This meeting between rivals the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Philadelphia Flyers was much more animated than the first one of the season. During the pregame, many hockey pundits described this match up as a playoff game. That quality was definitely justified. The game was tight checking, physical, and downright dirty at times. This game featured everything a hockey fan could ask for.
The intensity was felt right from the opening faceoff. The Flyers were able to gain some momentum in the offensive zone but were repeatedly denied by great shot blocking and a fascinating performance from Anders Lindback. The Lightning survived the early flurry and responded with their own. As the physical play escalated, tempers rose with it. Flyer’s center Zac Rinaldo and Lightning forward B.J. Crombeen dropped the gloves. Rinaldo had already won the fight after landing a big punch on Crombeen, but he continued to throw punches, landing two before Crombeen was finally flat on his back. This article will not debate whether or not Rinaldo crossed the line, that can be left for the comments section. Simply stated though, Rinaldo landed punches after Crombeen was down and defenseless, which seemed to upset fans on Twitter and the players themselves. However, not much else was actually said or shown after that fight. The period ended with no goals and three minors, none of which were malicious.
The second period started with a Lightning power play. The Lightning did not score on the power play. Moments later, Steven Stamkos was momentarily left wide open in the slot amongst a maze of players. The puck ended up on his stick and he fired it off the crossbar. We all know how hockey works, so many of us were not surprised when the Flyers were able to come back and score on the very next chance. However, most fans were surprised to see Tom Sestito slipping the puck past Lindback for the goal. This was his first goal since December 23, 2010, coming 4:25 into the second period. The remaining 15 minutes of the period was filled with checking and defense. There were no penalties handed out, and anxiety was building on the Lightning team as scoring chances were missed or stopped by a hot Ilya Bryzgolov. The middle frame ended with the Flyers hanging on to a 1-0 lead.
The Lightning made a great push as the third period began. We have seen the Lightning put together some great third periods in each of the 8 games the team has played so far, so this was no surprise. However, it seemed as though the Flyers could do no wrong defensively. Whenever the defense broke down, Bryzgolov was there to sweep up the mess. Finally, the Lightning were able to tie the game at 1. As the puck became stuck down low amongst five players against the boards, forward Benoit Pouliot was left all alone in front of Bryzgolov and beat him high on the stick side for the goal. The tie was short lived however, as Sestito struck yet again about 1:40 after Pouliot’s tally. Sestito finished off a 3 on 2 rush with virtually the same move he used to scored his first goal. Just five seconds after the puck was dropped to resume play, Maxime Talbot and Vincent Lecavalier had some words for each other. The two bumped chests and then dropped the gloves. Most say this one was a draw between the two players, with a victory to Lecavalier only through his cheap shot at the end of the fight. Regardless of the actual terms of the fight (again, I will only discuss in comments if approached) most Lightning fans were once again made at least a little nervous to watch Lecavalier throw his hands, which are usually used for scoring, at another player’s face. As valiant as it may have been, Lecavalier’s offensive skill would have been much more useful than his fight as the game winded down. The Lightning would go on to lose the game by a score of 2-1 in the most intense game of the season thus far.
Want to speak on the fights? Use the comments or tweet me @Gabriel0430.
Note: Crombeen was taken out of the game for precautionary reasons.