Lightning makes statement in homestand finale against Devils

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.

WATCH LIVE: Canucks vs. Kings from Shanghai, China

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The Vancouver Canucks and L.A. Kings will make history on Thursday.

The two teams will face each other in an exhibition series in China, marking the first time NHL teams will play preseason games in that country. The two-game set gets underway with Thursday’s contest from the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai.

Set your alarms, wake up early (especially if you’re on the west coast!), put on a pot of coffee and catch the game on NBCSN (7:30 a.m. ET) or online with the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for today’s game:

NHL hopes to make inroads in China with exhibition games

It was a little on the foggy side for Canucks practice in Shanghai

Canucks-Kings exhibition series in China highlights preseason schedule

NHL preseason games in China are ‘the biggest deal’ for local fans

NHL looks to China to ‘expand the sport’

 

Video: Flames goalie makes incredible behind-the-back glove save

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A save of the year candidate in September? It’s possible.

Jon Gillies of the Calgary Flames made an incredible stop during Wednesday’s exhibition game against the Vancouver Canucks.

The camera angle from directly above the net is the best, as it clearly shows how Gillies appeared to bump the puck back toward the goal line, then suddenly reach back with a no-look, behind-the-back glove save to prevent a Canucks goal and stop play.

That is one incredible save.

Drouin shows ‘commitment’ to community with donation to Montreal hospital

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Jonathan Drouin has yet to play a regular season game for his new team, the Montreal Canadiens.

But after getting traded to the Habs in the summer, Drouin has already made a sizable contribution in the community, donating $500,000 over 10 years to the University of Montreal Hospital Centre and planning to help in the fundraising activities to raise an additional $5 million, according to The Canadian Press.

From Sportsnet:

“I think all of that had some impact on his overall decision making,” Drouin’s agent Allan Walsh told Sportsnet. “One day when he’s retired and 50 years old, that hospital [which will begin serving patients for the first time this coming October] will still be here and he’ll have played a role in its development. That means something to him.

“But I think more than anything else he wants to help people. If he can help people—the hospital is going to be the largest hospital in North America and there’s a tremendous need for it in the city—and if he can use the fact that he plays for the Montreal Canadiens to do that, I wish more players felt that kind of responsibility to their communities.”

As noted in the Sportsnet piece above, Drouin is following in the footsteps of Saku Koivu and P.K. Subban, who made generous donations in the community during their time in Montreal.

The Habs acquired Drouin from the Lightning in June, sending prospect defenseman Mikhail Sergachev to Tampa Bay. They then signed the 22-year-old forward — who was born in nearby Ste-Agathe, Que. — to a six-year, $33 million contract.

It won’t be long before the pressure falls on Drouin’s on-ice ability, especially playing as a potential No. 1 center in Montreal and essentially being a hometown player for the Habs. But without even playing a meaningful game for his new team, he’s already giving back to an important cause in the city.

“And when you look at that, if you make $6 million and you give $50,000 a year, it’s not a big deal and you get tax receipts,” he said, per the Montreal Gazette. “But it’s a commitment, and being involved in the community and doing something for your community I think it’s something that you have to do.”

Lupul apologizes, takes ‘full responsibility’ after calling out Maple Leafs on Instagram

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Joffrey Lupul made headlines earlier this week after appearing to make accusations against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Instagram.

The comments — which have since been deleted but caught on a screen grab — came after the Maple Leafs announced Lupul failed his physical prior to training camp for the second year in a row.

“I’m ready … just awaiting the call,” Lupul wrote in the comments section of the Instagram post, per the screen grab. “haha failed physical? They cheat. Everyone lets them.”

On Wednesday, the 33-year-old forward, who hasn’t played since the 2015-16 season, posted a statement on his verified Twitter account, saying his Instagram comments were an “inappropriate response.”

Here is his entire statement:

What’s also significant is that he stated he will not seek a second medical opinion regarding this failed physical. As previously noted, that option was available to him, although, per reports, the deadline for this was 5 p.m. on Thursday.

Lupul is in the final year of his five-year, $26.25 million contract.