TAMPA — Coach Guy Boucher smiled after ending his postgame news conference Tuesday by joking, "Anybody pla
y defense here?"
But that didn't hide the concern he had over the fact that, despite coming up with a big 5-1 victory over the Flyers at the St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa Bay lost its top two defensemen (Victor Hedman and Eric Brewer) to upper-body injuries, and he's uncertain on their status going forward.
The Lightning certainly did more with less Tuesday, racking up five goals on just 16 shots, while playing with four defensemen for half a period. It just hopes it won't be even more shorthanded for long. Brewer left the game for eight minutes after taking several punches in a second-period fight, and Hedman left for good in the first after hitting the end boards. With veteran Mattias Ohlund (knees) and Matt Gilroy (lower body) out, Tampa Bay is running out of bodies.
"It keeps on happening here," Boucher said. "It's been a concern since the summer when Ohlund wasn't here; that was disastrous for us. And we keep on having adversity over adversity since the beginning of the year. It's okay, it builds character."
The Lightning (15-17-3) could have been in a lot worse shape had it not been for a great night by goaltender Mathieu Garon, who racked up several huge saves in the first period when the Flyers stormed Tampa Bay and outshot it 17-4. Instead, the score was tied 1-1 after one before the Lightning broke it open with three goals in the second period, two by Steven Stamkos (who has a league-leading 22).
"(Garon) gave us a chance," Boucher said. "And after that, the players gave it back to him."
Everyone chipped in during a gritty but weird game, which included a scrum in the second when Flyers wing Scott Hartnell apparently got too close to the Tampa Bay bench during a timeout, and drew some ire. Both he and Tampa Bay wing Ryan Malone got 10-minute misconduct penalties.
"It reminded me of like Slap Shot or Youngblood or something," Malone said, smiling. "I don't know what was going on."
The Lightning held on, even after Brewer left following a bout with Wayne Simmonds with about eight minutes left in the second (he returned for the third). Boucher said Hedman will be "evaluated every day for next days."
Because of a depleted blueline, forward J.T. Wyman was preparing to play in a defensive pairing, and Boucher had a forward play back on shifts to help out, with just two forecheckers. Tampa Bay had its share of icing calls down the stretch, but didn't need to apologize to the crowd of 19,204 after a win over one of the Eastern Conference's top teams.
"It wasn't pretty, that's for sure," Malone said. "But we've got to take what we can get right now."
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Gervais 3 (Hall), 9:34. 2, Philadelphia, Hartnell 17 (Giroux, Jagr), 18:14. Penalties—Kubina, TB (hooking), 4:09; Downie, TB (tripping), 19:00.
Second Period—3, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 21 (Clark, Malone), 7:25. 4, Tampa Bay, Downie 5 (Purcell, Kubina), 11:41. 5, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 22 (Downie, St. Louis), 18:45 (pp). Penalties—Lecavalier, TB (slashing), 2:22; Zolnierczyk, Phi (slashing), 9:36; Malone, TB, misconduct, 12:29; Hartnell, Phi, misconduct, 12:32; Simmonds, Phi, major (fighting), 12:32; Brewer, TB, major (fighting), 12:32; Talbot, Phi (unsportsmanlike conduct, boarding), 15:45.
Third Period—6, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 12 (St. Louis), 19:00. Penalties—Tyrell, TB (hooking), 3:23; Simmonds, Phi (unsportsmanlike conduct), 4:22; Kubina, TB (unsportsmanlike conduct), 4:22; Talbot, Phi (unsportsmanlike conduct, elbowing), 19:36. Shots on Goal—Philadelphia 17-3-12—32. Tampa Bay 4-8-4—16. Power-play opportunities—Philadelphia 0 of 4; Tampa Bay 1 of 4. Goalies—Philadelphia, Bryzgalov 14-8-3 (16 shots-11 saves). Tampa Bay, Garon 9-9-2 (32-31). A—19,204 (19,204). T—2:28. Referees—Mike Hasenfratz, Dan O'Rourke. Linesmen—Brad Lazarowich, Jonny Murray.