“These are the times that try men’s souls.”
Those were the words Thomas Paine wrote in his famous pamphlet, American Crisis, in an effort to renew the spirit of the American soldier and discourage them from deserting or going home during the early days of the Revolutionay War. If Paine were alive today, he surely would have used those same words to motivate the members of the Tampa Bay LIghtning prior to their game last night against the Anaheim Ducks. Facing the prospect of falling further behind in their quest to make the playoffs, Tampa desperately needed the same encouragement Paine offered the Revolutionary troops with his pamphlet that enabled the upstart Americans to cross the Delaware in desperate conditions and then defeat the Hessians in the Battle of Trenton. As it turned out, the ghost of Paine and his immortal words may have filtered into the Lightning’s locker room, as Tampa defeated the Ducks, 3-2 on a game-winning shootout goal by Brian Boyle, in a game one could argue was a must-win situation.
In reality, the game never was as close as the score indicated. The Lightning, who mustered only 21 shots on goal in each of their previous two games against the Boston Bruins and the Ottawa Senators, outshot the Ducks 37-16, including a 30-7 advantage from the second period through the overtime. Tampa also dominated Anaheim in total shot attempts, 82-39, including 15 by Jonathan Drouin and 10 by Nikita Kucherov. Even more impressive, was the Lightning’s work in the face-off circle. Facing the NHL’s best team in face-offs won, Tampa won 36 of the game’s 67 face offs, symbolizing the overall dominance they displayed against one of the Western Conference’s best teams. If it wasn’t for the fact that the Lightning hit three goal posts during regulation, the game never would have gone to a shootout. In what is hopefully a sign of things to come, the game, according to most observers, had the intensity of a playoff game and if the Lightning hold out any aspirations of making the playoffs, that type of effort is needed every night they take the ice. More importantly, the two points the Lightning earned with the win, coupled with Boston’s loss to Toronto, moved them to within six points of third place in the Atlantic Division.
According to most historians, Paine’s publication of American Crisis, played a crucial role and was a turning point in the American’s battle for independence. Hopefully, the Lightning can take inspiration from those same words and use it as a renewal of their own morale in the next couple of weeks. As impressive as their effort was on Saturday, it will go for naught if they can’t follow it up with another dominant performance on Tuesday against the Los Angeles Kings at Amalie Arena for their second consecutive victory, a feat they haven’t accomplished since December 20 and 22 when they defeated the Detroit Red Wings, 4-1 and the St. Louis Blues, 5-2. A loss to the Kings before they embark on another road trip and the Lightning may need more than just some historical words of inspiration for them to have any chance at qualifying for the Stanley Cup playoffs.