We know the league gave you the All-Star game this year, but the NHL decided to play it earlier, like Thursday in Philadelphia. Looking at the lineups of Tampa Bay and the Flyers, in some ways it could be mistaken for an all-star game.
The defense and goaltending sure resembled the ones usually seen in the midseason exhibition.
In a game that saw neither starting goalie last beyond the first period and seemed to have a goal every five seconds, it was Nate freaking Thompson who scored the game-winner in a wild and crazy 8-7 Tampa Bay victory. Steven Stamkos netted a hat trick and had two assists and Martin St. Louis tied a Lightning record with five assists.
The teams combined for the most first-period goals in the league in almost 19 years (nine, 5-4 Philadelphia.) Thompson scored the only goal of the third period to snap a 7-7 tie. It was Tampa's first lead of the game. The Lightning trailed by scores of 2-0, 5-3 and 7-5.
I enjoyed this exchange regarding this game, from the wonderful guys over on NESN:
Jack Edwards: "Steven Stamkos is taking this leading-the-league-in-scoring thing seriously. It's 7-7 now, Stamkos has three goals and two assists."
Andy Brickley: "Well, where was he on the other two goals?"
Edwards, laughing: "Slacker."
Stamkos now has 19 goals and 35 points, both league-high totals.
No one else on Tampa Bay had more than two points. Thompson also made a couple key defensive plays in the final minute to preserve the win. Mike Smith relieved Dan Ellis and made 22 saves to get the win. Ellis was pulled after allowing four goals in the first period.
Philadelphia starter Sergei Bobrovsky was replaced after the first period, also giving up four. There can't be too many times when both starting goalies were pulled because of ineffectiveness and not injury. Nikolay Zherdev led Philadelphia with two goals and one assist. No one else had more than two points.
Two goals were scored in under a minute apart five times, including 14 seconds (twice) and 16 seconds. Check a box score for full details, we'll be here forever if I relay everything that happened.
Fine timing for Ribeiro, Stars
Dallas center Mike Ribeiro hasn't had a bad season. He's tallied 14 assists in 16 games. He's contributing, he just hasn't been scoring. He picked a good time to start.
Ribeiro scored his first two goals of the season, first with 2:06 remaining to tie the game then again in overtime to lead Dallas over San Jose, 5-4. Ribeiro's first of the night came 29 seconds after James Neal cut the Stars' deficit to 4-3.
For the Sharks, the loss was just like Wednesday's. San Jose had a disallowed goal early in the third period, blew a two-goal lead and lost in overtime. Thursday, Patrick Marleau's second goal was disallowed as he hit it with a high stick. That would've put the Sharks ahead, 5-2.
Neal had two goals and an assist. Brad Richards scored once and set up two others. Brenden Morrow posted two assists and Kari Lehtonen made 35 saves.
Dallas scored the game's first two goals before San Jose netted the next four, then the Stars got the last three.
Look in Beantown for good goalies
Don't look now, but Tuukka Rask is remembering how to be a good goalie. That gives Boston a real scary 1-2 combo.
Rask stopped 41 shots and Milan Lucic scored a hat trick in support to lead the Bruins over Florida, 4-0. Lucic's first goal held up until the final 5:18 remaining, when he scored twice in 15 seconds to increase Boston's lead. The story in the meantime was Rask, who made at least a dozen saves in each period.
Nathan Horton tallied assists on each Lucic goal. Patrice Bergeron had two and Shawn Thornton scored late. Tomas Vokoun made 36 saves in defeat.
I give up trying to predict this league
Nashville scores three quick goals on Toronto, holds leads of 3-0 and 4-1 and loses 5-4. What do the Predators do for an encore?
Right, march into Montreal and earn an impressive victory. Of course. Nashville blanked Montreal, 3-0, behind 30 saves from Pekka Rinne. Marcel Goc scored twice and Cal O'Reilly once.
Meet and greet
Is it too early to stick a fork in Martin Brodeur and the Devils? It's a risky proposition, but...
New Jersey held a players-only meeting following a 3-1 loss in Toronto. Maybe this one will work; thanks to Tom Gulitti, who reports it's not the first players-only meeting the Devils have held this season but it was the longest.
Brodeur allowed two goals in two periods before being replaced prior to the start of the third period because of discomfort in his already-injured right elbow. According to Gulitti, Brodeur will see the specialist who operated on Brodeur's elbow two years ago.
Mikhail Grabovski, Phil Kessel and Kris Versteeg scored for the Maple Leafs. Nazem Kadri posted two assists and Jonas Gustavsson stopped 29 shots.
--So when does Lou Lamoriello send Gary Bettman a letter asking him to nullify the Ilya Kovalchuk contract again? Ten times the Devils have scored one goal or none in 19 games. Four other times they've scored just two goals. Under the new math, that's 14 games out of 19 when New Jersey hasn't scored more than twice in a game. They've won only two of those contests.
--The Zach Parise injury hurts the Devils, but Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, Travis Zajac and Jamie Langenbrunner have to figure out a way to score. This team won the division as recently as, oh, last season.
--Was Bobrovsky tired? He made his 12th straight start as a 22-year-old rookie. Maybe fatigue contributed to his poor outing.
--I wonder how many times Stamkos has to score on a one-timer from the left (goalie's right) circle on the power play before teams figure out a way to defend that play. Certainly can't stop the shot, so got to prevent him from getting it away. He's really freaking good, by the way. I'm breaking news here.
--Versteeg is heating up. That'll only help Toronto.
--San Jose is missing the huge physical presence Douglas Murray provides. Dallas' last three goals all came from near the crease.