The Tampa Bay Lighting Still Have Fight Left In Them


Ben Bishop lies of the ground after making a flying save against the Ottawa Senators. Photo taken by: Dolly Dolce

Last night was a much needed with for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Sure, they might not be (realistically) competing for a playoff spot, but that doesn’t mean that you just give up the rest of the season and go through the motions. This is a critical point for Jon Cooper as a new head coach, making sure that the team stays focused no matter the standings.

With so many new jerseys out there for the Lightning, I had a roster card in my hand just to keep up with my own team. Usually I like to use them for the opposing teams, but jeez…

The fresh energy worked wonderfully. Last night was the most entertaining game in Lightning Time A.B. (After Boucher). Perhaps the most entertaining game of the year. And it didn’t even have a full fledged fight! Though that doesn’t mean that there weren’t scraps. Tempers and testosterone flowed throughout the battle. There were many scraps, players pushing and shoving, almost every couple of minutes. However the refs and cooler headed teammates broke them up in time. Chris Neil sure had it out, looking to drop the gloves with someone, anyone, everyone. At the end the Lightning didn’t all gather immediately to greet each other in victory. Instead, as soon as the buzzer sounded, everyone on the ice dropped their sticks and went after each other. Everyone but the goaltenders. Even Ben Bishop got into it just a bit towards the end, but I think he was trying to play peace maker more than anything. A referee had one of the Ottawa Senators by the jersey, jerking him around as the player kept trying to get into the fight. (I couldn’t tell which player it was.) The guy was pushing and swinging at the ref, and the ref slammed him against the glass. It was great. Wish I’d of gotten that on tape!

The game last night was strange, to say the least. The officiating was screwy, like that is anything new. Oddly enough, the calls seemed to be in Tampa’s favor. There was even a 3 on five for what would have been almost an entire 2 minutes, had the Bolts not pulled off the Power Play goal. Ottawa had a goal waved off as a high stick was called just prior to the puck hitting the back of the net. There were calls that Ottawa fans say were phantom calls. There were calls that could have been made, on both sides, but weren’t.

Ben Bishop made his home debut for the first time in Tampa Bay. When they went out for warm ups, they initiated him by the classic letting the new guy skate out first, while the team holds back. Captain Vincent Lecavalier headed up the pack just behind Bishop, who skated out, and was at his net before Vinny took the first skate to the ice. Ben is a risky goaltender. While he is wildly talented, he made some moves that made me nervous, to say the least. I don’t know if he was trying to show off to make a good first impression on Tampa fans, or if he always does this. At one point, a Sen was skating with the puck, chipped it ahead. Bishop rushed out of his net, half way to the blue line, to hit the puck away from him. What if that Senator would have regained possession of the puck? He would have had a wide open empty net to shoot at. Even the Ottawa fans around me were asking him what he was doing. The boy needs a shock collar. Other times, he made flying catches, stretching out his long body way outside of the net, diving on the ice. If he missed the catch, he wouldn’t have time to get up and get back in position before the other team caught the rebound and chipped the puck in. I’m not going to lie, they were amazing saves. Highlight worthy. But at what cost? He is not always going to stop the puck doing that.

Pierre-Cedric Labrie played for the first time since his injury. He played hard the whole time, and even got his first NHL career goal. Way to go, Nacho!! I was disappointed that Labrie was never on the ice the same time as Radko Gudas. I love yelling “NACHO CHEESE!!” Last night was cheeseless nachos. Gudas had quite a bit of ice time, and the loud hits to go with it. Mark Barberio looked hot out there, giving it his all. Ryan Malone was back on the ice for the first time after being placed in Injured Reserve. Sami Salo had what was I think his best game in a Tampa uniform yet. He got the #2 star, with Labrie having #3 and the Cpn’ taking #1. Vinny was amazing. He scored a goal and picked up an assist. Stamkos did his magic, scoring the game winner. Martin St. Louis grabbed an assist, making his 900th career NHL point.

Last night was worth staying up late on a school night. If you weren’t there, didn’t watch it on TV, or didn’t tune it in on Lightning Radio, then you missed out. The energy was ecstatic. Though for the first time all season there seemed to be a lot of empty seats, and many jerseys in the audience were red, Bolt Nation roared loud and proud.

There were a few turn overs and during the beginning of the third period, the Lightning frustrated me. They played hard through the first, didn’t give in to the second period slump, but when they took to the ice in the third, they knew that they had to score or lose the game. They lolly gagged around through the first couple of minutes. Turnovers were happening again. It got to the point to where they guys weren’t skating offensively for the puck, but grabbing it by the goaltender and shooting it down to the other zone. When the puck would cross the blue line into enemy territory, everyone was on their feet cheering. With 5 men on the ice, it felt as if they were playing it like it was a penalty kill. However, something snapped and they took over. They regained consciousness and control. It was an ongoing fight to the bitter end. (Literally.)

I hope that Thursday’s game is as entertaining. The Pittsburgh Penguins are really good, even though their captain Sidney Crosby is out, they have some hot players and an even hotter goal tender. Here’s to hoping that Evgani Malkin doesn’t score a hattrick on our home ice again, and the Bolts stand up to those diving bullies and throw the standings out of the window.

Dolly Dolce