The Tampa Bay Lightning have been without Steven Stamkos for the past month and a half, but it could be argued it was defenseman Anton Stralman, who had been sidelined with a broken leg, that the Lightning were missing more.
Stralman, 29, was a 22-plus minute per night blueliner and he chipped in nine goals and 34 points in 73 games during the regular season. Beyond that, though, he was the perfect shutdown guy for Tampa Bay, skating alongside Victor Hedman and giving the Lightning one of the most effective defense pairings in the entire league.
Without Stralman, the Lightning’s blueline has been led by Hedman alone, but after weeks of rehab, the veteran defenseman was taking part in full practices ahead of Game 1 and was back in the lineup for Game 2. It didn’t take long for him to make his mark on Monday night’s contest, either:
It took Stralman all of 16:37 to score his first goal of the post-season, and he did it by sneaking in from the backend before going upstairs on Penguins goaltender Matt Murray. Sure, it’s not exactly Bobby Baun scoring an overtime-winner with a broken ankle, but it was a big goal for the Lightning. Less than three minutes later, Jonathan Drouin put one home to level the score for Tampa Bay.
It wouldn’t be enough for the Lightning, though, as Penguins star Sidney Crosby scored 40 seconds into overtime to send the series back to Tampa Bay tied 1-1.
The Lightning will hope Stralman’s goal is a sign he’s in for a productive post-season and can be a game-changing offensive force from the blueline. His single goal already ties him with his 2014-15 playoff total, and that came in 26 games. Maybe it’s a sign of things to come for Stralman in this post-season, but the Lightning might be all right without the offensive production so long as he can get up to full game speed by the time Game 3 rolls around.