ST. LOUIS — Ideally, this comeback story would have had a fancy first chapter; refreshed, he would immediately show how much his slimmed down, strengthened frame was going to help him this season.
So much for that.
“I felt OK, but it was like everything went in,” Jaroslav Halak said. “All the weird bounces tonight. It was one of those games. Everything goes the opposite way than some other nights. It was good to get the first one under the belt. But, like I said, it was not how I imagined the game was going to be.”
The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the St. Louis Blues Friday night at the Scottrade Center. That matters little.
What could matter, emphasis on could, is that Halak, the man expected to start for The Note, surrendered four goals in his first live action since April 1.
After he was benched by two separate groin injuries, Halak responded the way his team wanted this offseason He spent his time off in St. Louis, cut fat and built muscle. He strengthened his legs to avoid groin issues moving forward. His body fat percentage has dipped into single digits.
But his absence from the ice showed Friday. Artem Sergeev, Brett Connolly, Ondrej Palat and Pierre-Cedric Labrie all found the net for the Lightning. Halak, who played the entire game, did make 19 saves.
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock wasn’t really surprised.
“He has to play,” Hitchcock said. “He has to compete. He is going to have to get back into the rhythm. He’s going to have to work at it. It’s not going to come just naturally. He’s going to have to really work at it. He’s going to have to get some games and get grinding.”
Halak agrees. He said he is up to man the net again tomorrow when the Blues host the Dallas Stars, if asked.
“There is always room for improving,” he said. “Obviously, I have to improve from what you saw tonight.” Follow Ben Frederickson on Twitter (@Ben_Fred), or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org