Tampa Bay Lightning Game 5: versus the Florida Panthers

The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Florida Panthers 3-2.

So. About that Niittymaki guy. He’s a pretty good goaltender, huh?

Actually, I expected nothing less when he signed. Before I moved to the Tampa area, I was following Philadelphia – which is where Antero Niittymaki was playing before. So I had plenty of time to watch him play. I think that he can be a starting goaltender somewhere, and I have for a long time. Mike Smith is a very good goaltender as well, so I think they’ll be splitting time more than one goalie playing significantly more games than the other. And while the goalies themselves may or may not agree, I think that’s a good thing. I don't see it as a goalie controversy so much as the Lightning finally having some good goaltending.

The team started out slowly in the first period. They seemed listless to me. There wasn’t a lot of jump or a lot of focus. But they managed to get thru that period being tied 1-1.

The last two periods were much, much better. Steven Stamkos’s end-to-end goal attempt was very fun to watch. And Ryan Malone kept up his goal scoring streak. Who knew that he’d have five goals in five games at this point in the season?

Vincent Lecavalier and Alex Tanguay are still goalless on the season. I’m beginning to think that it’s more a case that they don’t have chemistry with each other as opposed to the lack of a suitable right winger. But the problem with that is, do you switch Malone and Tanguay? Malone is definitely making his mark on the line with Stamkos and Martin St. Louis. So do you break up one good line and hope you’ll get two out of the deal?

In the end, this was really more a matter of Niittymaki stealing this game than the Lightning winning it. While the overall team put in a good effort for the last two periods, Niittymaki was fantastic in net. And you’ll probably be happy to know that I’ve seen him play a lot better than that, when the occasion demands it. So welcome to Tampa, Niitty. We hope you like it here.

(The gangsters on Niittymaki’s helmet, by the way, are in homage to Frank Nitti. He was an infamous gangster in the 1930s – comparable to Al Capone. So with that in mind, Niittymaki’s nickname is "Frank".)