Better With Popcorn

Flyers Finally Beat Lightning

Through all the success the Philadelphia Flyers have had this season, there was one thing that they hadn’t achieved before Tuesday night. They had beaten every Eastern Conference team at least once this season except the Tampa Bay Lightning. Now, they’ve cleared that hurdle as well. With their 4-3 shootout victory at St. Pete Forum, the Flyers extended their lead in the Eastern Conference to five points over the Lightning.

Things didn’t look great for the Orange and Black early on, however. They started very slowly out of the gate against the hard-charging Bolts, and could hardly mount a shot on goal through the first 13 minutes of the game. But the player that was adamantly denied to Toronto General Manager Brian Burke in the Kris Versteeg trade came through in a big way.

James van Riemsdyk, who dropped the gloves with Randy Jones for his first NHL bout earlier in the period, netted the game’s first goal with 7:20 remaining in the first period. The score would remain 1-0 when the first period horn sounded, and despite being out-shot 12-4, the Flyers had plenty reason to feel good about their chances of ending their recent slump against Tampa Bay.

In the first minute of the second period, the Lightning struck back. Dominic Moore threw a shot on net that deflected off Andrej Meszaros’ skate and past goalie Brian Boucher. The score would remain knotted at one until the Flyers found success in an unlikely place, the power play. Van Riemsdyk shot a beautiful toe-drag shot and Scott Hartnell was in perfect position to deflect the shot. The deflection found its’ way over Dwayne Roloson’s shoulder and gave the Flyers another one goal lead.

Despite the team’s success, a tripping call on van Riemsdyk with 11:41 remaining in the second period put the team in a compromising postion. But, Darroll Powe took advantage of a Tampa Bay turnover and drew a hooking call on Steven Stamkos. The call resulted in an unlikely penalty shot for the fourth liner. Powe chose his spot wisely on the attempt and lifted the puck over Roloson’s stick and in to give the Flyers a much more comfortable lead.

But, Tampa Bay’s man advantage would pay dividends immediately after Powe’s goal, when Vinny Lecavalier deflected a Marc-Andre Bergeron point shot by Boucher. Less than a minute later, the Bolts would strike again. Teddy Purcell beat Boucher and knotted the game again, this time at 3-3. The game was beginning to have the same feel as the 8-7 defeat that the Flyers had suffered to the Lightning earlier in the season.

However, that was not to be the case this time around. Neither team could muster another goal through the remaining 29:12 of regulation and overtime wasn’t enough to decide the game either.

In the shootout, Moore scored on the Lightning’s second attempt and put the game on Mike Richards’ stick. The Flyers captain rose to the pressure-filled occasion and put the puck by Roloson. With a save on Adam Hall, Boucher extended the shootout where the teams’ efforts would remain fruitless until the seventh round. Defenseman Kimmo Timonen deked Roloson and beat the goalie under his right leg for the second Flyers shootout goal. Marty St. Louis took the puck facing the same situation as Richards had in the third round. Only this time, the result would be much different. Boucher stopped St. Louis and the Flyers found a way to earn two points and finally beat the Lightning.

Tuesday night’s game was a tough fought battle between the two best Eastern Conference teams, and the talent showed. Every inch of the ice was contested throughout the game and the physicality only added to the playoff-like atmosphere. Many wondered what Versteeg’s impact would be in his first game as a member of the Flyers. And although he didn’t play poorly, the bigger story was the kid with a Gordie Howe hat trick.

That just so happened to be the very kid that General Manager Paul Holmgren refused to send to Toronto.

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