TAMPA — After the Lightning's 5-3 victory over the Thrashers on Saturday, the players stood at center ice and raised their sticks to salute the announced crowd of 19,791 at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Coach Guy Boucher said the players will do it only after home victories. It is something he had his minor-league teams at Drummondville and Hamilton do, and he figures the sentiment transfers to the NHL.
"In the end, we wouldn't have the league if we didn't have the people in the stands," Boucher said. "We need them, and by giving those gestures, hopefully they will respect us and they will be with us in the big moments."
It seemed like a hit Saturday night. The remaining crowd saluted back with cheers.
"People pay to get a show," Boucher said. "They're the ones who make this team do what it has to do. It comes on the ice to make a show, and once the show is made, I think it's important the players recognize the people (who) paid to get in here.
"There's all kinds of families here who gather up their money, and they don't have a lot, and they show up for these games. It's real important we recognize the fans that are there for us. It's the relationship I think we have to build."
PENALTY PARADE: Boucher clearly was not happy with the six second-period penalties that ruined the flow of his team's game. And though he said "I will never blame the referees," he didn't completely blame his players, either.
"Sometimes you are better off not talking about the penalties," Boucher said. "There's days I'm going to blame my players, and other days I won't."
Captain Vinny Lecavalier was more direct about the calls, all of which came after Tampa Bay had built a 4-0 lead.
"I think the referees (Chris Rooney and Francois St. Laurent), some of those penalties I think they were playing to the score a little bit," he said.
"Obviously, we took a lot of penalties. I don't think they were bad penalties. I think had it been 1-1 in the third with five minutes to go, those penalties may not have been called."
Even so, Boucher said, "We have to take care of our sticks and don't give the refs an opportunity to give us a penalty. In the end, we control our sticks, and we can control what we do on the ice, and we kind of lost that control."
UP for DOWNIE: Give Steve Downie credit. The volatile right wing scored the season's first goal, had two points and was smart to back away from some physical challenges.
"I gave him first star," Boucher said. "He fights for the puck, and he did great tonight, and he paid the price for the team any time he was out there, and he paid it, too, in terms of controlling himself. I'm real proud of him."
EASING THEIR PAIN: Centers Dominic Moore and Nate Thompson played. Both were bothered by groin injuries.
ODDS AND ENDS: It took Lecavalier nine games to score his first goal last season. … Thrashers LW Fredrik Modin played his first game against the Lightning since his June 2006 trade to the Blue Jackets. … D Matt Smaby, LW Mattias Ritola and D Mattias Ohlund (knee) were scratched.