A little adversity is good for a hockey team. But losing at home last night to the 1996 Florida Panthers Tampa Bay Lightning after jumping to a 2-0 lead and with Marc Andre Fleury's confidence as fragile as a quivering little lamb? Too much adversity. When Matt Cooke took a boarding penalty in the third period with the Penguins already shorthanded and clinging to a 2-1 lead, somebody needed to stand in front of Steven Stamkos's inhuman shot. Brooks Orpik was there. And for the love of Gilles Meloche, Marc Andre Fleury was there. He only had to make 15 saves on a night when the Lightning were trapping like an unholy hybrid of the New Jersey Devils and the Jacque Lemaire Wild, but the stops he made were quality, "I'm still here" level plays. Then Max Talbot found himself cruising in on a 2 on 1, and I suppose muscle memory kicked in, because what he did looked exactly like this.
Except last night's goal against Mike Smith was probably a better shot.
The implications of losing this game likely would have been more extreme than the benefits of winning it, but it was by any measure an important moment. Fleury finally showed signs of getting out of his own head, even though he didn't have the chance to overcome his tendency to give up an early goal, if only because the Lightning didn't shoot. A few other thoughts:
- I DVR'd the game, and beginning late in the first period, I fast forwarded through the Penguins' power plays. Like they were commercials. Seriously.
- Can anybody else shoot a puck like Steven Stamkos? Has anybody ever shot the puck quite like Steven Stamkos? Mario Lemieux, Brett Hull, and Alex Ovechkin are in the discussion, but in terms of velocity and placement of that one-timer, I mean, you have got to be kidding me.
- Every time Chris Connor shows up, he generates something and adds a little more speed and skill to the lineup. I think we have enough grinders on the roster, no? It would be good to see Bylsma stick with the Letestu, Kennedy, and Connor combination for a few games and see where that goes. No I do not miss Mike Comrie.
- The Kris Letang Norris Trophy watch continues: 3 goals, 13 assists, 16 points, and a +8 in 17 games.
The Pens travel south to face Atlanta tonight. We're on it.