Two things stood out in Game 2. The first was the leadership Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier showed from a physical standpoint. He came out and set a tone from the opening faceoff, playing the body hard and showing everyone that he was not going to be denied, and getting a pair of assists in the process.
The second was the way the Lighting stuck with their game plan, which was to attack at all times. They started the third period with a 1-0 lead but failed to score on an early 5-on-3 power play and there was some question as to whether Tampa would wilt a little after that, but the Lightning kept the pedal to the metal and got two goals in a span of 1:09 shortly thereafter. That Tampa Bay started the game with terrific energy and carried it through to the final horn was most impressive.
And the rough stuff that surfaced in the third period was not surprising at all. Once teams start to become familiar with each other things like that happen, and some nastiness has now been injected into the series. While no one wants to take bad penalties, early on in Game 3 there will definitely be carryover after what went on. Calgary's Chuck Kobasew and Tampa's Pavel Kubina got in each other's faces at the final horn. Flames tough guy Chris Simon took exception the Lightning's Andre Roy bumping Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff. Calgary's Ville Nieminen was head hunting a little bit late in the game, and Flames captain Jarome Iginla was agitated as things wound down. Expect Iginla to be a physical force early in Game 3 much like Vincent Lecavalier was in Game 2, and if he is look for his teammates to follow his lead.
Tampa Bay came out flat in the opening game of the series, and while many gave the Lightning the benefit of the doubt because of such a quick turnaround after seven tough games against Philadelphia they definitely answered some questions by matching Calgary's intensity in Game 2.
No matter how much skill or talent a team has, it will not beat the Flames unless it outworks them and Tampa Bay did that all night. Because of that the Lightning were able to show in the first 6:00 of the third period what the biggest difference is between the two teams. While Calgary has one or two reliable scorers, the Lightning's top two lines are filled with guys who can finish, and we saw in that span that Tampa's ability will carry the Lightning if they continue to match Calgary's effort.
Tampa Bay's defensemen did a good job containing Calgary star Jarome Iginla, and the Lightning's Vincent Lecavalier was the best player on the ice in Game 2. He hooked up with Martin St. Louis on Tampa's fourth goal. When that French-Canadian connection is clicking, it's good news for Lightning fans.
The series has taken on a physical tone as well. These teams have learned to dislike each other very quickly, and that added intensity will benefit hockey fans as this matchup progresses.
Tampa Bay goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin was much more in control in Game 2 than he was in the series opener. His first three or four saves were all about being in command and getting in a rhythm, which he never did in Game 1. He made a glove save right in the webbing and didn't juggle the puck, kept a save off his blocker close to him and under control, and did not roam out of the net unnecessarily. All night Khabibulin let his defensemen retrieve pucks from the area around the goal, and that helped immensely with Tampa's communication in its own zone.
Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff, meanwhile, had a much more difficult go of it in Game 2. Kiprusoff lived a goalie's dream in Game 1 as a lack of traffic allowed him to see every shot coming at him, and Tampa's lack of effort resulted in few second chances. That changed Thursday as the Lighting let Kiprusoff know early on they were going to skate by him and get in front of the net. Tampa's first goal resulted from a lot of congestion near the crease and a refusal by Ruslan Fedotenko to quit on a loose puck. That kind of effort was absent in Game 1.
The Lightning were also able to get Kiprusoff moving side-to-side with great puck movement, making him expose himself while pushing from post to post. That's typical Tampa Bay hockey, and look for more of the same when the series resumes.