There is no excuse for it. There is absolutely no excuse for allowing a team back in the game in the manner the Tampa Bay Lightning did last night for the Buffalo Sabers. After holding a 3-1 lead in the second period, the Bolts allowed six straight goals from the Sabres, who average a 10th best 2.85 per game. And the reason why is definitely an area of concern.
The Lightning are not the toughest of teams physically. They defend each other as best as anyone, but they aren’t exactly a team that’s going to run you into next Tuesday. Lucky for them, physical strength isn’t always the most important strength a hockey team can have. What is more important is the square-foot of real estate between your ears, and that mental toughness is a test the Lightning failed astoundingly last night.
The Sabres had scored a goal in the second period to give themselves life, and the game entered the third period 3-2 Lightning. Early in the period, the Sabres scored the game-tying goal. Here’s the catch: it shouldn’t have been a goal. Stafford inadvertenly tripped Roloson, making him unable to make the save as he was lying on his back. It was an accident, and usually the call there would be the “no goal, no penalty” call. However, the officials let the goal stand, and the game remained tied.
This took all the metaphorical wind out of the Lightning’s sails. They stopped playing after that, and it is quite alarming. They couldn’t mentally recover from a bad call. You know what? Too bad. This is a game and the refs are human. They are going to make errors, and a team needs to be able to put it out of their mind. The Lightning felt they got robbed and seemed to boycott the rest of the game in protest, like 4 year-olds holding a temper tantrum.
They allowed the Sabres to score the next SIX goals before scoring one more of their own to lose by a score of 7-4. At least two and probably three of these goals resulted directly off Lightning turnovers in their own zone. They gave up after the bad goal, and that is something scary to see in a team looking for a deep playoff run.
One of the more concerning aspects of the breakdown was Dwayne Roloson. He was infuriated (rightfully so) after the goal was allowed to stand. Though he didn’t get much help from his team, from that point forward he didn’t make a single big save.
When the team is showing signs of spiralling, it is the job of the veterans to bring everyone back. Roloson, a veteran, needed to assume that role and shut down the Sabres. Instead, he let the goal get to him maybe more than anyone. No one rallied the troops. No one revved up the team. The game was only tied with most of the third period to go.
The Lightning haven’t had to face too much adversity this season. The fact that this is the reaction they had once they did scares me. They are going to need much tougher skin and much tougher minds if they plan on getting anything accomplished in the postseason. Hopefully it was just a fluke, but I don’t like the indicators last night’s loss brought to light.