The Tampa Bay Lightning rallied from a second period deficit to secure an important win while, off the ice, Boston stock market mogul Jeffery Vinik has officially closed on a deal that secures his ownership of the hockey club.
Vinik was rumored to have the trading of Vincent Lecavalier as a precursor to a deal, however, it appears now that this rumor was false. TSN's Bob McKenzie says Vinik is "mortified at the notion he might be perceived as someone who wants Lecavalier gone because that's simply not the truth."
Lecavalier's play has been significantly improved in the last few games and, along with Martin St. Louis, who scored a goal for the fifth consecutive game and Steven Stamkos, who has an eight-game points streak, the Lightning have surged to the eighth and final playoff spot of the Eastern Conference.
All three figured heavily in Tampa Bay's rally past the New York Islanders. Stamkos opened the scoring with his 30th goal of the season.
After the Lightning fell behind 2-1 in the second period by playing pretty lackluster hockey, St. Louis pulled the Bolts out of their doldrums, finishing a gorgeous feed from Stamkos to tie the game with 11:23 left in the middle stanza. 36 seconds later, Lecavalier gave the Lightning the lead.
Stamkos would score again in the third and Alex Tanguay would add an empty net goal to secure the 5-2 win.
"It tells you we learned how to win when we're not at our best," goalie Antero Niittymaki, who made 34 saves, said. "If you're going to make the playoffs, you have to win as many B games as you can."
"I don't even know if that was our B game," coach Rick Tocchet countered. "You have to go down a few more (letters)."
"When you're going to be playing these teams down the stretch, you can't afford those lapses. They're going to cost us eventually," added Stamkos, "This game was huge, everyone knows how tight this Eastern Conference is, if you lose there are teams going to be catching you and even when you are winning games you are still just trying to stay with the pack."
The Lightning's prospective owner, Vinik, attended the game last night, a clear indication that the team was close to transferring to the 50-year-old financier.
Some reports indicate that Vinik, one of Boston's wealthiest residents, is paying cash for the franchise, which makes transition to him easier. Oren Koules paid $200 million for the franchise in 2008. Vinik's purchase price is expected to be significantly less.
Also clearing the muddy waters is that Vinik appears to be the sole owner; he does not have investment partners as part of this deal. He also owns a home in Boca Raton.
With a new boss seemingly imminent, Tocchet focused on what he can control.
"It's my job to keep a bubble around us," he said. "Any good team or any team that is in a playoff run, you insulate yourself from all that stuff. You have to, because if you let things creep in, it's excuses and distractions."
Fans can only hope that Vinik will offer the stability the franchise enjoyed during the Palace Sports and Entertainment years that led to the franchise competing for multiple playoff berths and eventually culminating in a Stanley Cup.
"Buying the Lightning and joining the Tampa Bay community is a dream come true," said Vinik in a statement. "I've been an avid hockey fan my whole life and I pledge to our fans that I will work my hardest to build the Lightning into a world class organization both on and off the ice."
Next up for Tampa Bay is showdown with their competitor from the 2004 Final, the Calgary Flames.