Game 29: Tampa Bay Lightning at Philadelphia Flyers
While the Tampa Bay Lightning had ended a five-game losing streak on Thursday night In New York, they continued the general trend of losing on Saturday night, falling 5-2 to the Philadelphia Flyers. This was the Bolts 11th loss in its past 14 games. 14 games are the span of time it has been since these two squads last met up.
It was a rematch between the teams that had caused a stir on November 9th after an outright bizarre showing in Tampa. The Flyers had attempted to disrupt the Bolts 1-3-1 defensive scheme by stalling.
With the Lightning minus Marty St. Louis and minus Brett Connolly, and the Flyers minus the stall-tactics that Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette had his players use last time around, the Flyers were able to ... Well, score. The "boring" Lightning didn't quite stop a hockey game from happening, nor 7 total goals being scored by both teams.
This was game two without Martin St. Louis. Before the game, Head Coach Guy Boucher had indicated it may be two to three weeks before the right-wing returns to the Lightning lineup. As also mentioned above, Brett Connolly is out right now. Not injured, but playing for his country in the 2011 World Junior Championships in Calgary/Edmonton Alberta.
With Marty out of the lineup, defenseman Eric Brewer filled the Assistant Captain role and wore an "A" on his jersey.
The first period saw constant, two-way action by the Bolts and Flyers. The Bolts ended up with three power-play opportunities in the opening period, but couldn't make things work. What else is new? The Bolts have a horrid road power play, near the bottom of the league at 11.1%. Often times the team could not set up in the Flyers zone, and they seemed on edge and tentative when they did. All too often the Flyers penalty kill unit didn't just disrupt the power play but had a scoring chance of their own.
But not everything was bad in the first. Ryan Shannon opened scoring with his second goal of the season. Ryan Malone swept through the crease to distract Ilya Bryzgalov, while Dominic Moore fed Shannon with a pass that Shannon smashed past Bryz to open scoring.
There were a few other scoring opportunities in the first, and the Lightning outshot the Flyers 8-6. There seemed every reason to believe that this was going to be a great game.
...Up until the rest of the game happened.
Over the final two periods of play, the Flyers outshot the Lightning 26-11. There was a span of more than 13:16 in the third period where the Lightning registered a single shot on goal (a power play goal. pf all things, by Vincent Lecavalier).
Danny Briere and Jaromir Jagr scored 34 seconds apart in the 2nd period to turn the tide back for the Flyers and start their dominance. Wayne Simmons added a power play goal later in the period -- or should I credit Brett Clark, who it ricocheted off of? Whatever the case, it put the Lightning down 3-1. The goal was scored during the 2nd of three Lightning penalty kills in the period.
The one thing you cannot put down in this loss was Mathieu Garon's efforts in net. With a barrage of shots thrown his way, "Gumby" repeatedly made some spectacular saves, including a highlight-reel-worthy stop on Flyers rookie Sean Couturier:
There was a scary moment when the Lightning lost defenseman Victor Hedman, who got tied up with Jagr on a play and seemed to hurt his leg. Hedman returned in the 3rd period.
Vinny's goal on the power play during the 3rd, a booming shot from the right face-off circle that ended up breaking the camera at the back of the Flyers net), made the game 3-2... But while the closeness in the score was there -- it was a mirage. The Flyers were in control.
And just like that, with thanks to a Steve Downie boarding penalty, the Flyers shut the door. Matt Carle scored on the power play and that, as they say, was that.
If there's one positive that fans can take from this game, it proved without a doubt that the tactics employed by the Flyers last time were not only unnecessary, but had mocked the sport and caused a distraction league-wide.
The Bolts now head home for a two-game homestand against the New Jersey Devils and Calgary Flames. They'll start a holiday, western road trip leading into the holidays