Cam Tucker

‘It’s such a great story’ — Lightning retire Martin St. Louis’ jersey to the rafters

Martin St. Louis was never the biggest player on the ice. Far from it.

But he had a tremendous impact on the Tampa Bay Lightning, and on Friday the Bolts retired his No. 26 jersey to the rafters at Amalie Arena.

The most decorated player in that franchise’s history — the Lightning record holder in assists with 588 and in points with 953 — St. Louis was an integral member of the 2004 team that captured the Stanley Cup. He scored the overtime winner in Game 6 versus Calgary, sending the championship series to a decisive seventh game, which Tampa Bay won on home ice.

“He was, he still is, and he forever will be the heart and soul of this organization,” said Steven Stamkos during the retirement ceremony, per the Lightning.

Listed at five-foot-eight-inches tall, St. Louis defied the odds and proved all his doubters wrong, not only by the longevity of his career but the brilliance and talent he brought to the game.

Not only did he win a championship with the Lightning, but he posted 1,033 points in 1,134 regular season games throughout his career. As former Bolts head coach John Tortorella said Friday, St. Louis had a “chip on his shoulder down to his ankle.”

“I need to make something perfectly clear — and I want his kids to know this, too: Marty was a pain in the ass to coach,” said Tortorella, now with the Blue Jackets, the opposition for Tampa Bay on Friday.

“He was stubborn. He was convicted. He had questions upon questions … about trying to find a better way to do it, find a better way to beat that team, to beat that opponent, that player. He’s a man that has been told ‘No’ so many times early in his career. ‘No, you’re not good enough.’ ‘No, you’re too small.’

“It’s such a great story. Such a great story for all walks of life to delve into when you have a dream. Not just in hockey … but in all walks of life, read what happened with him, how he went about his business, and it is just unbelievable.”

In his speech, St. Louis called his time in Tampa Bay “some of the best years of my life.” He addressed his teammates, both from the 2004 team and those still playing for the Lightning like Stamkos and Victor Hedman.

He got emotional speaking about his late mother, before the crowd gave him a rousing cheer.

The ceremony concluded with St. Louis and his family watching as his jersey went into the rafters — the first Lightning player to have his jersey retired.

“I will always be a Bolt,” he said.

Panthers to pay tribute to victims of Fort Lauderdale shooting

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Last week, a number of Florida Panthers players paid tribute to the victims of the mass shooting at the Fort Lauderdale airport.

On Friday, the entire team will do the same when the Panthers take on the New York Islanders.

From the Miami Herald:

For Friday’s home game against the New York Islanders — and for Saturday’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets as well — the hockey team will wear decals with the airport’s code letters ‘FLL.’

“We wanted to pay tribute to the victims and their families,” team president and CEO Matthew Caldwell said.

“We wanted to show our support for the Fort Lauderdale and South Florida community. It was important to our players. This hit close to home. We wanted to show we remember and feel for those who are still suffering from this terrible act of violence.”

Video: Well, that was a Wild win

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The Minnesota Wild kept one point back of the Chicago Blackhawks in the race for the Central Division after a 5-4 win over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday.

For a time in the third period, it looked like the Wild would come away with a regulation loss. The Sharks surged to a two-goal lead on goals from Joel Ward and Patrick Marleau just 32 seconds apart.

And then the comeback started.

Eric Staal and Mikko Koivu scored and the Wild, with three goals in just over five minutes, came back for the win, as the two teams combined for six goals in the final period.

For the Wild, that’s a pretty solid response from their New Year’s Eve loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, which ended Minnesota’s winning streak at 12 games. They had four days to sit on that loss and it looked like they would suffer a second consecutive setback — until that timely scoring outburst.

“Our leadership and our best players were our best players,” said head coach Bruce Boudreau. “It’s nice to see them say ‘damn if we’re going to lose.”

Habs recall pair of AHL forwards after Gallagher, Byron hurt in Dallas

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The Montreal Canadiens made a pair of roster moves Thursday, a day after their win in Dallas that saw forwards Brendan Gallagher and Paul Byron injured.

Gallagher took a Shea Weber slap shot off the hand, while Byron was crushed on a Patrick Sharp hit in the first period. Gallagher has been sent back from the road trip to Montreal to meet with team doctors.

Although there hasn’t been any official update on his status, or the status of Byron for that matter, the news from that brief update following Wednesday’s game isn’t exactly a promising sign for Gallagher.

The Habs on Thursday recalled forwards Sven Andrighetto and Nikita Scherbak from St. John’s in the American Hockey League.

Per the Habs, Andrighetto and Scherbak will join the team for practice on Friday, prior to Saturday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Sissons ‘rewarded’ with first career hat trick, as Preds beat Bolts

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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Colton Sissons called it a “surreal” performance.

Sissons ended a 12-game goal drought with his first career hat trick, Pekka Rinne made 27 saves and the Nashville Predators beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-1 on Thursday night.

“I’ve been struggling to find the back of the net just in general,” Sissons said. “To pop three feels pretty good.”

Tampa Bay pulled its goalie for an extra skater with seven minutes left in the third, and Sissons got his second of the game a minute later before completing the trick from close with three minutes remaining. He entered with two goals this season and seven overall in 78 career games.

“You get rewarded for all the hard work he’s put in,” Predators left wing Filip Forsberg said. “It’s really fun to see and great for him.”

Nashville also got goals from Mike Fisher, Forsberg and Ryan Ellis. Rinne improved to 7-0-1 against Tampa Bay.

Tyler Johnson scored for the Lightning, who went 2-2-1 on a five-game homestand. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 13 shots two days after giving up five goals on 33 shots in a 6-4 loss to Winnipeg.

“He’s a young goalie, and eventually he’s going to be a starting goalie in this league,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “Hall of fame goaltenders have all gone through this. It’s `How are you going to be next game?’ Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get ready for the next game.”

Vasilevskiy is filling in for Ben Bishop, who is out with a lower-body injury.

Cooper didn’t feel the score indicated the game itself, pointing out that Tampa Bay held a 41-16 advantage in shots that were blocked and missed the net.

“They had 24 blocked shots, that’s a lot,” Cooper said. “I thought we did a lot of good things.”

Fisher had the lone goal in the first, coming on the power play at 2:25. The Predators are 11-0-4 when scoring first. Tampa Bay has allowed the first goal in 26 of 40 games (7-15-4).

Forsberg made it 2-0 before Johnson scored on the power play early in the second, and then Sissons made it 3-1 from the right circle at 13:21.

Ellis made it a 4-1 lead 43 seconds after Sissons scored with a goal that had two reviews.

The original call was no goal because of goalie interference on Viktor Arvidsson, but that was overturned after a Nashville challenge. Tampa Bay then challenged the on-ice call that play was onside, but the review was inconclusive and the goal stood.

The Predators have outscored opponents 50-27 in the second period. The first four Nashville goals came on just eight shots.

Tampa Bay’s Valtteri Filppula and Vladislav Namestnikov were both minus-4.