Connolly hopes Saturday's game-winner is just a start
Lightning wing Brett Connolly believes hockey karma played a role in his game-winning goal Saturday night.
Connolly, 21, felt he was playing some of his best hockey to start the season in Syracuse of the American Hockey League, logging a lot of minutes, killing penalties, and getting a lot of scoring chances. But Connolly had no goals to show for in six AHL games, as well as his first two with the Lightning.
So it made it all the more rewarding for Conolly when he was able to deflect a shot from defenseman Radko Gudas into the net in the third period to give the Tampa Bay the lead for good in a 4-2 win over St. Louis.
"Once you get that first one, you feel a little better about yourself," Connolly said. "You can make more plays and are more confident. So hopefully, it spirals from here."
Connolly, the sixth overall pick in 2010, is hoping to make the most of his opportunities after getting called up last week for the second time this season. He says he appreciates each day in the NHL more than he did when played 68 games for the Lightning two years ago as a 19-year-old rookie. And coach Jon Cooper has seen an evolution in Connolly's game that may allow him to stick.
"He doesn't sit around and kind of wait for the game to come to him anymore," Cooper said. "He played a little bit nervous last year. He's much more assertive, skating with pucks, moving pucks, driving the net. Last year, when he first came to (the AHL), he spent half the night behind the net, and we had to push him in front of the net, to say, 'Hey, this is where goals are scored.'
"He went from a perimeter player, to now he slashes into the hole, he drives, he's backchecking hard. Instead of playing the game three feet from the boards all over the rink, he now plays in the middle of the ice, plays in front of the net, and it's been really good for his game."
For more on Connolly, check out Tuesday's Tampa Bay Times, or tampabay.com shortly.
More stuff from today's practice: RW Marty St. Louis was not practicing due to body maintenance, taking advantage of the four-day break between games. Several players, including St. Louis, Stamkos, Nate Thompson, headed out after the skate to participate in the Lightning alumni golf outing in Lakewood Ranch (coach Jon Cooper and GM Steve Yzerman also are going)... Forget the "Fear the Beard" campaign for D Radko Gudas, who shaved off his bushy beard Sunday only to leave a handle-bar mustache; he said he's going to keep that with the Movember effort the team is doing. "A lot of guys are doing it, so I decided, handlebars, I never had them so I wanted to try to see how it looks,' Gudas said. It was tough to part with the beard. "It was pretty hard," Gudas said. "I couldn't let it go for a bit.".. The Lightning penalty kill has been stellar lately, killing 31 of the last 32 attempts, with C Nate Thompson saying the key has been being more aggressive.