What better way to end a NHL record-tying 12-game home stand than by beating the league’s hottest team? Well, that’s exactly what the Lightning accomplished when they beat the New Jersey Devils 2-1 on Friday night. Not only did they win — but they beat the Devils at their own game — they held New Jersey to only 20 shots on goal while showing they could win a tight checking game against a defensive-minded team.
Friday night’s win helped the Bolts finish their home stretch with a 7-3-2 record and a five-point lead in the Southeast Division. In the last two games though, they made a statement to the rest of the league that they can beat the best of teams when they’re at their best. Besides beating the Devils in a low scoring affair, they beat the (then) surging Phoenix Coyotes 8-3 to halt their 8-game winning streak. Anyone taking Tampa Bay lightly was forced to sit up and take notice.
The homestand was much more important to the Lightning and their chances than just a normal 12-game stretch. Ever since the schedule was released in July, the fans and organization alike knew this 12-game run of games at the St. Pete Times Forum was going to make-or-break the season. Before the season, the thought was – if they could thrive in February then they’d have a chance to make the playoffs; anything less than a strong record and they could kiss the playoffs goodbye. A 4-game winning streak to kickoff the homestand certainly got things off on the right foot.
But what fans didn’t expect was that the team would already be in a playoff spot. Instead of making up ground on the bubble teams fighting for the 8th spot in the standings, they were making up ground on the Southeast leading Washington Capitals. Then they were extending their lead on those same Capitals. That’s what happens when you have a bright, young, first-year coach and a bright, young, first-year GM.
Two trades, new uniforms, and a ticket-price freeze for next season. A lot has happened since the last time the Lightning played a game on the road. But the one thing that needed to happen was a strong stretch—and points in 9 out of 12 games classifies as a strong stretch. Sunday afternoon the Lightning will have to do something they haven’t done in almost a month — play a road game. They face the Rangers on Sunday, then they’ll get a chance to even up the season serious against the Devils on Wednesday. If they can play the way they did on Friday, it won’t really matter where the game is played.
As Vincent Lecavalier said after Friday’s game, “We have something special here.”
With the way they looked over the last two games, it’s hard to disagree.
If nothing else, the New Jersey Devils seem like they won’t be the sort of team a contender can essentially mark off as a “W” on their calendars.
The Montreal Canadiens may not be in a position to take opponents lightly with Carey Price on the shelf, but whatever the case may be, they saw their four-game winning streak end in frustrating fashion on Saturday.
After falling behind 2-0, the Devils scrapped their way back into it, eventually riding a John Moore overtime goal to a 3-2 OT win.
If Montreal needs an obvious bright side to look on considering this hiccup, Alex Galchenyuk‘s hot weekend may be a good thing to look at.
Tonight’s loss may smart a bit anyway, however.
If you want to summarize the Capitals – Maple Leafs game in one sentence, you could do worse than:
“Washington is hot as Jonathan Bernier is cold.”
The Caps reeled off a 4-2 win against Toronto on Saturday, giving them five straight wins. They also jumped into first place in the Metropolitan Division today, as they keep climbing while the New York Rangers are experiencing some growing pains.
Again, James Reimer can’t get healthy and back in Toronto’s net too soon:
With this win, Washington is now 17-5-1, leading the Metro by one point with 35 standings points. They also hold a game in hand against the Rangers, and no other Metro team even has 30 right now.
Measuring stick stretch begins
Tonight’s game began a “prove-it” month-and-change for Washington.
This contest began a three-game road trip, and they’ll also play six of seven away from Washington.
It’s pretty rough through the start of 2016, really. The Capitals will only enjoy three home games through Jan. 9.
In other words, the Capitals seem like a convincing East contender, but look out if they remain hot through the next 5-6 weeks.
Yes, there’s a lot of drama surrounding the Pittsburgh Penguins, whether it’s founded on serious problems or merely speculation.
It’s easy to get swept up in all of that and ignore the fact that, hey, they still have Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. Those two can really heal wounds with their on-ice play, and in Saturday’s case, Malkin is taking over against the Edmonton Oilers.
His spin-o-rama goal above was a real jaw-dropper. He also scored Pittsburgh’s second tally:
These highlights feel like Malkin’s way of saying “It’s going to be just fine.”
Update: It wasn’t enough for a win, however, as the Oilers beat the Penguins 3-2 via a shootout.
Fighting is down more or less across the board in the NHL, but the Tampa Bay Lightning might be the franchise least interested in dropping the gloves.
Ryan Callahan vs. Kyle Okposo already has some name recognition to it, yet it gets some bonus points for being the Bolts’ first fighting major of 2015-16.
It … probably loses those bonus points in being run-of-the-mill.
Hey, be fair; the Lightning are clearly out of practice.