Lightning Rookies Ruin Timonen's Milestone Night
Kimmo Timonen's 1000th game and 38th birthday wishes were rained upon by the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 4-2 loss at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. The loss was the Flyers' fifth in their last seven games and fourth in a row in Tampa Bay.
Ilya Bryzgalov put forth a second consecutive strong start, keeping the game close throughout two periods of play. The Flyers only have one victory to their credit when deadlocked after two periods of play.
They would not make it two victories—in fact, they made it their sixth loss in that situation.
"We need to win hockey games," head coach Peter Laviolette said. "Going into the third period and not getting it done was disappointing. But it wasn't for a lack of effort."
An innocent shot from the point by defenseman Keith Aulie deflected into the net by Teddy Purcell ended up as the game winner. Steven Stamkos cemented the victory with his 21st goal of the year, and 200th of his career into the empty net in the waning seconds.
A late push by the Flyers got completely suffocated by tremendous forechecking by the Lightning in the final minutes. The forwards kept the puck along the wall for long stretches. The men in white could not advance the puck past their own blue line, giving Tampa Bay all the control.
"We gave it all tonight," Bryzgalov said. "It's not going our way. It's sad. What else can you do?"
The Lightning's rookies made a significant difference in this game. Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson, two callups from the Syracuse Crunch, factored into the victory.
After buzzing early, the Lightning struck first. Soft defensive play by Sean Couturier with four Flyer defenders back led to a beautiful pass by Dana Tyrell to Palat who slipped it five-hole on Bryzgalov to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead.
It was Palat's second NHL goal, and his second in two games after scoring his first against the Hurricanes on Saturday.
The game clearly showcased the best of Max Talbot, who had several grade-A scoring chances throughout. He played arguably his best game since game seven of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals against the Detroit Red Wings, of which he scored both goals to lead Pittsburgh to the Stanley Cup.
Talbot showed gusto by scoring his third goal in his last four games with a beautiful deke to the backhand five-hole. It was Talbot's third scoring chance in the game.
Bad penalties and costly turnovers have devastated this underperforming team all throughout the year, and both affected the next goal. Braydon Coburn's league-leading 18th minor penalty led to significant possession time for the Lightning. After the ensuing clear and turnover, Tom Pyatt slipped a cross-ice pass from Johnson past Bryzgalov to reestablish the lead.
Johnson had just recorded his first NHL goal and assist against Carolina on Saturday.
It took several penalty kills and close-calls in the second period, but after defending at one end, Giroux took the puck the other way, attempted a cross-ice pass that was deflected, but it deflected right back to Giroux. He ripped it top shelf to tie the game at two.
Giroux's line took shifts with Zac Rinaldo on the wing after Scott Hartnell took a bonehead penalty at the beginning of the second period. The spark of an energy forward gave the line a little extra umph throughout the game.
Hartnell skated with Couturier and Ruslan Fedotenko in the third period. He saw just over three minutes with different linemates and spotty shifts in the third period after the penalty.
"[Laviolette] is trying to send a message to me, and send a message to the team," Hartnell said of the partial benching. "It's on us to be better, get focused, and get ready to work."
The Flyers have decisions to make, as they have five days off until they take on the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center on Sunday. The Flyers gave up a three-goal lead against the Penguins in a dreadful effort on March 7.
Giroux said they need to focus on themselves and not other teams, but it doesn't get any easier to make the playoffs with the losing slide continuing to roll on. They find themselves currently in 12th place, five points out of a playoff spot.
They could be in 13th by week's end.