Can the Tampa Bay Lightning Be Stopped?

Can the Tampa Bay Lightning Be Stopped?

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The most dangerous club in the National Hockey League will
be at the Wells Fargo Center Tuesday night – and no, we’re not talking about
the home team.

Little has changed for the Lighting since the Flyers did
battle against them in Tampa Bay 10 days ago. They maintain a firm grasp on
first place in the Southeast Division by virtue of their 12 points off of a 6-2
record. They also continue to exhibit the most explosive offense in the NHL,
only while the rest of the league has come back down to earth, the Bolts are
still setting an absolutely ludicrous pace.

Tampa Bay is averaging 4.88 goals per game, over a full
point more than second-place St. Louis. They’ve been held to three goals or
less in just two games – both losses – with their lowest output of the season currently
at two. Meanwhile the Lightning have scored five on two occasions, six on two
more occasions, and have set the bar with eight goals in a game already.

It’s a lot of the usual suspects. Two-time NHL goal scoring
champion is at it again, placing third with seven tallies, and second with 16
points. Six-time All Star Martin St. Louis is hot on Stamkos’ heels in with 14
points, while captain Vincent Lecavalier has chipped in 11.

But new arrivals have made the squad more formidable to
opposing goaltenders than ever. Rookie Cory Conacher, a player that went
undrafted out of college due to his size (5-7, 176), is off to a torrid start,
leading all rookies in points (12), assists (7), plus-minus (7), and tied for
the league lead with goals (5). Free-agent pickup and former Flyer Matt Carle
has quickly installed himself as an opportune scorer as well, leading all Tampa
Bay defensemen with six points.

They’ve come together to create a devastating attack under head
coach Guy Boucher, who in his first two seasons with the Lightning had his
squad finish in the top 10 in scoring. They also fell one game short of a
Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 2010-11.

They’re a force to be reckoned with against any team in the
NHL, not just the Flyers – although the Orange & Black have had their
troubles with them.

The Lightning won the last meeting 5-1. Philly got out to an
early lead on a fluke goal, but Tampa stole the momentum after killing a
four-minute 5-on-4, then took advantage of backup netminder Michael Leighton
making his first start of the year. While it was a questionable decision to
start Leights that night (or ever), Ilya Bryzgalov hasn’t fared much better
against them. Bryz went 1-2-1 against the Bolts last season, posting a 3.44 GAA
and awful .814 SV%.

It’s probably unlikely Tampa Bay continues on at quite this
obnoxious of a pace, but at this rate they are likely to finish as one of the
top two or three highest-scoring teams in the NHL this season. So far, the most
any opponent has been able to do is slow the Lightning down, and give their
forwards a chance to take advantage of suspect defense and goaltending.

Tough for a team like the Flyers, less than full strength
and hardly averaging over two goals a game, to compete in that environment. Then
again, over the long haul it’s going to be tough for anybody in the NHL to
compete with this explosive offense.

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Best of NBA: Curry, Warriors demolish Cavaliers, 126-91, at home

Best of NBA: Curry, Warriors demolish Cavaliers, 126-91, at home

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors certainly looked ready to trade some more blows with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers come June.

The two-time reigning MVP hit five 3-pointers and had 20 points while matching his season best with 11 assists in Golden State's 126-91 rout of the defending champs Monday.

Klay Thompson scored 26 points with five 3s, and Curry made four steals. Draymond Green produced his third triple-double of the season with 11 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists while matching his career best with five blocks -- and had another dustup with King James in the process.

James had 20 points on 6-of-18 shooting and eight rebounds, and he and Green became the talk once more as their relationship turned even more testy.

Kevin Durant added 21 points, six rebounds, five assists and three blocks for the Warriors in a much-hyped matchup merely weeks after Golden State lost 109-108 in Cleveland on Christmas (see full recap).

Thomas explodes for 17 in fourth quarter to lift Celtics over Hornets
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas scored 17 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter, and the surging Boston Celtics beat the Charlotte Hornets 108-98 on Monday night for their ninth victory in 11games.

It was Thomas' 25th straight game with 20 or more points. He's been putting up big final quarters of late -- scoring 20 or more three times this season. No other NBA player had done it more than once entering Monday.

Al Horford had 22 points, while Kelly Olynyk and Jae Crowder added 15 apiece for Boston, which has won all three meetings with Charlotte this season.

Kemba Walker scored 24 points and Marvin Williams 21 for the Hornets, who lost their fifth straight -- all on the road.

Thomas scored 13 straight points, pushing Boston ahead 93-83 with his 3-pointer from the left wing with 7 minutes left.

Boston led 80-71 entering the final period (see full recap).

Wizards remain hot with win over Trail Blazers
WASHINGTON  -- Bradley Beal scored 25 points and John Wall had 24 as the Washington Wizards took a page from the Portland Trail Blazers' playbook by hitting 13 3-pointers in a comfortable 120-101 victory on Monday afternoon.

The Wizards, who rely less on the 3-pointer than almost any NBA team, were 13 of 23 from beyond the arc in their 12th consecutive home victory. The 3-pointer-heavy Trail Blazers shot 8 of 26 on 3-point attempts.

After Washington coach Scott Brooks called Portland guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum as good as any backcourt in the league, Beal and John Wall outplayed them. Lillard led the Blazers with 22 points and McCollum had 12, but they combined to shoot 11 of 29 from the floor.

The Wizards have won four of their last five games (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Penguins halt Capitals 9-game streak with wild 8-7 OT win

Best of NHL: Penguins halt Capitals 9-game streak with wild 8-7 OT win

PITTSBURGH -- Conor Sheary scored 34 seconds into overtime and the Pittsburgh Penguins ended the Washington Capitals' nine-game winning streak with a wild 8-7 victory Monday night that included nine second-period goals.

Sheary had two goals and an assist for the Penguins, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Evgeni Malkin picked up his 11th career hat trick during a frenetic second period, and Sidney Crosby collected his NHL-leading 27th goal to go with two assists. Bryan Rust and Nick Bonino also scored for Pittsburgh, and Matt Murray got the win despite allowing seven goals on 28 shots.

The Penguins trailed 3-0 before scoring six goals in less than 11 minutes in the second period, more goals than the Capitals had allowed in a game all season. Pittsburgh led 6-5 after 40 minutes.

Lars Eller scored twice for Washington, and T.J. Oshie, Brett Connolly, Nicklas Backstrom, Justin Williams and Andre Burakovsky also found the net. Philipp Grubauer made eight saves after coming on in relief of Braden Holtby, who was pulled during Pittsburgh's second-period deluge (see full recap).

Eichel scores twice to give Sabres' 4-1 win over Stars
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Jack Eichel scored two goals and the Buffalo Sabres defeated the Dallas Stars 4-1 on Monday.

Tyler Ennis scored 19 seconds into the first period. Ennis returned after missing 30 games with a groin injury that required surgery.

Jake McCabe also had a goal and Robin Lehner made 31 saves after missing the past three games with an illness.

The Sabres snapped a two-game losing streak and beat the Stars for the first time in four matchups.

Radek Faksa scored for the Stars in the opener of a three-game road trip. Kari Lehtonen stopped 25 shots. Dallas has lost two in a row and six of eight (see full recap).

Bishop anchors Lightning to 2-1 win over Kings
LOS ANGELES -- Brian Boyle scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period, and the Tampa Bay Lightning opened a six-game road trip with a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday.

Ben Bishop made an early mistake that led to Kyle Clifford's goal for the Kings, but bounced back to make 31 saves in his second start back from a three-week absence with a lower-body injury.

Tyler Johnson scored in the first period for the Lightning, who won for just the second time in seven games.

Peter Budaj stopped 27 shots for the Kings.

Both teams played without stars due to illness. Kings captain Anze Kopitar missed his first game since Nov. 20, and All-Star defenseman Victor Hedman missed his first game of the season for Tampa Bay (see full recap).