The Tampa Bay Lightning are quickly becoming experts in seemingly accomplishing more with less.
For the third consecutive game, General Manager Steve Yzerman traded one of the team's mainstay players, then just hours later, saw his team come away with its third straight victory.
Coming on the heels of Dominic Moore's departure to San Jose, and following a second trade that sent Pavel Kubina to Philadelphia, Yzerman dealt gritty winger Steve Downie to the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday in exchange for young defenseman Kyle Quincey. Moments later, Quincey was then shipped to Detroit in a swap for a prospect and the Red Wings’ first-round selection in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, all just hours before the Bolts edged out the red-hot Anaheim Ducks for a 3-2 win at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
"It was a tough day for a lot of us," veteran winger Martin St. Louis
said. "But I thought we battled hard and came out with a gutsy win."
The victory was the latest display of resiliency from the Lightning, who despite losing three front-line key pieces from their roster in the past six days, inched to within five points of not only the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but also to within five of the Southeast Division lead.
The team, meanwhile, is not without players due solely to off-ice transactions.
Consider that Tuesday’s victory also came without captain Vincent Lecavalier
, who is currently sidelined indefinitely with a non-displaced fracture in his right hand, and it becomes more clear just how much character the team has shown during its recent playoff revival.
“I have the utmost respect for what these guys have done," head coach Guy Boucher said. “The way they came out was absolutely incredible. I think about all the roles they've had to fill. They gave it everything they had."
Lightning GM Steve Yzerman has stayed busy approaching the NHL trade deadline.
Tampa Bay stood 10 points out of the eighth and final playoff position just as shortly as a week ago, when it seemed improbable the team had any chance of repeating last spring’s remarkable run all the way to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Now, just five points out and with 23 games to play – 12 of which are set to be played at home where the Lightning’s 18 wins are second-most in the Eastern Conference – the team remains focused and appears headed in the right direction to earn a second consecutive postseason berth.
“Right now, it's just keep on pushing and finding ways with the players that have been brought up,” Boucher added. “That's what we've been doing for a while and I think we take pride in this. We’re doing it under difficult circumstances.”
Even amidst all the emotions circulating in the locker room before Tuesday’s game, St. Louis took charge and delivered a stirring speech, encouraging teammates not to worry about the things that were out of their control.
Following 60 minutes, a two-goal effort accompanied with an assist from Steven Stamkos
, and a three-point night from Teddy Purcell
all but reaffirmed the fact that the veteran’s message didn’t fall on deaf ears.
“The message was that we were still just six points out [before the game] and just because guys are leaving, we are not going to give up in here,” Purcell said. “We are going to keep fighting and clawing our way back.”