Game 32: Tampa Bay Lightning at Columbus Blue Jackets
The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 - in regulation, no less.
For the first time in a long time, the Lightning led a team for the entire game. That's right. It wasn't a come-from-behind victory, it didn't go into overtime or a shootout, and the other team didn't even tie it up at any point during the game. The Lightning jumped to a 2-0 lead and then kept a lead.
Crazy, I know.
It's difficult to say whether they've turned that corner or not, but it's looking promising. And, if they have, all of us may end up thanking Dominic Moore for it. Because Martin St. Louis's freak injury may end up being the catalyst that turns this season around.
While fans might disagree upon when the Lightning hit rock bottom, I think the players themselves would consider St. Louis's injury to be just that: rock bottom. It happened at the worst possible time, in the worst possible way, and with the stupidest luck imaginable. It just typified the entire season thus far in one, brief snapshot.
And, naturally, once you've hit rock bottom, the only way left to go is up.
So they've closed ranks and pulled themselves together. They've played a lot more like a team than they have for much of the season since that happened. That doesn't mean they'll win every single game from here on out, or that they'll play wonderfully all the time. Frankly, it's statistically impossible and unrealistic to expect such things. It just means that they'll get better results than they have been.
Take this particular game, for instance. It wasn't pretty. There were some questionable penalties, the Lightning's power play wasn't great, they were outshot and out-hit most of the game, and they got into penalty trouble. But, they won.
And let's not forget the injury situation. Players are dropping like flies. Matt Gilroy didn't play, and Nate Thompson left the game due to an injury. There's rumors that Mattias Ohlund may be done for the season. The only good news is that St. Louis has been cleared to do off-ice workouts now.
There's still a lot of work to do, but they're at least headed in the right direction. They've improved a lot on faceoffs recently, tonight winning 55% of them. The shark for the night was a tossup between Dominic Moore (winning 7 of 9; 78%) and Adam Hall (winning 9 of 12; 75%).
The other bright spots were four players with four shots on goal each - Eric Brewer, Ryan Malone, and Steven Stamkos. Malone also led the team with five hits. The goal scorers were Blair Jones, Brewer, and Stamkos. So plenty of guys were involved in the play.
The oddity of the night, and whether this is a statistician error or not I can't say, is that the Lightning had no shots blocked. Which doesn't make any sense as most teams don't get all of their shots either on the goalie or miss the net entirely. But, that's what the official NHL stats sheet has down.
The Lightning's next game will be on Wednesday, 21 December. They will be playing at the San Jose Sharks, so game time will be 10:30 pm Eastern. For those willing to stay awake, the Raw Charge game thread will be open at 10 pm Eastern.
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