February 2, 2012; Tampa FL, USA; Winnipeg Jets center Bryan Little (18) and Tampa Bay Lightning right wing J.T. Wyman (34) go after the puck during the first period at Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Winning Streak Comes To An End, Time To Start A New One

The Tampa Bay Lightning had their five game winning streak snapped by The Winnipeg Jets. Tonight they look to take on our in-state rivals The Florida Panthers. The cats come out of the litter box and in to Bolt Nation territory. Here’s a quick recap of the last game and a preview of tonight’s. Why do we do these previews? A good strategy is to know your enemy! The Panthers are a dangerous threat this year, and The Lightning have got to focus on playing a full sixty minutes of hockey. Even though it’s on home ice for The Bolts, this will be a tough, must win game. The Panthers always seem to be a team that they struggle against. When the pressure of the, according to the stats, better teams is on, The Lightning seem to do great and play hard. As I’ve said before, it’s a good thing that the team doesn’t look at the stats. They live for THIS game in the HERE AND NOW. Focus on tonight. Not the past. On yesterday’s loss Coach Boucher told the media when asked if he was disappointed:

“No, it’s not disappointing. I found it encouraging that we played so well. We have two more opportunities at home and we don’t want to change our focus. I tell our guys that everything is in front of us. There’s nothing left behind. Everything is front of us, and the more you think about yesterday, the less prepared you are for today.”

Last night the guys played really hard and extremely well for most of the game. Most of it. Not a full 60 minutes.

The Lightning came out in the first period of Thursday night’s match-up against  The Winnipeg Jets like they didn’t want to be a Stanley Cup caliber team.  They did the whole cat-and-mouse chase-the-puck thing that they are unfortunately too good at. Even though the shots on goal were almost even, Winnipeg 7, Tampa 6, The Jets seemed to dominate the possession of the puck. There was notable effort from Pierre-Cedric Labrie, (who was re-assigned back to Norfolk yesterday), Ryan Shannon, Victor Hedman, and Brendan Mikkelson. Brendan had an outstanding game in all three periods. I think that he is an asset to the team and will be a great leader in the future. There was only one penalty in the whole period to Tampa. Too man men on the ice at 6:13, resulting in two minutes served by Steve Downie. Winnipeg had no penalties. The guys did a great  job of the penalty kill. With amazing performances by both of the goaltenders the first period ended scoreless.
The second period started out just like the first. Mathieu Garon had what I think has been one of his best, if not the best, with Tampa. He made a huge save in the first, and continued to hold the weight of the fallen defense through-out the game. At 1:54 Winnipeg got the too many men on the ice call, two minutes were served by Aaron Gagnon. Steve Downie got his second two minute penalty for hooking at 4:09. A diving penalty was called on Tobias Enstrom at 4:09 as well making the teams play a four on four for two minutes. At 6:52 they had another great penalty kill when Matt Gilroy went off for two minutes for cross checking. At 19:44 Blake Wheeler opened up the scoring with his tenth point of the season, a wrist shot, assisted by J. Slater and A. Ladd.  The Lightning picked up their pace and the hunger to win kicked in about half way through the period. They out shot the Jets 15 – 7.
The Lightning roared into the third period with something to prove. Awesome hustle and focus made the crowd get extremely loud. Victor Hedman tied up the game 1-1 at 10:34 with a wrist shot, his third goal of the season. Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos got the assists. The Bolts got a second power play at 15:50 when Andrew Ladd got two minutes for slashing. They weren’t able to capitalize on it. Tampa ended up with 10 shots on goal for the third period, Winnipeg 8.  Tampa didn’t get a single shot on goal in overtime, Winnipeg had 2. Kyle Wellwood had the game winning goal at 3:14 with a wrist shot, assisted by B. Wheeler and D. Byfuglien.
The final score was Tampa 1 Winnipeg 2 in over time to a crowd of 16,923 at The Tampa Bay Times Forum.
They played extremely well. If they could find a way to keep the puck out of the zone, continue to shoot, and play a full sixty minutes then they would be unstoppable. With the talent that is on the team mixed with Mathieu Garon’s goaltending skills, they’d be a force to be reckoned with.
The Florida Panthers are 23-15-11 with 57 points, The Tampa Bay Lightning are 22-23-5 with 49 points. Mathieu Garon will be in net. Marc-Andre Bergeron and Ryan Malone are not expected to play due to injuries. Brett Connolly, who was a healthy scratch in the last game, is expected to be on the ice tonight. We are holding a fan based We Believe rally on the East side of the building  by the player’s parking lot. Come early and bring a sign of encouragement! 
@HulaDolly @BoltsByTheBay (Twitter)
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