The Tampa Bay Lightning prospects do not appear to be having a good time at the 2011 Florida Rookie Tournament.
Of course, that is only a guess, but it’s an educated guess as for the second night in a row the Lightning rookies were beaten, this time by the prospects of the Nashville Predators, 7-3.
The scoring starting extremely early when the Predators jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 10 seconds into the contest behind a goal by Taylor Beck.
The Lightning pulled even at the mid-point of the period off a strong effort by first round draft choice Brett Connolly. Connolly and his linemates, Cory Connacher and Tyler Johnson, were consistent bright spots for the Bolts as they buzzed the Predator net and skated with determination all night. Connacher also picked up a goal in the contest and the line produced several additional scoring opportunities.
Their work on the ice produced praise from Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, as he watched from the media area at the Saveology Iceplex in Coral Springs.
“Connolly had a good year last year but it looks like he’s improved tremendously, “Yzerman noted... “He’s worked hard in the off-season and he’s doing everything he needs to in order to be an NHL player.”
Yzerman also had praise for Connacher. “He’s a good little player,” the GM remarked. “He just seems to glide around the ice.”
Alex Hutchings also scored for Tampa Bay on a play that featured an exceptional cross-ice pass through tons of traffic by forward James Wright.
There were, however, chances for the opposition all game in the defensive zone as former University of Wisconsin forward Craig Smith began his pro career with 4 consecutive goals, 3 of which came as he stood unmolested in the high slot and converted the passes that his linemates kept feathering to him. His other goal came on a hard shot that found the net after slipping through a narrow opening on the short side of goaltender Pat Nagle.
Nagle, making his debut after a scholastic career at Ferris State, appeared uncertain at times, fighting to control rebounds and, in the final period, going behind his net to stop the puck and then leaving it for a Predator player to grab and flip into the vacated net.
The Lightning has a day off tomorrow to regroup before again meeting the Florida Panthers, who downed them 4-2 Sunday, in the opening game of the tournament.
It was small consolation, but the Lightning defeated Nashville in the shootout exhibition that followed the game. Carter Aston, Tyler Johnson and Philip-Michael Devos scored for Tampa Bay…Nagle finished with 21 saves on 28 shots…