If you don’t go to preseason hockey games, perhaps you should reconsider based on the fun over 13,000 fans had at the Tampa Bay Times Forum Saturday night. Several highlights marked the evening, but the sight of Victor Hedman defending the net with Martin St. Louis‘ stick was well worth the price of admission as the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Florida Panthers in a 5-4 shootout.
The tone of the evening was set early in the first period when Ryan Malone found himself being held face down on the ice after a hit and struggled a bit to regain his footing. Only 3 minutes in, he returned the favor by wrapping the puck around and slipping it right under Jakob Markstrom’s left leg for the first goal of the evening. Take that, stinkin’ Panthers!
During the second period, Hedman’s stick broke during lots of action around the crease, and in what must have been a pure attempt to be helpful without thinking it through, the 5′ 8″ St. Louis handed his mini-me-sized stick to his 6′ 6″ teammate. It was hard to tell if he was able to even reach the ice with the stick from his height; it looked like he’d gotten one of those souvenir sticks from the gift shop. At least it was a left-handed stick in case he decided to take the puck on down and fire on the net. Despite the loud chuckles that erupted all over the forum, Hedman kept calm and carried on until the whistle blew.
Several goals were traded and the Bolts fans were starting to breathe a collective sigh of relief when Panther Bobby Butler whipped his second goal of the game into the net with less than a minute remaining to tie up the score. A flurry of activity naturally followed in an unsuccessful attempt to avoid overtime, which then went to a shootout. First up was Teddy Purcell whose puck frittered off his stick like he’d been texting while shooting. With no goals after the first 3 rounds, rookie Jonathan Drouin proved his mettle with the game-winning goal.
Where’s the highlight reel when you need one?