What an eventful three-game road trip that turned out to be for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Lightning started off with a successful turn against the Detroit Red Wings; beating the original-six team for the first time since 1994. Played the Boston Bruins in a bruiser of a second game; losing 3-0, along with Steven Stamkos, Keith Aulie and Sami Salo to injury. Then onwards to Canada they traveled to face divisional foe the Montreal Canadiens for the first time in the 2013-14 season in a back-to-back game on Nov. 12.
But before I get to that game (bear with me, I swear it’s pertinent), let me recount the nerve-wracking evening I had covering a boys’ soccer game (I write for my county newspaper’s sports page as well, for the uninitiated) and how it stood in my way of watching that third, and arguably most important of the three road trip games.
I had to get that soccer game covered (it’s my job) before I could even think of hoping to watch Tampa Bay face off against Montreal in its first game, sans Stamkos.
And of course, the two games start at the EXACT same time.
Let me start off by admitting something sort of embarrassing by today’s tech-communication standards.
I don’t have a smart phone.
I pretty much don’t have a phone at all. I have a flip-phone or “burner” (for those of you who might have watched The Wire *high five*) that I use to call in my stories for the paper sometimes, that I have to pay to put minutes on, but usually, no, I don’t have a phone.
I do have an iPad though. And an assortment of other “I” things to play music and the like, but well, I just sort of got out of the habit of carrying a phone. I know that’s weird.
So anyway, while I was sitting on the cold concrete bleachers at seven in the evening, watching one of the local high school soccer teams I routinely cover get decimated by an out of town team, I had no idea what was going on with the Lightning, and that bothered me.
As I jotted down my many notes during the soccer game, I was mentally counting the seconds of where I estimated the hockey game to be at that same point. I knew how important this game was to Tampa Bay to win. It was torture to be missing it, even if I was getting paid.
I swear to you, every time this happens during the season (and it happens from time to time), I start going through the motions of promising to myself that I’ll get a smart phone.
“You can check the score anywhere, you know, if you had a smart phone?”
“Yeah, I know. I will next time I swear.” I sullenly answer myself.
My legs were shaking up and down, not from the cold (I do live in Florida) but from the massive amount of impatience circulating through my blood stream.
“Come on, mercy-rule them already!” was pretty much on repeat in my head the whole second half. And I’m supposed to be impartial.
Finally, the soccer game was over just after 9 PM (6-0 if you’re interested, no blasted mercy-rule); I grabbed my quotes from the head coach and was off like…well, LIGHTNING!
Got home just as the third period was getting underway (my mental clock was way off).
Turn to Sun Sports and BAM…Lightning up by a goal with 16 minutes left in the third period. Not bad.
It appears that by showing up to watch, at least, the third period, I actually got to see most of the good stuff the game offered – as goaltenders Ben Bishop and Montreal’s Carey Price made bids to out save one another.
The Lightning ultimately out shot the Canadiens 45-29 in a 2-1 S/O win that bumps the Bolts up to 6-0 (oh man, my soccer game score, it was fate!) in overtime/shootout decisions on the season.
45 SHOTS! That’s right. That’s how the Bolts make up for Stammer’s production. They shoot twice as many times!
Valtteri Filppula scored the game winner during the shootout. Filppula is a perfect 3-for-3 on the year in shootouts, all of which were game winners for the Bolts (what a great free agency move he was, right?).
The two points earned in the game also see the Lightning remain at the top of the Eastern Conference, as well as the Atlantic division with 26 points.
Tampa Bay also extended its hard-fought tendency to never lose two games in a row this season with the win. I can’t get over how awesome that is.
Today the Bolts get to rest, and they’re going to need it.
Another challenge presents itself tomorrow as the 31-point, league-leading Anaheim Ducks are in town and looking to grab two-more points from the Lightning.
It should be a tough game, but hopefully the Ducks realize: we eat Western Conference teams for dinner in Tampa Bay.
The Bolts look to extend their record against teams from the West to 7-0 Thursday Nov. 14. The puck drops at 7:30 PM.