Smith stopped 22 of 23 shots, including all 11 in a third period in which Buffalo made a push after scoring a goal late in the second, in a hard-fought 3-1 win over the Sabres.
Over the last two contests, Smith has been giving Boucher exactly what is expected. He is making the saves that he needs to make and not allowing any soft goals that had been so prevelant in Bolts’ games for too long.
It will be interesting to see how long Smith can keep this stretch going, because he had another nice run of games after relieving Ellis on November 18th in a wild 8-7 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.
After that game Smith would start the next four, beating Buffalo, Boston, and the New York Rangers, while yielding just five goals in the three contests.
But that success would come crashing down hard in a 6-0 loss to the Capitals in Washington on Black Friday. Smith was yanked midway through the game after giving up four goals on 18 shots, and Ellis again took over the starting duties in the next game against the Florida Panthers.
After the last two wins, Smith now leads the Lightning in victories with 10, goals-against average at 3.20, and save percentage with .883.
The pattern has been established by Boucher. Play well, and you will continue to play. If you struggle and are pulled, it’s the other guy’s show until he falters.
For now, Smith had taken the reigns, albeit for a brief two-game interval.
But as long as he continues to be consistent and gives Tampa the stability in the crease that has been sorely lacking, Smith looks to be the man between the pipes for the foreseeable future for Boucher and the Lightning.
Bolts Bits: Tampa Bay’s special teams were excellent Saturday night against the Sabres. The power play went 1-4, while the penalty-killing unit was perfect in denying Buffalo in all five opportunities…Martin St. Louis figured in all three Lightning goals against the Sabres as he scored an empty-net goal and added two assists…Steven Stamkos scored a goal Saturday and after going without a goal for six straight contests, now has netted at least one goal in three of his last four games…Vincent Lecavalier recorded his first point since returning from a broken hand when he picked up an assist Simon Gagne’s power play tally in the first period. The captain had a chance to pick up a goal on a penalty shot chance late in the third after being hooked by Sabre Chris Butler while on a breakaway, but was beaten by Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller.
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