November 17. Overall they've given up the first goal in 14 of the 22 games they've played this season. It was also the first time they've scored first against the Panthers (five games) this season. In games in which they've scored first, the Lightning are 5-1-1.
  • Tonight was only the fourth time this season the Forum wasn't sold out.
  • Vincent Lecavalier milestone watch: 449 assists.
  • Martin St. Louis milestone watch: His goal in the first period was his 300th as a member of the Lightning. He now has 493 assists, 797 points in his career.
  • Stamkos likes the home cookin'. He's recorded points in nine of ten home games this season. He also has a three-game point streak going (three goals, two assists).
  • The Lightning are undefeated in games they lead after two periods.
  • The Tampa Bay Lightning recognized St. Petersburgpolice officer Doug Weaver as a Lightning Community Hero during the first period of tonight’s game against the Florida Panthers. Weaver, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will contribute the money to his charity of choice, Helping Hands 4 St. Pete’s Finest. Weaver was among officers on the scene on Monday, January 24, 2011, when St. Petersburg Police officers were involved in a gun battle with a fugitive who had barricaded himself inside the attic of a house. During the siege, in which Sergeant Thomas Baitinger and K-9 Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz were killed and a Deputy U.S. Marshal was seriously wounded, Weaver entered the house four different times in attempts to rescue the fallen officers. A 22-year veteran police officer, Weaver has earned many accolades from St. Petersburg citizens and fellow officers for actions above and beyond the call of duty. While working for several years as a community police officer, Weaver has made various presentations to middle school-aged children to help them develop a positive image of police officers and also serves as an instructor for the SWAT team. Outside of the law enforcement community, Weaver has actively volunteered with the Make-A-Wish Foundation among other local charities.