Tampa Bay was rated as one of the best franchises in hockey going into the season, and tonight they gave their fans a wild show as they defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 in overtime. Here are a few random thoughts and observations from the game…
1. Fans at the St. Pete Times Form (soon to be Tampa Bay Times Forum after the first of year) enjoyed some old-time Western Conference Hockey tonight as the teams went up and down the ice with a lot of room to work with. The game finished with each time firing 32 shots. Both defenses were merely looking to get the puck up the ice, not spending much time thinking about taking away time and space.
2. For those of you waiting for Lightning defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron to slow down his pace this season, well you will have to wait for another game, as Bergeron had two more assists tonight which included a secondary assist on the game winner, which gives him 13 for the season. This puts Bergeron at or near the top of the league leaders in assists so for early in the year. I also keep waiting for his poor defense to show its ugly face, but he was a plus-3 tonight, so early in the season Bergeron has to be considered one of the biggest positive surprises for the Lightning.
3. The start of the second period was a snapshot of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s season thus far, as Stamkos and his line battled to give the team the lead 15 seconds into the period, only to have rookie Brett Connolly take a tripping penalty soon afterwards. Chicago with Toews, Kane and Sharp maybe have the best power play unit in the NHL and they proved why by scoring the tying goal less than a minute after Tampa scored. It shows the inconsistent play to start the season; the Lightning pay the price for the goal then take a bad penalty which leads to a puck in your own net. For this team to duplicate the effort of last year or go further they are going to have to tighten up their play.
4. The second stanza alone should go into the NHL Network vaults as one of the most exciting periods of hockey so far this season. An old-time Wild West shootout broke out, as both teams combined for eight goals in the period. Chicago scored 3 goals in a 1:05 in the period to give them a 4-2 lead which then prompted Coach Guy Boucher to call timeout and from that point forward Tampa shut down the Hawks and the Bolts eventually tied the game by the end of the second before winning it in OT.
5. To continue the Wild West theme, both teams’ big guns came to play tonight. Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos notched his fourth career hat trick (second in his career against Chicago), Vinny Lecavalier had the GWG in OT and assist, and Marty St. Louis had three assists in the game which included the deft pass on the game-winner in the last minute of OT. Not to be outdone, the Blackhawks’ Patrick Sharp had two goals, Patrick Kane had three assists, and Marian Hossa had a goal and assist in a losing effort.
Fantasy Star of the Night
It’s an easy one to give it to Stamkos for his hat trick which gives him 9 goals on the season, since notching his first hat trick against Chicago on February 17, 2009; Stamkos leads the NHL in goals 121.