The Tampa Bay Lightning kicked off their back-to-back road series on a rather sour note as the Lightning were dismantled by the Ottawa Senators.
The Tampa Bay Lightning has spent a lot of time at home in the Bolts Nation over the last month, but that time has temporarily come to an end. Tonight, the Tampa Bay Lightning travelled far north to the Canadian Tire Centre in Canada’s capital to take on captain Erik Karlsson and the Ottawa Senators.
The Tampa Bay Lightning has been presented with an interesting opportunity this week. The Lightning is currently in a neck and neck battle with the Boston Bruins for the second place position in the Atlantic Division. If the Tampa Bay Lightning were to bring home the two points in tonight’s encounter, it would create some separation between the two teams.
Considering tomorrow night’s battle is against another divisional opponent, it makes the two points all that much more important. Unfortunately, the Tampa Bay Lightning did not get off to the kind of start they would have hoped for. Rather than dominating the Senators early and dictating the pace of the game, it would be the Senators who would strike first blood with a goal from Zack Smith.
As the time on the clock reaches the final five minutes of the period, the Senators would once again capitalize on a miscue by the Tampa Bay Lightning and extend their lead to two with a goal from Senators left wing Shane Prince. This is definitely not the commanding start the Tampa Bay Lightning were looking for. On the bright side, the Lightning would not go quite into the chilly Canadian night.
Just 34 seconds after the goal from Prince, the Tampa Bay Lightning would come back with a goal of their own from Tampa Bay Lightning right wing J.T. Brown to cut the Senators’ lead to one. Brown’s late first period goal is his sixth goal of the season for the young forward. We’d be lying to you if we told you we didn’t have our reservations about J.T. Brown heading into this season, but he has proven us very wrong by becoming a solid playmaker this season.
Unfortunately, when the Tampa Bay Lightning hit the ice for the second period of play, rather than turning things around as they have done in the last couple of games, the Lightning seemed to give fans more of the same from the first period. At 4:15 into the second period, a bad penalty by Nikita Kucherov would allow the Senators to capitalize on the man advantage with a goal from Mark Stone.
Just after the halfway point in the second period, Stone would strike once again with a wrist shot that sailed right past Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy and into the back of the net. While a large portion of the onus for the Lightning’s situation at this point lies in the hands of a failed defense and offensive miscues, the second goal from Stone lands squarely in the lap of Vasilevskiy.
Is this because Andrei Vasilevskiy doesn’t have the skill to compete and the NHL level? Absolutely not. However, it does show what happens when a backup goaltender sits the bench for long periods of time while the starting goaltender gets all the ice time. Don’t get us wrong, rink rust is not a viable excuse for bad play, but it does help one understand the situation and formulate a plan to correct the error of their ways.
The Tampa Bay Lightning had just under a minute left on the Power Play left over from the second period, but the Bolts simply weren’t able to capitalize on their opportunity. This is rather odd considering the way the Lightning has played over the course of the last few games. Then again, the Lightning seemed to be struggling in many facets of the game tonight.
Adding insult to injury for the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight, it was announced at the beginning of the third period that Lightning defenseman Jason Garrison would be forced to leave the game early as a result of a Lower Body Injury sustained in the first period on an awkward collision with Senators right wing Bobby Ryan in the first period.
This information is definitely not good news for the Tampa Bay Lightning. As most Tampa Bay Lightning fans are already painfully aware of, Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman has been dealing with a nasty case of the flu. There is no denying this has had an impact on the veteran defenseman’s performance. Adding in an injury to a defenseman like Garrison is like adding napalm to an already blazing flame.
As the time continued to tick off the clock and the Tampa Bay Lightning still struggled to make any sort of offensive move against the Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper elected to throw a hail mary and pull Andrei Vasilevskiy from the net with quite a bit of time left in the game. Maybe the addition of an extra attacker would be what the team needed to find their spark.
Despite the team’s offensive effort, the move seemed to explode in the Lightning’s face when Senators center Jean-Gabriel Pageau was able to hit the empty net and extend the Senators’ lead over the Lightning to four. As you can imagine, Vasilevskiy made his way back between the pipes, but the damage had already been done. The Ottawa Senators would go on to defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-1 for the first time this season.
The Tampa Bay Lightning has no time to sit back on their laurels and dwell on their atrocious performance tonight at the Canadian Tire Centre. The Lightning needs to get back to business tomorrow morning as the Lightning prepare to take on another Atlantic Division opponent, the Montreal Canadiens, tomorrow night at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
The Lightning has plenty of things they need to work on before taking the ice against the Habs tomorrow night. Unfortunately, there is a lot of work to be done and not a lot of time to do it. We know good and well the Tampa Bay Lightning has the skill to get the job done. If they can put tonight’s loss out of their mind and get back to playing the way they have over the course of the last month, the Lightning may be able to redeem themselves tomorrow night against Montreal.
The puck is scheduled to drop at 7:30 p.m. EST in Montreal tomorrow night. Make sure to stay connected right here to Bolts By The Bay as we bring you all the latest Tampa Bay Lightning, news, updates, commentary, and more.