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Lightning season in review

The most incongruous part of the Lightning's season was that in Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos, it had the NHL's top two point producers and yet finished out of the playoffs for the fifth time in six years.

At 18-26-4 and with 40 points, it finished 28th in the 30-team league. That will translate into a top-four draft pick, but as coach Jon Cooper said, "Somewhere, at some point, we have to turn that into winning hockey games."

It was a tumultuous season for Tampa Bay, which started 6-1-0, but then went on a 7-16-1 skid that got coach Guy Boucher fired in favor of Cooper, who was promoted from AHL Syracuse.

Goaltending was again an issue, which prompted the trade for Ben Bishop, who next season will share duties with Anders Lindback. We also saw the beginning of a transition to a younger, faster team as the Lightning, during the course of the season, used 11 rookies, straining Syracuse's roster.

"It's a process. It doesn't happen overnight," said Cooper, referencing his 2012 AHL Norfolk team, which won the Calder Cup. "That was a couple of years in the making. No question with the players we have here, we can create that at this level."

For now, here's a look back at what went wrong — and right — this season.

MVP: Marty St. Louis

The 37-year-old right wing became the oldest player to win an NHL points title with 60 on 17 goals and a league-best 43 assists. Extrapolated over a normal 82-game season, that's 29 goals, a career-best 73 assists and a career-best-tying 102 points.

"The guy," teammate Nate Thompson said, "is a nonstop engine that keeps going."

St. Louis' 21:59 of average ice time was third among league forwards, and he was second among Lightning forwards with 32 blocked shots.

"When all that goes away, the hope of getting in (the playoffs), you try to finish strong and play the right way," St. Louis said.

"I don't think anyone in our locker room is amazed," Thompson said. "Guys on our team see it day in and day out. Age is just a number for him. He's getting younger."

The Stamkos file

Center Steven Stamkos' 29 goals were second in the league. His 22:01 of average ice time was second among league forwards, and his 49.6 winning percentage on faceoffs was the best of his career. Goals in the league since 2009-10:

PLAYER TEAM GOALS

Steven Stamkos Lightning 185

Alex Ovechkin Capitals 152

Patrick Marleau Sharks 128

Biggest disappointment: Brian Lee

The defenseman signed a two-year, $2.3 million contract last summer but lasted just 22 games, in which he had zero points and was minus-13 (only eight defensemen in the league were worse) with one takeaway before he was shipped to AHL Syracuse.

Under the radar: Sami Salo

At 38, the defenseman was a calming force and ended plus-5. Salo played 46 of 48 games, noteworthy because his career includes a long list of minor and serious injuries. He had only 16 giveaways, also noteworthy given his average 20:59 of ice time.

Nicest surprise: Radko Gudas

Did anyone really believe he would fit in so quickly? With an old-school mentality, physicality and a sweet hip check, Gudas, 22 — whose 87 hits in just 22 games were third on the team — endeared himself to fans and teammates. Fear the beard? Tampa Bay embraced it.

Most ridiculous stat

57.8 Percentage of Lightning goals allowed in either the first minute or final five minutes of a period, a huge game-management issue.

Game to remember

Lightning 6, Panthers 5 (OT): Down two goals to start the third period, Tampa Bay earned a dramatic victory Feb. 16 at the BB&T Center. Teddy Purcell's goal with 10.4 seconds left forced overtime, and Ben Pouliot won it 1:19 into the extra period. Rookie Alex Killorn scored his first NHL goal.

Game to forget

Rangers 4, Lightning 1: Even before the Feb. 10 matchup at Madison Square Garden, things went wrong for Tampa Bay. Ryan Malone sustained a lower-body injury playing warmup soccer. The Lightning was outshot 32-20, including four shots in a third period that then-coach Guy Boucher said was "as bad as we played all year." Tampa Bay fell behind 31 seconds into the game and failed to convert on four first-period odd-man rushes.

Stat pack

• New coach Jon Cooper was 4-8-3. Former coach Guy Boucher was 13-17-1.

• The Lightning scored first in just 19 games, fourth fewest in the league.

• Tampa Bay and Montreal were the only teams without a short-handed goal.

• The Lightning's 3.04 goals-against average was 26th in the league, its .899 save percentage 27th.

• Tampa Bay was 2-for-10 shooting in shootouts.

• The Lightning's 14 road points (6-16-2) were fewest in the Eastern Conference.

• Right wing B.J. Crombeen led the league with 14 fights and was sixth with 112 penalty minutes.

• Right wing Marty St. Louis and Pittsburgh's Chris Kunitz were the only NHL players to not have consecutive games without a point.

• Center Steven Stamkos' six-game goal streak from Feb. 16-26 was the league's longest.

• The Lightning had a league-best 66 third-period goals.

Quote to note

"We're going to make this organization not a team that gets into the playoffs once every five years, we're going to consistently be in the playoffs. And for me, personally, we're going to make you one of the best players in the league on both sides of the puck. That's exciting to hear from a team perspective and as an individual."

C Steven Stamkos, on his first conversation with new coach Jon Cooper

Follow the money

Contract status of current Lightning players:

Unrestricted free agents: G Mathieu Garon, RW Pierre-Cedric Labrie

Restricted free agents: D Keith Aulie, LW Ben Pouliot

Signed: Goaltenders — Ben Bishop, Anders Lindback. Forwards — B.J. Crombeen, Alex Killorn, Vinny Lecavalier, Ryan Malone, Teddy Purcell, Tom Pyatt, Marty St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, Nate Thompson, Dana Tyrell. Defensemen — Eric Brewer, Matt Carle, Victor Hedman, Brian Lee, Mattias Ohlund, Sami Salo.

Salary cap payroll, including Vinny Prospal buyout payment ($64.3 million limit): $61.8 million.

Lightning season in review 04/28/13 [Last modified: Monday, April 29, 2013 10:56am]

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