The acquisition of Dwayne Roloson on New Year’s Day has already paid major dividends for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Roloson has already shut out the Washington Capitals twice in a Lightning uniform and Tuesday night recorded his third shut out in 10 games since joining the Bolts less than a month ago.
Roloson made 26 saves in the 2-0 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs at the St. Pete Times Forum Tuesday. Roloson’s shutout was the 27th of his career.
The Lightning head to the All-Star break on a five-game winning streak, currently residing in first place in the Southeast division with 69 points and are now 7-3 in their last 10 games.
Guy Boucher had his team ready to come out and play as they dominated to first 20 minutes of play, however, this was the type of game the Bolts may not have won two months ago and certainly not last season.
With a veteran presence in net and even after being out-played in the second period, the young head coach and leading candidate for coach of the year in the NHL, Boucher gathered his troops in the second intermission and won the game.
The Maple Leafs playing in their second consecutive game came out in a physical mode trying to slow the Bolts down. Seconds into the contest, the Leafs Dion Phaneuf checked the Bolts Dana Tyrell head over skates into the Leafs bench.
The Bolts chose to play hockey and skate instead of engaging the Leafs. The discipline paid off for Tampa as the Leafs got caught slow-footed, allowing the Bolts many quality first period scoring chances.
The Bolts would cash in just 5:11 into the game as Simon Gange scored his third goal in the past two games.
The play began in the Leafs zone as Teddy Purcell led a 3-on-2 odd man rush up the ice. Joining Purcell was defenseman Victor Hedman on the right and Gange on the left.
Purcell lost control of the puck about eight feet from the Leafs cage but it bounced right to Hedman. Hedman laid it down and passed the puck immediately back across to Gagne and he didn’t miss the open cage, burying the puck for a 1-0 Bolts lead.
The Leafs, in a continuing attempt to slow the Bolts down, took three penalties and the Bolts would cash in on one of them.
Coming into the game the Lightning’s power play resembled a power outage. They were just four for their last 40 with the extra man.
With nine seconds remaining on the first man advantage, Purcell came down from his defense position, gathered a rebound, and beat Maple Leaf goaltender Jamie Reimer on a tough angle to stake Tampa to the 2-0 first period lead.
The goal from Purcell was his fifth point in the last four periods of play.
The Leafs had almost has many first period penalties as they did shots. The Bolts out-shot the Leafs 17-4, as the Leafs did not record a shot after the 10-minute mark of the opening stanza.
The Leafs called up goaltender Reimer from their American Hockey League affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, recently and he played well, keeping Toronto in the game. He would stop 15 first period shots including two breakaway attempts on Bolts All-Star Martin St. Louis.
“They were all over us. We didn’t have the answer, except Reims kept us in the game,” Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. “The second and third period, I thought we played really well.”
The Bolts appeared to head for the five-day All-Star break after the first period as the Leafs would dominate, turning the tables on Boucher’s team.
The Bolts would be out-played, out-hit, and out-shot 13-4, in the middle period but Roloson was there to pick up the slack and save his teammates. Roloson turned aside every shot he faced including several in close chances.
Roloson played the puck well, staying in position at the top of his crease, he cut down the angles as he forbade the Toronto shooters an opening to score. He limited the rebounds and even when there were slow whistles, he remained patient as the frustrated Leafs continued to dig for the puck.
Bolts head coach Guy Boucher speaking on Lightning Live following the game said,”We came into the second period a little soft.”
Steven Stamkos, the NHL’s leading scorer was held without a point for the first time in six games, had this to say about his team’s poor second period play: “We didn’t stick to our game plan; we got caught up in what they were trying to do.”
The Bolts would gather themselves in the dressing room during the second intermission and came out playing solid unselfish defense hockey in the third period.
For the second consecutive game, Roloson would head to the third period with a shutout. He would lose his shutout on Sunday in Atlanta but not on Tuesday night against Toronto.
The Leafs would try to continue to get on the board but smart play in their own zone led by Bolts defenseman Brett Clark kept the Leafs off of the scoreboard. Clark blocked shots and disrupted passing lanes, playing fundamental defensive hockey. The rest of the Bolts blue-liners followed suit.
The Lightning would block 20 shots on the night as Mattias Ohlund led the way with five, followed by Clark and Pavel Kubina with three each.
Ohlund would get hurt blocking a shot, causing him to leave the ice in pain, as the puck caught the un-padded area just next to the knee.
The Leafs would pressure Rolson in the third, but not like in the second. The Leafs could only muster nine shots and Rolson would stop them all in winning his seventh game as a member of the Lightning.
“For me it’s just another game,” Roloson said. “You just go out and play, no matter who I am playing, I just go out there and try to play to the best of my ability and give our guys and opportunity to win.”
The news continues to get better as one of the Bolts prized off-season acquisitions seems to be playing at the level GM Steve Yzerman expected when he signed Gagne. With 3 goals in his last two games, Gagne appears poised for a good second half.
Gagne missed 16 games due to injury and has just 13 points in 33 games this season. Bolts head coach Guy Boucher had this to say about Gagne’s re-emergence over the last two games:
“He is playing great, he’s always been an outstanding player, and he makes a difference. It was sad to see the beginning of the year. Nobody knew what was going on with him and then we found he had been playing injured. When he came back, he had been gone so long that he had to get the pace back.”
The Bolts will now have the next five days off. Under NHL league mandated policy, teams are not allowed to return to the ice to practice until after 2 p.m. on Monday.
Boucher is sure to have his squad ready to go at 2:01 because the Lightning will face the only team they trail in the Eastern Conference on Tuesday, the Philadelphia Flyers.