By Dory LeBlanc
On a night when the Lightning honored the 10th anniversary of their Stanley Cup Championship, the stars both of the past and the present came out to celebrate.
The Tampa Bay Times Forum opened its doors two hours before game time in order for fans to get out of the pouring rain and take photos with the Stanley Cup on the West Patio or inside at Paradise Cove, where alumni of the Championship team were signing autographs and meeting with fans.
In addition to the retired players from the 2003-04 team, former General Manager Jay Feaster, former Associate Coach Craig Ramsay, former Tampa Bay Head Coach, now behind the bench for the Canucks, John Tortorella being honored, the Lightning named Sporting News baseball writer Jesse Spector its Social Captain in section 128 and legendary broadcaster Dick Vitale was announced as the Community Hero of the night.
On the ice, the Lightning players shined as bright as the team being honored for the 2004 Cup.
While Zack Kassian was in the penalty box for tripping Matt Carle, the Lightning's power play was patient in the Vancouver zone, waiting for the opportune moment for one of the league's top snipers to make his move. Ryan Callahan fought to keep possession of the puck in the corner and fed Ondrej Palat, who quickly saw a wide open Steven Stamkos in front of the net. In true Stamkos fashion, he fired a laser off his stick the second Palat's passed touched it, sending the puck past a helpless Eddie Lack to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead with 2:04 remaining in the opening period.
Seconds after Bolts netminder Ben Bishop beat Jordan Schroeder in a one-on-one, Palat scored with a deflection off Ryan Stanton to extend the Lightning lead to 2-0 with just under seven minutes to play in the second period.
Minutes later, Valtteri Filppula notched his 22nd goal of the season 19:51 into the middle frame with another deflection off Stanton, giving Steven Stamkos his second multi-point game in three attempts.
Vancouver finally got on the board with 14:16 left in regulation with a shot by Alexandre Burrows on the man-advantage as Tom Pyatt was serving a two-minute penalty for goaltender interference after backing into Lack and knocking him to the ice.
Pyatt redeemed himself a minute after leaving the penalty box with a goal that regained Tampa Bay its three-goal lead.
Niklas Jensen's shot was redirected by Burrows, giving him his second of the night. reducing the Lightning lead to two. Burrows picked up his third point of the contest assisting on Jannik Hansen's score with less than five minutes remaining in the third.
Just one goal away from sending the game to overtime, Tortorella opted to briefly pull Lack in favor of the extra skater, but a faceoff in Vancouver's zone sent him back in between the pipes. When the zone was clear, Lack took off for the Canucks bench yet again only to be sent back in net to end the game with the Bolts capitalizing on their special night with a 4-3 victory.
Both Palat and Filppula extended their point streak Monday night to five games, with Fippula's goal giving him one shy of his career season-high. Callahan's secondary assist on Stamkos' score gave him his fourth point in six games with the Lightning.
Click through photos from the pre-game festivities:
First Period -
1. TB - PP: Stamkos (Palat, Callahan) 17:56
Second Period -
1. TB - Palat (Carle) 6:54
2. TB - Filppula (Stamkos) 19:51
Third Period -
1. VAN - Burrows (Bieska, Edler) 5:44
2. TB - Pyatt (Brown, Hedman) 8:47
3. VAN - Burrows (Jensen, Sedin) 11:44
4. VAN - Hansen (Burrows) 15:16
Shootout Tally: N/A
Shots On Goal:
VAN - 28
TB - 30
VAN - (1) Kassian - Tripping; (2) Sedin - Roughing, Sedin - Hooking, Kassian - Slashing; (3) Edler - Tripping
TB - (1) Gudas - Tripping; (2) Gudas - Roughing, Filppula - Hooking; (3) Pyatt - Goaltender Interference
Next up for the Bolts: Tampa Bay will travel to Toronto for its second time this season and third out of four matchups against the Maple Leafs on Wednesday, March 19th at 7:00pm. You can catch all of the action on sister station 970 WFLA with Hall of Famer Phil Esposito and Dave Mishkin giving the call with coverage beginning at 6:30pm.
Photo: Dory LeBlanc