The Tampa Bay Lightning finished off the regular season with a bang. Unfortunately, they were not able to keep the momentum rolling into the first round of the playoffs. Last night, as the buzzer sounded at the end of the game, the Tampa Bay Lightning would be eliminated from the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs by the referees…I mean the Montreal Canadiens.
Now, before I get too lost in sidebar, let me say this. I have absolutely no issue with the better team winning. In games one and two, the Montreal Canadiens were clearly the better team. While I still assert that they took more than their fair share of cheap shots, they simply played a better game than the Bolts, and for that…they came out on top.
However, there is nothing you can say to me to convince me that the referees did not come off as the extra man on the ice for the Montreal Canadiens. As much as I want to say that it started with the disallowed goal, but we all know it started long before that. The bias in this game, as well as game four was so incredibly apparent that even broadcaster like Rick Peckham, who is normally very good at containing his cool, found himself shocked by the uneven (and in most cases non-) calls.
Now, in the first period of Game 4, we saw a lot of what we saw in Games 1 and 2 of the series. The Lightning were making one too many passes, which resulted in the loss of the puck at some of the most inopportune moments possible.
The Montreal Canadiens were able to strike first, and strike quickly in the first period. Just 2:24 into the game, Habs center Danny Briere would score his first goal of the post season with the assists from right wing Dale Weise and left wing Michael Bournival.
In the second period of the game, the Lightning would get just the jolt they needed to get back into the game. Lightning captain Steven Stamkos was called to the box for 2 minutes of Hooking. Let’s not make mention of the sweet hit he landed on Alexei Emelin after Emelin came charging at him after the whistle. (Ok, maybe a little mention.)
While Stamkos sat in the box, the young rookie left wing Ondrej Palat would fire off a wrist shot that would find its way past Habs goaltender Carey Price, putting the Lightning back into the game, and lowering the Canadiens lead down to one.
Unfortunately, the Bolts would have less than a minute to celebrate as Habs right wing Brendan Gallagher would sink one past Lightning goaltender Anders Lindback and bring the Habs’ lead back up to two.
When the buzzer sounded to end the second period, some Bolts fans had lost any hope they had of the Lightning staying alive in this series. Those of us who did still believe were justly rewarded in the third period.
A little over three minutes later, it would be rookie center Tyler Johnson who would sink another wrist shot past Price, tying the score at 3. The Lightning was officially back in the game.
Unfortunately, as the final minutes of the game would begin to tick off the clock, the referee would blow the play dead and send Lightning rookie Cedric Paquette to the box for two minutes for Hooking. Now, while I will assert that a penalty is a penalty in any form, even former Lightning winger Chris Dingman said after the Game that unless someone is absolutely demolished in a play, or some sort of an injury is sustained, it is Hockey 101 for the referees to let the play continue in the final minutes of a playoff game. Again, it is what it is, and there is nothing we can do about it now.
Unfortunately for the Bolts, this would open the door for Habs left wing Max Pacioretty to fire off a wrist shot of his own that would find its way past Kristers Gudlevskis and ultimately seal the fate of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
All bias aside, the Lightning’s playoff series may not have gone the way that we would have wanted it to; however, the team went out on the ice and gave it everything they had. There are a lot of rookies on the team who are experiencing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the very first time. This will serve as a valuable learning experience for the young guys who will continue with the team next season.
At the end of the day, the Tampa Bay Lightning have plenty to be proud of this season, and the faithful fans in the Bolts Nation will be waiting here in Tampa Bay to welcome the team home and will be there next season ready to Be The Thunder for our boys in blue.
What are your thoughts on the Tampa Bay Lightning’s series in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs? What do you think they could have done differently that would have impacted the outcome? What were your favorite moments from the regular season? What are you most looking forward to in the next season? Let us know what you think in the comments below.