Baby steps for team, MVP line in first victory
Yes, the third-period collapse was uncalled for, but we can chalk that up to the pressure of a five-game winless streak to start the season. No wonder the sticks were gripped tighter and the team was back on its heels. What the Lightning has to hope for now is that with the pressure to win its first game gone, the jitters that surfaced Tuesday stay away.
More good news on Mike Smith, who played another great game and saved the day a couple times when the defense let him down. But to me the most notable part of the game was that Vinny Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis and Vinny Prospal made big contributions. St. Louis had two assists and won a wall battle to get the puck that led to Lecavalier's winning goal. Prospal also scored. A nice pick-me-up for a team that had just eight goals coming in.
The line, like the rest of the team shouldn't get too cocky. It still spends way too much time running around in its own end, and the power play, which counts so much on the line to get going, is 3-for-30. Still, if the Lightning is going to go anywhere this season, its star line has to start clicking. Did we see the start of that on Tuesday? Perhaps. As Smith said, "Build Vinny's confidence a little bit, get that line going. Tonight they were big for us."
I know a lot of you are upset about losing David Koci to the Blues, but listen to what coach Barry Melrose said after the game.
"Hopefully, if St. Louis puts him on waivers, we'll pick him up again."
A last bit of intrigue concerns the acquisition of wing Matt Pettinger, an investor in owner Len Barrie's Bear Mountain resort in Victoria, British Columbia. Barrie said Pettinger is a "very minor" investor and their relationship had "zero" to do with acquiring him.
Vice president of hockey operations, Brian Lawton, said Barrie told him, "I've known him for X number of years but you have to go with what our scouts and say and what our management says. Yes he does like him and he was very forthright about that. But it's not at a point where he is making that decision for the hockey club."
Wing Gary Roberts and special assistant Mike Vernon also are investors. Asked about making hockey decisions based on his business connectuions, Barrie joked, "I wish it could be because we'd have a Hall of Fame team."
And just a couple stats to wrap things up:
The Lightning tied team records with its sixth straight one-goal game and fourth straight overtime game. ... Roberts played his 1,200th NHL game. ... St. Louis got his 300th NHL assist. ... Melrose won his first NHL game since April, 6, 1995, when he ran the Kings.