Can’t get enough of the Bolts’ slump-busting win? Check out the sights and sounds from a satisfying night in North Carolina.
- Sunday morning, the Lightning recalled Tye McGinn from their AHL affiliate in Syracuse, the Bolts wanting to add a little grit to their lineup in the form of the 6-foot-3, 205 pound forward.
McGinn’s last game in the NHL came last season as a member of Arizona in the Coyotes regular season finale vs. Anaheim (April 11).
“I’m very excited,” McGinn said shortly after arriving in Raleigh ahead of Sunday’s game. “I played last year, and I was really itching to get back here as soon as I could.”
McGinn has two brothers also playing in the NHL. Older brother Jamie is in his first year with Buffalo after four seasons with Colorado. Younger sibling Brock made it to the NHL this season with Carolina.
Tye and Brock met head-to-head Sunday in Raleigh.
Tye and Jamie could potentially face each other when the Lightning play Buffalo on Thursday.
“I called Brock right away,” Tye said when asked what was the first thing he did when he found out about being called up. “We’re both pretty excited. I haven’t seen him for a while and looking forward to catching up with him.”
Tye and Brock had never played against each other before. Tye and Jamie squared off once, last season when Tye was with San Jose and the Sharks traveled to Colorado (Oct. 28, 2014).
“My parents flew down to Colorado to see the game and my grandparents as well,” Tye said. “It was a great experience.”
Since Brock was the youngest of the three brothers, one would figure he was the sibling that got picked on the most.
Not the case, said Tye.
“It was more me,” he said. “I was the middle child, so it could never be the two oldest against the younger or the two youngest against the oldest because the oldest wouldn’t allow that. It was Jamie and Brock versus me.”
- Before the game, Fox Sports Sun television host Paul Kennedy tells me Carolina’s PNC Arena is the draftiest building in the NHL. Outside the Lightning locker room where the media is gathered waiting to talk to head coach Jon Cooper before the game, Kennedy says to studio co-host Bobby “The Chief” Taylor, “Bobby, if we win the coin toss, tell the official we want the wind.”
Moments later, the backdrop used for Lightning on-camera interviews topples over. It has to be held in place by a random rolling coat rack that happened to be nearby and a few strips of duct tape so the wind won’t push it over again.
- Steven Stamkos said the Lightning were not in a good mood when they came to Carolina. The team was angry with its performance during the four-game losing streak and wasn’t really concerned about being fatigued playing the second leg of a back-to-back against the Canes. The Bolts just wanted to get back out on the ice and take out their frustration on anybody.
Stamkos’ go-ahead goal on a second-period power play certainly had the venom of a frustrated captain behind it. Stamkos lined up a one-timer from just inside the blue line and absolutely blistered a shot inside the near post and over the stick of Carolina goalie Cam Ward.
“We responded today,” Stamkos said. “We got the bounces because we deserved them, and hopefully we can continue that.”
Stamkos power-play goal was the 97th of his career, which moves him into sole possession of second place on the Lightning’s all-time power-play goal list, sliding past Martin St. Louis.
- What’s the best part of covering games at PNC Arena you might ask?
The unlimited supply of Sour Patch Kids in the press box break area.
- J.T. Brown’s father Ted played running back in Raleigh for North Carolina State from 1975-78, gaining over 4,600 rushing yards during a stellar collegiate career.
On Sunday, J.T. scored his first goal in the city where his dad earned consensus All-American honors, earmarking a backhander for the top far corner of the goal from the left circle to give the Lightning a 3-1 advantage early in the third.
“It’s nice to (score here) being from around the area,” J.T. Brown said when asked postgame if scoring in Raleigh made the goal more special for him. “But, at the end of the day, I’ll take it anywhere in any city.”
Brown’s score was especially remarkable considering it didn’t look like he had much of an angle to shoot when he flipped the puck toward the net.
“I was just trying to make sure I got it on net,” he said. “I had a guy on my back shoulder and was just trying to make a speed play, trying to get it to the net. I didn’t have the lane to drive to the net, so I just figured I’d get a shot off.”
- During a free t-shirt giveaway at the arena, a man wearing a Cam Ward jersey at the edge of the second level holds what appears to be a baby by the feet and dangles the helpless child over the wall, 40-foot drop to the lower level be damned, in an apparent attempt to get the attention of a t-shirt tosser.
Upon further inspection, the baby is only a doll, so no repeat of the Michael Jackson/Prince Michael II (or was it Blanket?) incident.
The prankster certainly got heads to turn his way but walked away with no t-shirt.
My question is: Who brings a doll to a hockey game?
- Sometime in third period, with the Lightning up 3-1, Kennedy comes up to the press box from his spot on the event level and sits next to me. Kennedy mentions that Tyler Johnson came through the tunnel on his way to the locker room after the second period and asked him and Chief to rub the blade of his stick in a desperate attempt to break the curse that left him without a goal through the first 12 games of the season.
Kennedy hangs around for a little bit to chat then leaves to go find Chief. Five minutes later, Johnson finally ends his goal drought, receiving a drop pass from Nikita Kucherov in the right circle and relieving a month’s worth of frustration with what would prove to be the game-winning score.
“I think (Kennedy and Chief) have to do that after every period,” Johnson joked after the game.
For a split second, it appeared Johnson might continue to be snakebitten as his shot hit in under the crossbar and was out quick enough that there was doubt whether it actually went in the goal. But the referee signaled that it was good right away, and Johnson was mobbed by his teammates.
“It was nice to have one that actually went in,” Johnson said. “It still hit a bar, but at least it was inside.”
- Cooper said he wished there was a microphone on the Lightning bench after Johnson scored to pick up all of the comments from the players.
“It’s all in fun, but the guys have been on him a little bit,” Cooper said. “Again, you’re looking at somebody that, so many guys have been gripping the sticks a little tighter…and I’m sure he’s deep down inside waiting for his first, and it was a nice one, that’s for sure.”
- Andrei Vasilevskiy again showed why he’s such a highly-touted prospect in the NHL, making 32 saves in his 2015-16 debut after being sidelined for the first month of the season because of surgery to remove a blood clot near his left collarbone in early September.
Vasilevskiy practiced with his teammates for the first time on Monday, was reassigned to Syracuse for a conditioning assignment Wednesday and made 29-of-30 saves in his first appearance later that evening, followed up that performance by stopping 27-of-28 shots two nights later before being recalled on Sunday and starting in Carolina.
“Not perfect, but not bad,” Vasilevskiy said after giving up three goals and picking up his eighth regular season NHL win of his career.”
Vasilevskiy nearly held Carolina to two goals, but Jordan Staal slid a puck over the goal line with 0.1 seconds remaining to make the score closer than Vasilevskiy’s performance dictated.
“He was unreal,” Ondrej Palat said. “He had huge saves, just too bad the last one counted. It sucks for him, but he had a (heck) of a game.”