While the Wachovia Center crowd may have needed some 5 Hour Energy to get themselves into this one, the Flyers certainly didn't as they shut down the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1. Blair Betts scored twice in the third period to seal the deal.
For most of this contest, the building was quiet and lifeless. It was a pretty sloppy game on the whole, and until the third period the Flyers 1-0 lead seemed like it would go on to be the final score. Michael Leighton and Antero Niittymaki were up to every challenge they faced, not that either team really had many quality chances. Leighton carried a shutout into the latter stages of the third period, largely in thanks to an unbelievable stop he made on Tampa's Steven Stamkos with about four minutes left in the second.
The turning point of the contest came early in the third period. The Lightning, still down by a goal, turned on the pressure out of the gate and the Flyers couldn't get to loose pucks and looked kind of lost defensively. Peter Laviolette called a timeout, gave a few words to his team, and on the next trip up the ice, Danny Briere led Scott Hartnell on a two-on-one and the two executed perfectly to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead. The goal came 12 seconds after the timeout.
Leighton's shutout would be spoiled by Martin St. Louis midway through the third. It seems like that's happened to the Flyers goaltender several times since he's been here, but while he only saw 18 shots, he still played well enough to earn the shutout. He's been nothing short of spectacular.
The football season may have ended tonight in the Delaware Valley, but seemingly right on cue, the Flyers are becoming the team we thought they could be all along.
After the jump, questions with answers, comment of the night, and highlights of the win.
Questions With Answers
- Do the odd circumstances surrounding the Lightning tonight effect them at all? Didn't seem that way. They'll pick up their 3-0 lead on the Devils Sunday night at 6 PM. Has to be a weird feeling.
- Can the Flyers potent offense keep it going? Can they chase another goaltender? The offense was kind of sloppy tonight, but Niittymaki performed well.
- The special teams were great against Pittsburgh. The Bolts aren't a good special teams club. Formula for success? They held the Lightning to a 0-5 mark on the PP, but the power play couldn't really get set up. They had trouble attacking the offensive zone and making things happen with the man advantage, with the exception of Claude Giroux's first period goal and a few Pronger blasts from the point.
- What's the reaction like when Antero Niittymaki is introduced at the Wach? Lou Nolan seemed to let old habits loose as he announced Niittymaki's name with enthusiasm.
- How many people are actually in the building tonight with the Eagles kicking off the playoffs just an hour after puck drop? The building was full but people started to file out into the various arena bars after the first period. Many people still in the seating bowl had headphones plugged into their phones to listen to the Eagles on the radio. By games end, the focus was generally back on the Flyers as the Cowboys pulled away.
Comment of the Night
Thanks to the Flyers for winning.
Thanks to the Lightning for NOT rescheduling. Flyers > Eagles.