It appeared that the Tampa Bay Lightning were headed to familiar territory as regulation wound down to the closing seconds and the score tied at 3-3 with the Boston Bruins. After all, Tampa’s last three games and six of the last eight had gone into overtime or beyond.
But Boston’s Mark Recchi had other ideas, as he potted the game-winning power play goal with just 19.7 ticks left on the clock. With Steven Stamkos off for boarding Gregory Campbell with just 1:50 left in the third, Recchi’s wrist shot from the slot beat goalkeeper Dan Ellis, who is now 11-6-5 on the year.
The loss, coupled with a Washington Capitals win, knocked the Lightning out of first place in the Southeast Division. Tampa Bay still holds two games in hand. It was the Bolts’ first loss in regulation since dropping a 4-2 decision to the Calgary Flames on December 7th.
The Lightning never led in this one, having to come back on three separate occasions.
Once again, the Bolts’ offense all came from their top players. Stamkos notched his 29th of the season, Martin St. Louis picked up his 15th, and captain Vincent Lecavalier potted his seventh on a beautiful wraparound as he beat Bruins’ goalkeeper Tim Thomas to the post.
Thomas did make big saves from in close on both Pavel Kubina and Simon Gagne to keep the score tied and allow Recchi to perform his heroics.
Tampa Bay head coach Guy Boucher was not happy with the officiating. Regarding the call on Stamkos, Boucher told the media that it was a clean, shoulder-to-shoulder hit. After watching a replay of the hit following the game, Boucher told Stamkos to do the same thing the next time.
Boucher also felt that there should have been a Boston penalty for interference when forward Sean Bergenheim was picked at the blue line just before Recchi’s game-winning goal.
Ellis finished the game with 25 saves for the Lightning.
Recchi’s goal was the second of the night for the Bruins’ power play, as the unit was given six opportunities. Stamkos’ goal was tallied with the man advantage, the Bolts’ only successful power play in five chances.
Two things will need to improve for the Lightning moving forward.
First is the club’s play at even strength, as Tampa is a terrible -14 when skating five-on-five. Boston, by comparison, is a +17. Come playoff time it is difficult to totally rely on the power play as your bread and butter, as calls can often times be much harder to come by in the postseason.
Second is secondary scoring. Of the last 14 Lightning goals, 12 have been scored by either Stamkos, St. Louis, Lecavalier, or Malone.
Gagne is a classic example. After recording two goals and five points in his first three games back from a neck injury, the 30-year-old winger has managed just one goal and two points in the last 10, and is a -4 in the plus / minus rating. The good news is that he has been getting some glorious scoring chances, but he has to start burying some of them.
Tampa Bay has three goal-scorers in in double figures – Stamkos with 29, St. Louis with 15, and Malone with 10. Lecavalier, Bergenheim, and defenseman Brett Clark are all next with seven each. While Stamkos will always be far ahead of the rest of his Lightning teammates, a much more level distribution can go a long way in confounding opponent’s defensive schemes and be far more profitable, especially in the playoffs.
It will be interesting to see how the club responds to tonight’s heartbreaking loss when they take on the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night.
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