The Tampa Bay Lightning (3-3-2, 8 points) demonstrated their new “pack” mentality to perfection by limiting the number of shots on goal they gave the Buffalo Sabres(5-2-0, 10 points). The result was a resounding 3-0 shutout of the Sabres in front of a sold out crowd of 19,204 at the St. Pete Times Forum on the night the brand new tesla coils, which shoot out bolts of lightning when Tampa Bay scores, made their debut.
The first period was extremely close, and both goaltenders were superb, leading us to a scoreless tie after one period of play.
The second period was similar to the first for the most part. However, just under 5 minutes into the second period the Bolts were able to get one past Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller. They did it with defenseman Pavel Kubina ripping a shot from the blueline past Miller, continuing what has become a trend of defenseman scoring goals for the Lightning this season. The assists went to Teddy Purcell and Steven Stamkos, part of a line change made by coach Guy Boucher prior to the game against the Islanders Thursday night. This change put Stamkos with Purcell and Ryan Malone while Vinny Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis were reunited, with rookie Brett Connolly rounding out their line.
Things seemed to open up more in the third period as the Sabres began to press, resulting in defensive mistakes that gave the Lightning some great opportunities. The Lightning didn’t completely waste those opportunities as Lecavalier found St. Louis behind the defense about eight and a half minutes into the third and St. Louis did the rest, using a beautiful forehand, backhand, forehand, top shelf move to beat Miller. Connolly, in his eighth of nine games he can play before a decision must be made whether to send him back to juniors or begin his contract, had the other assist to go with seven shots on goal.
The finishing touches were applied by defenseman Victor Hedman, taking a pass from St. Louis with a minute and a half remaining in the game and shooting into the empty net.
Lightning backup goaltender Mathieu Garon, who in my opinion could easily take the starting job from Dwayne Roloson, was unflappable, with 21 saves on 21 shots faced for his 20th career shutout and first since November 20, 2010 against San Jose while a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Lightning now go on a quick two game roadtrip, beginning in Buffalo against these same Sabres Tuesday night, 7pm on Versus.