Thursday, April 26, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning goalie Lindback shows No. 1 promise

First, Anders Lindback had the puck, then he didn't, and then he had it again.

With the score tied 4-4 in the third period Friday, the Lightning goaltender hugged the post as Ottawa tough guy Chris Neil repeatedly tried to whack the puck past him as if he were sledgehammering through a wall. Finally, the puck squeaked through and for a second sat on the goal line.

Lindback, cat quick, turned and covered the puck with his glove, a crucial moment in Tampa Bay's 6-4 victory.

It was an instructive moment, too, as we evaluate where Lindback stands as the team's future No. 1.

Bottom line, he is not quite there yet; he has allowed at least one soft goal per game in his three games. On the other hand, Lindback knows how to raise his game when the moments matter most.

Friday was a prime example.

Lindback, like his teammates, was not good during a second period in which Ottawa scored four goals. Two were bad. Jason Spezza scored unscreened from the left faceoff circle, and Erik Karlsson scored from almost the blue line. Yes, on the latter, the puck deflected off Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman, but if Lindback is farther up in the crease, that goal doesn't happen.

In the third period, though, Lindback stopped all 13 Senators shots to give the Lightning's league-best offense a chance to fire back.

Not to dismiss the second period, but is there anyone who doesn't believe that last season, given Tampa Bay's sievelike goaltending, Ottawa scores at least one in the third and Tampa Bay loses?

Lindback also made a huge save in the first period on Peter Regin's short-handed breakaway.

So, think of Friday's second period as part of Lindback's learning curve. Remember, the 24-year-old, 6-foot-6 Swede played just 38 games in two previous NHL seasons as backup to Nashville's Pekka Rinne, so not surprisingly, there still are growing pains to endure and a maturation process to take hold as his 3.67 goals-against average and so-so .900 save percentage illustrate.

That is why Lindback gets the call tonight against the Flyers; the Lightning doesn't want Lindback to believe every mistake will cost him ice time. And that is why Mathieu Garon, the steady veteran, is crucial as a safety net.

That the Lightning can score in bunches is another great equalizer.

Make no mistake. The Lightning believes Lindback can be a No. 1. It loves his quickness, athleticism and ability to rise to big moments. It's just going to take him some time to get there.

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