Steve Downie scores three points in 4-2 Lightning win, Tampa Bay forces Game 7

3 Comments

Make no mistake about it, this is a great time to be a hockey fan. There will be two Game 7 showdowns on Tuesday and thanks to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 4-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, there will be at least one more on Wednesday.

The Lightning won thanks to Steve Downie’s one-goal, two assist night and a 27-save Dwayne Roloson performance, setting up a decisive Game 7.

Tampa Bay 4, Pittsburgh 2; Series tied 3-3.

Pascal Dupuis began the scoring about eight minutes into the first period, but Teddy Purcell banged a rebound home to send the first period to a 1-1 tie. Sean Bergenheim scored the only tally of the second period, sending Tampa Bay into the third with a 2-1 lead. Jordan Staal scored his first goal of the playoffs with a great shot to tie things up 2-2, but that’s when the game turned on its head.

Roloson made an enormous, highlight-reel save right after allowing that tying goal and then Downie answered Staal’s goal with the game-winner a bit more than a minute later. He barely slipped the puck under Marc-Andre Fleury to collect a rebound goal.

Ryan Malone made his fair share of mistakes, including taking a third period penalty, but he ended up putting the exclamation point on Tampa Bay’s win by scoring with a slap shot on a partial breakaway. Malone told Versus that he just “closed his eyes” and hoped it would go in. He ended up with a goal and a primary assist in the game.

Two experienced goalies in different spots

While Fleury didn’t give up a bunch of goals like he did in Pittsburgh’s two other losses, there still might be some question about his mindset after this game. Fleury allowed four goals on just 21 shots. Of course, “The Flower” received plenty of criticism at times during the Penguins’ 2009 playoff run, yet most people just remember his Cup-clinching save against Nicklas Lidstrom in Game 7 of the finals.

Tampa Bay probably doesn’t share the same worries with their hot-and-cold goalie. Roloson stopped 27 of the 29 shots he faced, pushing his record in elimination games to a startling 5-0. (Beyond being a solid goalie, Roloson did this without ever winning a Stanley Cup because he was injured in the first game of the Edmonton Oilers’ Cup finals series against the Carolina Hurricanes and was demoted in a goalie rotation during his days with the Minnesota Wild.)

Looking ahead

While Tampa Bay’s comeback after being down 3-1 isn’t quite on par with the Chicago Blackhawks’ turnaround, it’s still an impressive feat. Of course, it won’t mean much if they cannot complete the task, as they must beat the playoff-proven Penguins in Pittsburgh on Game 7.

Naturally, we’ll break that game down before and after it takes place on Wednesday. Stay tuned.

Eddie Lack expects to be released from hospital on Monday night

Leave a comment

As scary as the situation was for Carolina Hurricanes goalie Eddie Lack, the good news continues to pour in.

First, the Hurricanes provided an update that he had “full feeling in his extremities” while under observation at a hospital. This followed the promising sign that he was able to give a “thumbs up” gesture while being taken off the ice on a stretcher after the Hurricanes’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

The best news came late on Monday night, however, as Lack himself tweeted that he expects to head back home as early as this late evening/early morning:

That’s fantastic news. Video of that scary collision with Andreas Athanasiou can be seen in the video above this post’s headline.

Blues, Flames take care of business (Islanders … do not)

Getty
Leave a comment

For a while there, it seemed like the idle Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs would be Monday’s “winners.” That changed when the Carolina Hurricanes salvaged a standings point and the Tampa Bay Lightning stormed back to beat the Blackhawks.

Still, there were some teams who came through (beyond the Lightning) and those who fell flat, so let’s cover some of the results in short.

West teams get it done

Unlike their counterparts out East, West teams jockeying for position avoided “unforced errors” in losing to non-playoff teams.

The St. Louis Blues beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-1 while the Calgary Flames topped the Colorado Avalanche 4-2.

This keeps the Blues and Flames in position to advance. St. Louis is one point behind the Nashville Predators for third in the Central while the Flames are a point behind both the Sharks and Oilers for second and third in the Pacific (while remaining in shouting distance of the division title).

East teams stumble, some get over it

Again, the Lightning fought through hurdles to win and the Hurricanes managed that “charity point.”

Overall, East teams struggled. The New York Islanders fell to the Predators by a score of 3-1. Your mileage may vary on the Florida Panthers’ chances, especially after they fell 4-2 to the Buffalo Sabres.

Here’s what the race for the final spot in the East looks like after tonight:

Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

Victor Hedman might just force his way into the Norris argument

Getty
3 Comments

For quite some time this season, the Norris Trophy race felt a bit like “Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and [insert token finalist].” As it turns out, Victor Hedman is making it a pretty interesting three-horse race.

With Burns and Karlsson idle on Monday, Hedman continued to go on the best offensive tear of his already-impressive career, contributing three assists to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 5-4 overtime win against the Chicago Blackhawks.

As much credit as forwards Nikita Kucherov and Jonathan Drouin deserve in pushing Tampa Bay in Steven Stamkos‘ absence, Hedman has been an all-world blueliner for a Lightning team with a defense that isn’t really surrounding him with great talent.

He’s serving as a workhorse when his team needs him the most:

Now, when you look at the numbers, it’s probably fair to say that Hedman comes in third among the likely finalists in simple categories:

Brent Burns: 27 goals (!), 72 points in 75 games, +16 rating, 24:52 time-on-ice average

Erik Karlsson: 14 goals, 67 points in 74 games, +7, 26:53 minutes per game (fourth highest average in the NHL)

Victor Hedman: 15 goals, 65 points in 72 games, +2 rating, came into Monday with average of 24:15 minutes per game.

Looking at those breakdowns, you might wonder why someone wouldn’t just flippantly hand Hedman the “bronze medal” and a pat on the back … but things get more interesting if you ponder the all-around impact of those three.

Now, traditional-thinkers who slam risky defensemen for their mistakes often overstate such arguments. Both Burns and Karlsson tilt the ice in their teams’ favors, usually to profound degrees.

Still … Hedman locks opponents down to a truly elite degree and scores at a similar rate. Hedman could very well own the “two-way” argument; you could perhaps see his case most clearly when you compare his “HERO” chart to those of Burns and Karlsson, especially from the perspective of conceding shots.

Again, Burns remains the likely winner, and he would be a deserving one. You could make a solid Hart Trophy argument for Burns, in addition to tabbing him as the Norris frontrunner.

Even so, voters would be wise to take Hedman’s case seriously, especially as the Lightning continue their improbable playoff push.

Lightning storm back against Blackhawks, finish one point out of playoffs

3 Comments

Who would have thought that the Tampa Bay Lightning would rally back from a 4-1 deficit tonight? Then again, who expected them to be so close to a playoff spot mere weeks ago, when they were sellers at the trade deadline?

The Lightning continue to show that they won’t just roll over and die, scoring four unanswered goals to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 in overtime on Monday.

While Jonathan Drouin was a catalyst for the second-period rally, it was an unlikely scorer who clinched the victory, as Yanni Gourde ended a thrilling run of 3-on-3 chances with the overtime-winner.

Really, it might have been fitting. Things looked glum when Tomas Jurco scored his first goal of the season against the Lightning, then the mood was totally flipped when Gourde’s second tally of 2016-17 grabbed a huge win.

With the Islanders losing to the Predators, the Hurricanes only managing a “loser point” against the Red Wings and the Bruins idle, Tampa Bay is a breath away from a playoff berth:

Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

Yes, all of a sudden, a long-shot postseason run seems quite attainable.

Maybe the Lightning would prefer it if we kept counting them out, though?