It was a long night that is best forgotten by the Tampa Bay Lightning players, as they will try to recover emotionally and somehow move forward after an utterly disastrous game.
After the 8-1 shellacking at the hands of the Boston Bruins, the club looked thoroughly defeated well before the clock reached all zeros at the end of the third period.
There was not much in the way of highlights for Tampa Bay in this one.
Victor Hedman scored the lone Bolts’ goal on a beauty of a three-way passing play on an odd-man rush. Sean Bergenheim to Ryan Malone to Hedman at the left faceoff circle, where he had an open net with which to shoot.
The Lightning actually outshot Boston, 38-32 for the game. There was good pressure on Tim Thomas for long stretches. It’s just that Thomas kept making one incredible stop after another.
That just about covers the positives. Seriously.
Now for the negatives – and the list had to be trimmed in order to fit into this article.
Goaltending: Once again, the crease area failed the Lightning. Mike Smith got the nod tonight, but bad goals given up haunted the club for the second straight contest.
Besides a couple of soft shots that got past Smith, the two worst were the result of Smith miscues. Dan Ellis had some misadventures in the previous game against the Toronto Maple Leafs that led to two goals, and Smith had a similar problem tonight.
The first was a back-breaker with less than 20 seconds left in the first period. At the time, the score was still just 1-0, and Smith had just flat out robbed Mark Recchi in close to keep the game close.
Forward Michael Ryder cleared the Bruins’ zone, getting the puck along the right wing side to defenseman Dennis Seidenberg at center ice. As Seidenberg reached the Tampa Bay blue line, he wound up like he was going to rip a hard dump in behind the Bolts’ net. Smith started out towards the corner to cut off the puck, but was not able to recover by the time he realized that Seidenberg had directed the puck to the far side of the net.
Instead of a 1-0 deficit heading to the second, the 2-0 Boston lead probably seemed the equivalent of having to climb Mount Everest with the way Thomas has been playing for the Bruins.
The second terrible goal that Smith allowed was just after Tampa had scored their lone goal to claw their way back to within striking distance at 3-1.
Two minutes after the Lightning goal, Smith was behind the net and fumbled the puck away, and the end result was Shawn Thornton poking home a gift to give the B’s a stranglehold 4-1 lead heading into the third.
Defensive coverage and decisions: The opening goal of the game came after the Bolts’ players parted along the left wing side of their zone at the blue line. David Krejci jumped into the opening and snapped a wrist shot past Smith.
As the game deteriorated, so did the play and the Lightning decision making. Smith was pulled after The Bruins fifth goal, so Ellis was now in the game.
Hedman tried an outlet pass from the side of the net right through the center of the defensive zone. Ryder stepped up and intercepted the pass in the high slot, wound up with a slapshot, and blew the puck past Ellis’ blocker side for a 6-1 lead.
Steven Stamkos was held goalless for a fourth straight game, a streak that has now reached a season-high. Stamkos ended the night with three shots on goal, but it’s obvious that club’s are gearing their defensive schemes around shutting down the Bolts’ most consistent offensive threat.
When Stamkos had 21 goals in 22 contests, “The Great One” himself, Wayne Gretzky, was asked if Stamkos could join the 50 goals in 50 games club. Gretzky candidly said it was too early to say for sure, and you can see why.
No only has Stamkos not scored in four games, he now is the co-leader in NHL goal scoring. Sidney Crosby netted a hat trick tonight against the Atlanta Thrashers to raise his total to 21, also.
It is a long season, and there will be plenty of hills and valleys for both players. But it should be a great race to see which one can top the other after tying last season with 51 each.
Bolts Bits: Krejci ended with two goals and an assist and was a +4 rating. Ryder had a goal and two assists and was a +2…Bergenheim led the way for the Lightning with four shots on goal…Simon Gagne, Dominic Moore and Teddy Purcell each finished a -3…forward Steve Downie left the game with what the team described as a “lower body injury”…Marc Savard played in his first game of the year after suffering from post-concussion syndrome over the summer. Savard recorded one shot on goal in 15:45 of ice time.
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