The homecoming tour continued on Thursday night for the Tampa Bay Lightning, this time with a stop in Philadelphia to take on the Flyers. Coming off an emotional win and a late-night flight from Montreal, the task at hand for the Lightning was to continue the strong play of the night before and keep the momentum going. They did not disappoint on either front, beating the Flyers 3-2 to remain undefeated and move to 3-0 on the year.
The Lightning got off to a strong start on the penalty kill; with both Steve Downie and Sean Bergenheim in the box, the team was able to kill 0ff being down two men for 1:13 with relative ease. Even though Tampa Bay was out-shot and outplayed early, they were able to open up the scoring at 15:11 of the first period when - who else - Steven Stamkos took a sweet pass from Downie and put it behind Flyers goalie Brian Boucher to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead. The Flyers answered back at 17:11 of the first when Nikolav Zherdev tipped in a beautiful pass from James van Riemsdyk to tie the score at 1.
The Lightning got off to a better start in he second period, as they were able to get their forecheck going and create more chances on goal. The second period also saw Dan Ellis make a huge breakaway save on Mike Richards to keep the score tied. The Lightning were able to find the back of the net at 14:49 0f the second period when Dominic Moore directed a puck on net that barely snuck by Boucher, through the five-hole, putting his team ahead 2-1.
In the third, the Lightning extended their lead to 3-1 when Pavel Kubina got a shot through from the point to beat Boucher. The play was highlighted by a beautiful passing sequence prior to Kubina getting the puck on his stick. Daniel Briere pulled the Flyers within one with a goal from the left circle at 9:59 of the third, but that is as close as the Flyers would get, as the Lightning held on to win by a final score of 3-2. Lightning goalie Dan Ellis had no problem with the Flyers, stopping 24 of 26 shots to earn his first win of the year.
This win is impressive on a number of fronts. First, this is a team that played a very emotional game 24 hours earlier, and, for all intents and purposes, emptied the tank then; having to travel to Philadelphia and play the next day was not an easy task. The system is showing more signs of coming along, and even when they are not at their best, they are still playing well enough to win. With the road getting a little bit easier in the next week, it will be interesting to see just how good of a start this is going to turn into.
3 Stars of the game
1. Steven Stamkos: Opened the scoring for the Lightning. Also, 4 goals in 3 games.
2. Steve Downie: Two-point night for Downie, was strong along the boards all night.
3. Pavel Kubina: Game-winning goal. +1, 22 minutes of ice time.