This game was the Tampa Bay Lightning’s to lose, and unfortunately, that is exactly what happened last night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum as the Bolts went head-to-head with former Lightning goaltender Mike Smith and the Phoenix Coyotes.
It took a Penalty Kill to get things going, but the Bolts struck first with a shorthanded goal from Lightning center Tyler Johnson at 11:26 in the period while, of all people, Steven Stamkos sat in the box for two minutes for Hooking Antoine Vermette.
As the buzzer sounded, the Lightning would head down the tunnel to the locker room for intermission. This is where things seem to have taken a turn for the worse.
Just over one minute into the second period, the Coyotes would tie the game up with a goal from left wing Brandon McMillan. The assists on the goal were accredited to defenseman Keith Yandle and right wing Shane Doan.
It would take almost the entire period, but with just under a minute left in the second period, Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat would find the back of the net with the assistance of right wing Ryan Callahan and defenseman Matt Carle, giving the Bolts a one goal lead once again.
Unfortunately, after the Lightning came back down the tunnel and took the ice for the third period, the Coyotes would strike again. Just over two minutes into the period, left wing Martin Erat would score an unassisted goal tying things back up for the Coyotes.
It would seem at this point that the Lightning had completely lost control of this game. Just over five and a half minutes later left wing Mikkel Boedker would get yet another goal into the back of the net with the assists from center Antoine Vermette and defenseman Zbynek Michalek.
However, the goal that would send the fans at the Tampa Bay Times Forum soaring to their feet would come with just 38 seconds left in the third period. Ondrej Palat would net his second goal of the night with assists from center Valtteri Filppula and defenseman Matt Carle.
This would be good enough to earn the Bolts one point and send the game into overtime.
Just like the game against the Boston Bruins on Saturday night, the Bolts would survive all the way through the extra frame only to end up ultimately falling in the shootout.
I know that the Bolts are dealing with a lot of issues right now, but if they want to find themselves still playing hockey towards the end of April, they are going to have to find a way to play a complete game and start winning games.
In the past few games, the team has burst onto the scene in the first period, only to blow a lead and end up losing late in the game. Previously, it was the third period that the Bolts would soar in, but that seems to have taken a drastic change as of late.
Just like many of you, I know for a fact that this young team is jam packed with talent. The Bolts have everything they need to be able to refocus and find themselves in the position that they want to be in once the post season begins; however, it is up to them to go out there, put their best skate forward, and make it happen.
Next up for the Tampa Bay Lightning, they go head-to-head with the in-state rival Florida Panthers on Thursday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
What do you think the Bolts need to do in order to get their game back on track? Do you think shuffling the lines a little may be the solution that the Lightning are looking for? Let us know what you think in the comments below.