The 2005-06 Tampa Bay Lightning gathered for one last time Monday morning for exit meetings with Executive Vice President and General Manager Jay Feaster and Head Coach John Tortorella after falling, 3-2, to the Ottawa Senators in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals.
It was a season of ups and downs for the team with high expectations following their Stanley Cup Championship in 2004. But when the dust settles on the 2005-06 season it will be more apparent that Tampa Bay's season was still a success. The Lightning made the playoffs for the third consecutive season, set a franchise record for most goals in a season and had three 30-goal scores for the first time in franchise history. Vincent Lecavalier
, Fredrik Modin and Martin St. Louis
each eclipsed the 30-goal mark. Lecavalier's 35 goals were a career high.
Brad Richards had the best year of his young career, setting career highs for assists (68) and points (91) while leading the team in both categories. Over the course of the season he also set a franchise record with assists in 10 consecutive games with his assist on April 6 against Atlanta.
Another pleasant surprise for the team had to be the emergence of rookies Ryan Craig, Paul Ranger and Evgeny Artyukhin. Craig scored 15 goals and added 13 assists in 48 games during his first NHL season and was the first Lightning rookie to score 15 goals since Richards did so in his rookie year. Ranger played his best hockey in the play offs, recording two goals and six points in five games. He also set a franchise record for assists by a rookie defenseman in a season with 17, passing Roman Hamrlik who had 15 in 1992-93. Artyukhin established himself as a physical force and a fan favorite on the ice in his 72 games this season. He also netted four goals and 13 assists.
The Lightning reached other milestones in 2005-06. Defenseman Darryl Sydor was awarded a silver stick when he played his 1,000th career NHL game on February 28. He became the 205th player and 73rd defense man in league history to accomplish the feat. Tortorella also surpassed Terry Crisp to become the Lightning's all-time winningest coach on January 13 with his 143rd career victory.
Tampa Bay also commemorated the 1,000th game in the existence of the franchise January 17 at Los Angeles with a 4-1 win. The Lightning also played their 500th home game in history.
The season came to a close with the team selling out 51 consecutive games dating back to the 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Tampa Bay saw 20,815 fans witness Game 4 and 19,745 for Game 3 during the 2006 Playoffs.