* The Lightning rode a bus a couple of blocks down the street from their hotel to the arena on Tuesday for morning skate. When they arrived, they were greeted by hundreds of people lining both sides of the street and braving a steady drizzle that persisted throughout the day. The Lightning players signed autographed, gave high fives and posed for selfies as they made their way down the street to the arena door leading to their dressing room.
“You can feel the energy in the town,” Lightning forward Ryan Callahan said after the practice session. “You can feel the excitement…I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve never been here before, but I think this morning is when you really see how excited the community is about this event. It’s an honor to be a part of it. I think all the guys in here are excited to be a part of it.”
* Both the Lightning and Penguins morning skates were open to the public, creating a festival-like atmosphere for what is typically a subdued affair.
The Lightning received a nice reception from the overwhelmingly pro-Pittsburgh crowd when they arrived on the ice.
“It was unreal,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “I don’t know how to describe it…I see why they were crowned Kraft Hockeyville.”
New assistant coach Brad Lauer probably won’t remember the skate as fondly. Lauer took a spill on the ice early in the skate, in full view of the spectators.
He was OK. His pride probably wasn’t.
“I felt awful for Lauer,” Cooper said. “…Of all pregame skates to go down, this was not the one to do it. So, we’re going to have a little fun with that.”
* Spotted around Johnstown on game day:
- the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile
- the Hanson brothers of Slap Shot fame
- Mr. Peanut
- Lightning radio play-by-play announcer Dave Mishkin was welcomed back to Johnstown during a PA announcement prior to pregame skate and received a round of applause from the crowd.
Mishkin got his professional hockey broadcasting start in Johnstown doing play-by-play for three seasons with the Chiefs from 1991-94.
- During a break in the first period, former Tampa Bay assistant equipment manager and current Pittsburgh head equipment manager Dana Heinze was honored by having the locker room at Cambria County War Memorial Arena named after him.
Heinze was on the Lightning staff for six seasons (2000-07), including the Stanley Cup squad in 2003-04. In 2007, he joined the Penguins where he has remained.
Heinze is from Johnstown and served two separate stints as head trainer of the Johnstown Chiefs.
* Late in the first period, a spectator in the crowd shouted loud enough for everyone to hear, “How much time is left on the first period clock?”
Without missing a beat, the PA announcer stated, “One minute remains on the first period clock.”
“Thank you,” yelled the spectator, which drew a big laugh from the crowd.
I chuckled too.
* Second-year forward Jonathan Drouin continued his strong training camp with a highlight-reel goal – his second in as many games – to tie the score 2-2 in the second period.
Drouin split a pair of defensemen with some fancy stickhandling to get in alone on Matt Murray then beat the Pittsburgh goalie with an accurate wrist shot high stick side.
“That’s definitely a confidence booster,” Drouin said.
Drouin tops the Lightning with three goals in the preseason.
“That’s a little bit of the difference from last year where he was wide-eyed and things were going pretty fast around him,” Cooper said. “So far, so good. He’s looked confident with the puck…He’s got three goals in the preseason and they all seem to be highlight reels. It’s a lot of fun to watch.”
* Kevin Poulin, acquired off waivers from the New York Islanders on Sunday, made his first appearance in a Lightning sweater midway through the second period.
Almost immediately, Poulin was put under heavy pressure, and the Penguins scored what would prove to be the game-winning goal as Evgeni Malkin skated through the crease and deposited the puck into the net with a backhander at the far post.
Poulin gave up an unfortunate goal later when Adam Clendening shot a puck toward the Lightning net from behind the goal that hit Poulin’s left shoulder and bounced over the goal line. That score came on a shorthanded, two-on-one break for the Penguins.
“The goalie’s the last line of defense,” Cooper said. “You’re hoping he can bail you out, but he can’t do it all the time. We’ve got to do a better job in front of him.”
* In the third period, Drouin snapped his stick on a one-timer, and the broken piece nearly went over the net that rises approximately 30-40 feet in the air to protect fans behind the goal.
Drouin’s stick hit the very top of the net before bouncing off and falling to the ice.
* The Lightning power play was stuck in neutral again on Tuesday, going 0-for-5, giving up a shorthanded goal and failing to generate much of anything toward Murray’s net.
“We have some work to do to know where guys are, to know where bailouts are on the ice, for guys to put pucks in positions to not force plays,” Stamkos said. “That was kind of the whole game tonight. I don’t think we executed too many passes. We’ll have to work on that.”
Stamkos indicated the Lightning were working on a new power-play system that they’ve only had the chance to go over once in practice, so hopefully as the Bolts get more comfortable with the system, results will improve.
* With Tuesday’s loss, the Lightning fell to 1-3-1 in the preseason with two games to go – Thursday vs. Dallas and Saturday at Florida.
Stamkos said while it’s not time to panic, the Lightning have plenty of issues that need to be corrected before the start of the regular season on October 8 at Amalie Arena vs. Philadelphia.
“We only have two games left now to get things going,” he said. “That’s a little alarming. It’s not so much the record. If we were playing well, I wouldn’t be worried. We’re not really playing very well right now and that’s concerning.”