Tonight, the Tampa Bay Lightning opened the doors to the Tampa Bay Times Forum to go face-to-face with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Despite a valiant effort, the Lightning was shut out 3-0 at home at the hands of the Penguins.
The game certainly didn’t start out the way the Bolts hoped it would. Just under 7 minutes into the game, Penguins left wing Chris Kunitz would fire off a wrist shot that would find its way past Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop giving the Pens the 1-0 advantage early.
Throughout the first period of play the shots on goal were rather low on both sides of the ice. The Lightning had the advantage with the shots being 7-5. Considering the amount of firepower that these two teams possess, I have to admit I am a little surprised. However, on the flip side I guess this makes a statement as to the defensive measures on both sides of the ice.
The second period was not very eventful in terms of scoring, but it was a rather rousing back and forth between each team. While the numbers may not reflect this, the Lightning really did put forth a solid effort in the third period.
For the first 8 minutes of the third period, the results remain the same. The Lightning would be able to hold the Pens to just one point. However, it was about that time in the game that things started to turn upside down for the Bolts.
With less than 2 minutes left in the game, Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper decided to pull Bishop in order to get another attacker on the ice. While this is a viable strategy, in my experience, 9 out of 10 times this backfires; and backfire it did.
At 18:17 Kunitz was able to break free, firing on the empty net and securing the Penguins’ victory.
There are two things that I think were the downfall of the Bolts tonight. The Lightning has simply got to find a way to keep themselves out of the box. While I understand that not every penalty and every fight is avoidable, knowing the difference between the two is the key.
With defensemen like Radko Gudas (who did not play in tonight’s encounter) who have the ability to lay on hard, solid hits it is obviously going to draw the ire of the other team and ipso facto the attention of the referees.
The other thing, and this simply has to stop, is the overpassing. I have always been a huge proponent of the quality over quantity theory; the fact remains that you cannot score a goal if you do not shoot the puck. The Bolts simply have to stop overpassing the puck, especially while they are on the Power Play.
During the power play, the team should be taking every single scoring opportunity in front of them, and making sure that they are in the right place at the right time, and fighting to keep the puck in the offensive zone. The continual passing, while it may occasionally lead to the perfect goal, more than provides an opportunity for an opposing player to intercept and send the puck to the other end of the ice.
The Lightning started this game off leading the Penguins in Shots on Goal 7-5; however, in the next two periods, the Penguins would lead the Lightning 11-8 and 13-6 respectively. At the end of the third period, the Shots on Goal would be 29-21 Pittsburgh.
Don’t get me wrong, this game was not some sort of Greek tragedy. There were a lot of positives to be taken from this game. Both of these teams played their hearts out, unfortunately for the Bolts, it would be the Penguins that would take home the two points, ending the Bolts’ 7 game win streak at home.
Goaltender Ben Bishop put up a decent performance tonight. He made 26 saves on 28 shots for a Save Percentage of .929.
Pittsburgh Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury put up a spectacular performance as well, stopping all 21 shots the Lightning brought against him.
In the post-game press conference Coach Cooper shared his feelings on tonight’s game.
“There were two teams that played really hard, two teams that got chances, and they’ve got some big time players that buried that first one that put us behind and made us play catch up the whole time.” He said. “I was not displeased with the way we played. It sucks we didn’t score a goal; you kinda need those to win, but you gotta give them a little credit. They dictated a little bit of what went on with us, as I thought we did with them at times.”
Victor Hedman also spoke to the media post game tonight. He shares Cooper’s thoughts on the team’s play tonight.
“It was a tough game overall.” He said. “I thought it was a pretty even matchup. It could have gone either way. They got the bounces tonight. There are a lot of positives out of this game.”
At the end of the day, while the Bolts did not come home with the two points, tonight was not a total loss. There are both positives and negatives to come from it.
Now, the Bolts have three days to distinguish between the two. If they can find a way to continue the positives while improving on the negatives, then the Bolts will have a good chance of taking home the two points when they roll into Columbus on Tuesday.
Three Stars of the Night:
What did you think about tonight’s game? What are the things that you think the Lightning need to improve on heading into Columbus? Sound off in the comments below and let us know what you think.