By now, just about everyone in the NHL knows about Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis.
The two Tampa Bay Lightning 2010-2011 All-Stars are first and second in scoring on the team and first and fifth overall in the league. But to build a championship-caliber team, you need more than just top-line scoring. Your role players and other lines need to contribute, too.
Sean Bergenheim and Marc-Andre Bergeron got that memo.
Bergenheim beat Carolina Hurricanes netminder Cam Ward on a rush with a nicely placed wrister to the five-hole, the second consecutive game where he skated alone down the left side and beat the goaltender with a wrist shot.
Bergenheim now has three goals in his last two games, and has truly been an unsung hero for the Lightning squad this year with his solid two-way play.
Bergenheim also set up Marc-Andre Bergeron's overtime winner after winning a tough battle on the neutral boards and into the offensive zone and then scooting the puck over to a charging Bergeron who wound up for a slap shot but instead took a deceptively quick snap shot to the far side that found the net behind Ward, ending a fervent comeback attempt by the visiting Hurricanes.
With the Lightning leading 3-1 with under a minute to play and Cam Ward off for an extra attacker, it looked as if the Bolts were in complete control of the game and well on their way to a regulation victory that would deny their Southeast Division rival any points while securing two of their own.
Which team is more likely to make the playoffs—the Caroline Hurricanes, or the Atlana Thrashers?
But the Hurricanes players had other plans in mind. The Hurricanes got two quick goals—one from rookie sensation Jeff Skinner and one from Erik Cole, tipped in after an intentionally errant shot by Joni Pitkanen—with their own net empty to bring the game even at 3-3 and send it into overtime, ensuring both teams at least one point in the standings.
But the Lightning players responded in the extra period with the winner, showing the "first on puck" mentality that head coach Guy Boucher has preached all year and the improved transition game they've relied heavily on lately to hold off the Hurricanes and improve to 5-2 on their ongoing 12-game homestand.
Their play in the extra period especially showed a marked improvement from their last game at Buffalo, where mental toughness was lacking as the Sabres used a questionable goal to take back momentum and blow out the Lightning players on their own ice.
I can't say much more than I already have about Sean Bergenheim, but with Ryan Malone out with an abdominal injury for up to six to eight weeks, the Bolts are going to need some other forwards to step up offensively.
Bergenheim has answered the call so far, and if he continues to do so—and the Lightning get some help from call-ups like Johan Harju—the Lightning may be able to adequately fill the hole Bugsy leaves on the roster.
With Mike Lundin still out due to injury, the Bolts are going to ask for time on even strength from Marc-Andre Bergeron, who was originally brought in as the seventh defenseman who would see most, if not all, of his time on the power play.
After a horrendous minus-four performance on Tuesday against Buffalo, Bergeron was a plus-one after scoring the game-winner at even strength 4-on-4 in overtime.
Credit where credit is due—the Carolina Hurricanes battled back with their own net empty, as Tuomo Ruutu and captain Eric Staal battled behind the net to get the puck to Jeff Skinner, who then put it behind Dwayne Roloson.
They also got a nice deflection goal from Erik Cole to steal one point and keep pace in the race for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
The Lightning were able to recover, but giving up two goals in under a minute when you're trying to seal the deal in regulation is especially important against division opponents when you're trying to limit the number of three-point games you give up, especially on home ice.
The Lightning need to learn how to play with a lead better, rather than sitting back on their heels and hoping the clock will simply expire.
The first period was absolutely marred by penalties. The game had almost no flow in the first period and despite the amount of man advantages handed out—including 5-on-4, 4-on-4 and 4-on-3—nobody was able to generate much offense. Luckily the game heated up in the second and third.