TAMPA — At one point early in the second period Saturday night, Tampa Bay Lightning RW Brett Connolly wanted to throw his stick far into the stands.
That moment came after he had a sure goal on his stick, only to see St. Louis G Jaroslav Halak flash almost out of nowhere to rob Connolly of his first goal. Connolly had been staring at a wide-open net after Halak gave the puck away to Steven Stamkos behind the net.
The near-goal just added to the frustration for Connolly, who started the season with only one assist in six games with Syracuse in the American Hockey League and failed to score in his first two games with Tampa Bay.
“I have no idea (how Halak got there),” Connolly said. “I got a lot on the shot, put it where I wanted to put it and he just kind of got a paddle on it.”
Connolly didn’t let his frustration get the better of him, however, and came back to get the game-winning goal midway through the third period, deflecting a Radko Gudas point shot past Halak.
“I think the hockey gods gave me a break for missing that first one,’’ Connolly said. “It was nice to see that one go in.’’
Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper called the goal a just reward for the work Connolly has put in.
“I had a talk with him (Saturday) that, clearly, he is not here because of his point production in the minors,” Cooper said. “But he’s had tons of chances, had shots, he’s played extremely well and he had a great training camp with us. He’s got speed, he’s got skill and he can put the puck in the net, so for him to get the game winner ... And I don’t know what will happen in the future here, but I don’t think that is the last goal Brett Connolly is going to score in the near future. Sometimes you just have to get the monkey off your back. And he did it and usually when that happens, they usually start to come in bunches.’’
West is Best
In the early part of the season there have already been 94 matchups between Eastern and Western conference teams entering Sunday. Of those games, the Western Conference has won 58, or 61.7 percent of those meetings (58-26-10). And of the possible 188 points available, Western Conference teams have earned 126, or 67 percent.
Given the disparity in the records and the dominance shown by the West, the fact Tampa Bay is a perfect 5-0 against the West is certainly impressive. With two victories over Chicago as well as wins against Los Angeles, Minnesota and St. Louis (a combined 33-14-8 record), the Lightning are the only team in the East with a perfect record against the West. The East has a combined 35-50-9 record against the West.
Tampa Bay will face Western Conference opponent Edmonton on Thursday.
“I definitely think we are a good team, but it’s still early in the season, we haven’t played a whole lot of games against Western teams,’’ left wing Alex Killorn said. “I think if we keep playing this way, we’ll be fine. But it does give us a measuring stick of where we are in the league right now.’’
Nuts and Bolts
Since allowing three power-play goals in a 5-4 loss to Pittsburgh on Oct. 12, the Lightning have killed 31 of 32 power plays in the past nine games. ... The Lightning power play was 0-for-3 against St. Louis, marking the first time this season Tampa Bay has not had a power-play goal in back-to-back games. ... Tampa Bay’s 19 third-period goals are tied for second most in the league.