The best thing the Tampa Bay Lightning can say about their three-game road trip is that it's finally over.
Three games, three losses, two goals. That dropped the Lightning to 0-6 away from home this season, but sent them back to Tampa where they are nearly unblemished at 5-0-1.
It seems incomprehensible that a roster consisting of Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards, and even Vaclav Prospal - who scored nine goals in the first nine games - couldn't muster more than two in a road swing against New York's Rangers and Islanders, and a meeting with New Jersey in between.
"We've got to just play a good, solid defensive game and then I think our offense will come back to us," coach John Tortorella said after a 6-1 loss to the Devils. "We've got too many good people offensively. We'll get out of this offensively, but we have to do it by playing good defense."
Lecavalier scored both goals on the trip, including a penalty-shot tally against the Rangers. That 3-1 defeat on Monday prompted Tortorella to deliver an expletive-laced message to reporters. He claimed that Johan Holmqvist was the only one of his players to show up for the game.
The effort was better in New Jersey two nights later, but the result was the same.
"We came out and we played hard. We protected each other very well on the ice," Lecavalier said. "People wanted to show that everybody wanted to come out really hard."
The trip ended with a 4-0 loss Thursday night on Long Island.
"Obviously they are struggling on the road. Why? I'm not sure," said Islanders forward Ruslan Fedotenko, who spent the previous four seasons with the Lightning. "It just seems like they're a little bit tentative there and not supporting their game, and we just took advantage of that.
"When I played there last year, we had a couple of games like that, too. Everybody is standing there and nobody wants to make mistakes. But I'm not in that dressing room, I don't know what's going on behind doors, but they didn't play to their potential. They have a lot of talented players there and skill players offensively. They can hurt you."
MASKED MAN: Back in 1959, the buzzing crowd in New York knew the man behind the mask was Jacques Plante, they just couldn't believe the Montreal Canadiens' star goalie was going to play while wearing it.
Nearly a half-century later, it is hard to imagine a goalie not wearing one with lavish designs that show off the various personalities of the quirky men who take the most dangerous of positions.
Thursday marked the 48th anniversary of that fateful night when Plante was hit in the face by a shot off the stick of Rangers forward Andy Bathgate 3:06 into the first period. The puck opened a severe cut from his mouth to his nose and sent the All-Star netminder to the ice in a pool of blood.
He went to the dressing room, got stitched up and returned to the bench about 20 minutes later ready to return to action. Only this time, he had to do it with the mask that he had only worn in practice.
To the dismay of Canadiens coach Toe Blake, who wasn't a fan of the mask, Plante became the first to take the ice with his face protected. Blake didn't want him to wear it the next game, but Plante said he wouldn't play without it.
And there isn't a goalie now who would.
SHATTUCK ELECTRICITY: Sidney Crosby couldn't wait to get back to the "State Of Hockey."
The kid from Nova Scotia found a home away from home in Minnesota back when he attended Shattuck-St. Mary's High School - which has become a bit of a hockey factory.
Crosby, the No. 1 pick in the 2005 NHL draft and last season's scoring champion and MVP, is the biggest name to have roamed Shattuck's halls but he is far from alone.
Fellow first-round draft picks Jonathan Toews of Chicago, Los Angeles' Jack Johnson, Patrick Eaves of Ottawa and New Jersey forward Zach Parise are just some prominent players to have spent time at the relatively new hockey hotbed.
The sport was played on Shattuck's campus as long ago as 1925, and the school has had an indoor rink for 40 years. Though, it took until the final decade of the 20th century for Shattuck to commit to becoming an elite hockey program.
Before that, Shattuck joined forces with Faribault High School to have enough players for a team.
Now the school boasts five Tier I national titles, including the 2003 squad that featured 15-year-old Crosby, Johnson, and Buffalo's Drew Stafford - another first-round pick.
"Definitely as a player I developed, and it was a good environment for me, both on and off the ice," he told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "When you're away from home that young, you have to learn to be responsible and you grow up a little faster."
Crosby had a goal and three assists Tuesday in Pittsburgh's 4-2 win over the Wild in his Minnesota NHL debut.
SCORING EARLY: Never in 20 seasons had Brendan Shanahan been credited with a goal before he hit the ice for warmups.
Stick around long enough in this game and who knows what you might see.
Shortly before the New York Rangers took on the Washington Capitals on Thursday night, Shanahan was awarded a goal that had been scored two nights earlier.
"Something like that, it's not something that should be on your mind two days later," the 38-year-old forward said.
At the time, the tiebreaking goal in New York's 3-1 win over Tampa Bay was said to be scored by captain Jaromir Jagr, whose shot eluded Lightning goalie Johan Holmqvist with 9:15 left in the game.
An hour after the game, the buzz was that officials in New York and at the NHL office in Toronto were carefully reviewing the tape on high-definition monitors to determine just whose goal it was. Finally it was decided Thursday that Jagr's shot hit Shanahan's skate as he moved in front and found its way into the net.
"That's a first for me in 20 years that it takes an off-ice official three days to make a decision," he said with a smile.
Shanahan scored another power-play goal 2:44 later, giving him three goals this season and 630 during his long career. Combined with 670 assists, that gave Shanahan 1,300 points in 1,428 games.
"That's why it took them three days," he said. "Thirteen for Halloween."