TAMPA, Fla. -- All indications were that a close, hard-fought battle between the visiting Philadelphia Flyers and the Tampa Bay Lightning was on tap Wednesday night, and that's exactly what both teams delivered -- along with a glimpse of unusual tactical gamesmanship, as the Lightning finally prevailed on Brett Connolly's goal in overtime to seal the 2-1 win at the St. Pete Times Forum.
The first period was scoreless but notable for the intentional lack of action, as much as anything else. The Flyers froze the puck in their own end multiple times, holding it nearly stationary as they waited for the Lightning to break from their neutral-zone coverage and begin a forecheck. At times the contest was reminiscent of a basketball game prior to the installation of the 24-second clock as Flyers defensemen held the puck in the right faceoff circle -- slowly and deliberately shifting the puck back and forth on their stick blade -- sometimes for up to 45 seconds at a time.
Legendary hockey icon Scotty Bowman, in attendance at the game, said that he believed the game was "historic, in the sense that we've never seen that tactic used like that. The Tampa system has been pretty effective and that's the way they play -- they clog the neutral zone and make it hard to get through. Philadelphia is probably trying to show them up. The League might have to do something about it. This used to be the fastest game on ice."
The stalling tactic was no concern for the Lightning, however.
"We have our system, they have their system, and that's the way it is," Lightning forward Dominic Moore said. "You can't get frustrated by it."
Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger, by contrast, gave voice to plenty of frustration. He was especially critical of Tampa Bay's sit-back-and wait, clog-the-neutral-zone style of play.
"That's not hockey in my book," Pronger said. "But whatever, the League's letting them do it. Would you pay money to watch that? I wouldn't either. That was a TV game, too. Way to showcase the product. Look at the players they've got over there."
Pronger, returning after missing six games with an eye injury, logged over 25 minutes of ice time while taking one shot and picking up two penalties.
Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette defended the tactic his team used.
"They have a set forecheck in the neutral zone, so we have a set breakout,” he said. “As soon as we get some pressure, we'll get into our outs. If they don't want us to stand there, they should come after us. Why are they going to just stand there?"
The delay tactic was all but forgotten in the second period, but that could be attributed to the fact that the Flyers skated with the extra man for six of the first nine minutes, as Tampa Bay was signaled for three penalties in succession. The Philadelphia power play finally converted at 9:33, as Scott Hartnell picked up his sixth goal of the season while Lightning defenseman Pavel Kubina sat in the penalty box for tripping. Jakub Voracek and Kimmo Timonen got assists on Hartnell's score.
That goal held up until Marc-Andre Bergeron blasted a slap shot from the high slot past Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov for his third goal of the season. The power play tally moved Bergeron into first place in scoring among all defensemen with 16 points. Steven Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier were credited with the assists.
Dwayne Roloson stopped 14 of the 15 shots he faced and his late-game acrobatics, including a right-pad save on Jaromir Jagr just seconds into overtime, kept Tampa Bay in the contest. The win was the third consecutive for Roloson and fourth victory in his last five games since he returned to the starting role for Tampa Bay.
Bryzgalov allowed just two goals on 24 shots and saw his three-game win-streak come to an end.
The night belonged to Connolly, however, and with 2:30 gone in the overtime period he charged the net, picked up the rebound of Moore's shot and cleanly beat Bryzgalov, who had no chance of making the save, for his first game-winning goal of his career. Since learning that he would remain with the Lightning after the conclusion of his nine-game tryout period, Connolly has had three goals in six games.
"Brett Connolly is a very young and talented player," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "He crashes the net and dominates. Within one year, we have already seen growth and we know he is still learning with more to come."
For his part, the rookie preferred to give credit to Moore, who, along with Pavel Kubina, got the assists on his game-winner.
"He made it happen," Connolly said. "He drove down and saw the play through all the way to the net. He kept his feet moving and I was just there waiting, looking for the puck to come off his stick."
The win moved the Lightning (8-5-2) into a tie with the Washington Capitals atop the Southeast Division and increased their record to 5-1-0 on home ice this season.
Jagr's seven-game scoring streak and Claude Giroux's five-game streak both came to an end as they were held off the score sheet.
"We had some chances," Jagr said. "We were just missing the net. It was one of those games."
Wednesday's win was the third straight game that Tampa Bay was able to earn despite trailing after 40 minutes.
That come-from-behind attitude was singled out for praise by Boucher.
"The one thing I see is the majority of time we're sticking to our game plan," he said. "I really like our patience to our game, and for me, what this tells me is the guys are all in."
1 - 0 PHI
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 TBL
Power Play Stats
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Delaying the game
Martin St. Louis