Tampa Bay Lightning Triumph in Khabibulin’s Return: Fan’s Take

In desperate need of ending a season-crushing 3 game home losing streak, the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the visiting Edmonton Oilers on Thursday, March 22, by the score of 3-2.

Goalie Dwayne Roloson came up strong, as the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Edmonton Oilers with a shootout victory
Jeff Briscoe

The victory came in a thrilling shootout, as the two squads remained tied after 65 minutes of action. Overcoming an initial shootout deficit, the win was sealed by an unmatched Teddy Purcell goal in the 6th round of the deciding contest.

Gaining a pair of points, the Lightning intimidatingly remain 8 points removed from the playoffs in the Eastern Conference's 12th spot. With 9 games left on the schedule, it is a longshot to defy such odds, especially with 4 clubs already in better position.

And yet, since Tampa Bay rightfully possessed high expectations due to last year's strong playoff run, supporters should insist the team battles until mathematics prove success impossible.

In the victory over Edmonton, the Lightning were uncharacteristically led by the heroics of goalie Dwayne Roloson, who yielded less than 3 goals for the first time since November. Playing against a team he took to the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals, the net-minder deflected 34 of 36 shots, including multiple point blank efforts and a pad save on an unguarded breakaway.

Roloson did surrender the game's tying tally to Ladislav Smid with less than 4 minutes left in regulation. However, the 42 year-old received little help from teammates, as the puck spent far too much time around the Lightning net.

Perhaps Roloson was inspired by opposing veteran goal-tender Nikolai Khabibulin, who likewise received the start for the Oilers in facing his former team. Khabibulin was greeted warmly by the Tampa fans, as he was surprisingly returning to the Tampa Bay Times Forum for the first since hoisting the Stanley Cup after a dramatic 2-1 win for the Bolts in game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals.

On this night, the 39 year-old did not play poorly, but was asked to do little prior to the game-culminating shootout. In besting Khabibulin 2 times, the Lightning used timely tip-in goals from Tom Pyatt to grab a lead for the latter stages of the contest.

However, the home team spent far too much time in the defensive zone, relying on Roloson to limit opposing firepower. Playing without multiple regular forwards, including Vincent Lecavalier, Ryan Shannon, and Nate Thompson, the Lightning failed to sustain consistent a offensive attack and managed a meager 21 shots.

In fact, Tampa Bay required over 10 minutes of the opening frame to put its first shot on net. Even worse, the home team only propelled 1 effort at the goalie during the entire 3rd period.

Despite gaining the win, this kind of offense is simply unacceptable—especially on a squad featuring the NHL's sole 50 goal scorer, Steven Stamkos.

The Lightning must play with greater desperation during the final stretch of the season. While it may be sufficient to triumph in a squeaker against sub-par Edmonton, it will not earn wins against the titans in the conference scheduled for next week.

The lengthy home stand concludes with a game on Saturday night against the New York Islanders. Roloson has already been named the starter and fans hope he duplicates his play against another former team.

Sources:

Yahoo! Sports, TBO.com, Tampa Bay Lightning Official Twitter Feed.

More by Jeff Briscoe from Yahoo! Contributor Network:

Lightning's Flickering Playoff Hopes

Jeff Briscoe is a hockey fan from Florida, who follows the Tampa Bay Lightning. He also covers Tampa Bay's ECHL minor league affiliate, the Florida Everblades, and co-hosts the Sports Train radio show.

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Updated Friday, Mar 23, 2012