Tampa Bay Lightning Shutout By Washington Capitals In Final Game Before Christmas

Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

4. 19. 0. 23. Final

The Tampa Bay Lightning suffered a disappointing loss just before the Christmas break as the Washington Capitals shut out the Lightning 4-0 at the Verizon Center.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have been through more than their fair share of trials and tribulations this season. Heck, some of those trials and tribulations started before the first puck were ever dropped this season. Despite the adversity, the Lightning have finally found a way to build team chemistry and win games.

Tonight, the Tampa Bay Lightning would be truly tested as they headed into the Verizon Center in the Nation’s Capital to take on Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. The Lightning was victorious in their first meeting with the Capitals this season, but a repeat performance would not be an easy task for the Bolts.

The first period of play was probably one of the worst periods we have seen from the Lightning in quite some time. The Tampa Bay Lightning went 14 minutes into the period before they would even register their first shot on goal. This includes the two Power Play opportunities the Lightning had in the first period.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay Lightning /

Tampa Bay Lightning

On the other side of the ice, the Washington Capitals had the game well in hand. A mere 55 seconds into the game, the Capitals picked up their first goal thanks to the puck handling skills of Capitals defenseman John Carlson. Carlson sent the puck flying right in and out of Andrei Vasilevskiy’s glove and into the back of the net.

After giving the Bolts two opportunities with the man advantage, the Capitals would come back with yet another goal from John Carlson. This time, it would be Capitals forwards, Marcus Johansson and Nicklas Backstrom.

When the final buzzer sounded, the Capitals would outshoot the Lightning 10-2. While we have always been a fan of the quality over quantity train of thought, there are limits to everything.

A mere two shots on goal in an entire period is simply not going to be enough to beat a team like the Washington Capitals.

If the Lightning had any hopes of coming home for the Christmas holiday with another win under their belts, the second period would have to be a polar opposite of the first. Unfortunately, this would simply not come to pass when the Lightning took the ice for the second period.

About five minutes into the second period of play, Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin, who has been one of the Lightning’s best scoring assets as of late, made his way to the Lightning locker room after a nasty collision with Capitals forward T.J. Oshie along the boards.

The good news here is, it wasn’t long before Drouin made his way back down the tunnel to rejoin his teammates on the bench, and eventually on the ice. The bad news…the hockey gods may have missed Jonathan Drouin, but they did seem to strike one of Drouin’s teammates.

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Just about the halfway point in the period, Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman would make his way off the ice and down the tunnel to the Lightning locker room. According to Tampa Bay Lightning Beat Writer Bryan Burns, Hedman seemed to be favoring his right shoulder/arm.

Unfortunately, this was not the end of the bad news for the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second period of play. According to Tampa Bay Lightning broadcaster Brian Engblom, he hadn’t seen Braydon Coburn in quite some time. The Lightning is already down an absurd amount of players, now is not the time to add another.

Regrettably, things on the ice were not much better during the second period of play. Around the same time Victor Hedman left the ice, Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin added to his season total with his 15th goal of the season, extending the Capitals’ lead over the Lightning to three.

The Lightning made up some room in terms of shots on goal in the second period, but the Bolts still weren’t able to solve Capitals netminder Braden Holtby. Heading into the third period, the Lightning would find themselves faced with a difficult task. They would have to overcome a three-goal deficit.

The Tampa Bay Lightning did get some good news heading into the third period. Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman did take the ice with his teammates to kick off the third period. Losing someone like Hedman would be absolutely devastating for the Lightning right now.

The Lightning would continue to increase their offensive pressure in the third period, but through the halfway point in the period, they would have little success in solving the Holtby situation and putting the puck in the back of the net. However, the Capitals seemed to have the number of Andrei Vasilevskiy.

After scoring an assist on the second John Carlson goal in the first period, Capitals forward Marcus Johansson would score a goal of his own with an assist from Nicklas Backstrom. This would increase the Capitals lead over the Lightning to four goals.

Unfortunately, this would be the end of the line for Andrei Vasilevskiy. After allowing four goals, Tampa Bay Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper elected to pull Vasilevskiy with just over 11 minutes left in regulation. Taking Vasilevskiy’s place between the pipes is Lightning netminder Kristers Gudlevskis.

It’s never a good day when you inherit a four-goal deficit; unfortunately, so is the life of an NHL netminder. The important thing at this point is that Gudlevskis prevent any further pucks from entering the back of the net.

The good news is, Kristers Gudlevskis was able to do just that. The bad news, the Tampa Bay Lightning offense seemed to throw their hands up in the air as they were utterly unable to solve Braden Holtby and found themselves shut out by the Washington Capitals.

Tonight’s 4-0 loss to the Washington Capitals was thanks to a breakdown at just about every position combined with a couple of soft goals and a pair of injuries to add to the ever-growing list of injured Lightning players.

After playing one of the best games we’ve seen all season, the Lightning fall face first back into their old habits and enter the Christmas break with one of the most disappointing games in quite some time.

We here at Bolts By The Bay stand behind our assertion that hockey is a team sport and no one player is to blame for a team’s loss. At the same time, there has to be a certain level of personal responsibility in all positions. At least two, possibly three, of the Capitals goals can be attributed to Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Now, before anyone flies off the handle and starts to explain why this isn’t his fault and how Ben Bishop “would’ve let in more,” we are not saying Andrei Vasilevskiy is a bad goaltender or that he is not the future of Tampa Bay Lightning goaltending.

Obviously, the fact that Vasy is playing in both games of a back-to-back series has something to do with his performance tonight. At the same time, there are saves you just have to make and Vasy was not on his game tonight. Is he the reason the Lightning lost this game? Absolutely not. Did his tired play attribute at least a little bit. Sadly, yes.

Another place the Lightning truly lacked in tonight’s encounter was offensively. Other than the third period of play, the Lightning found themselves outshot by the Capitals in every period. As we mentioned previously, quality over quantity is the general norm around here; however, two goals in 20 minutes is simply unacceptable.

The Capitals have players like Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie who are incredibly skilled at putting the puck in the back of the net. If a team has any hope of coming out on top against the Caps, not only do they have to minimalize players like Ovechkin and Oshie, but they also have to bring their offensive game.

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This is something the Tampa Bay Lightning spectacularly failed at tonight in Washington, DC.

At this point, everything seems like gloom and doom. It’s certainly understandable. The injuries continue to pile up for the Lightning each and every game, and no matter how much they try, the team simply can’t seem to find the chemistry necessary to work like the well-oiled machine the Lightning once were.

However, there is a silver lining to tonight’s loss. You may have to squint your eyes really hard to see it, but we assure you, it really is there. The Tampa Bay Lightning have a full four days off for the Christmas holiday before they have to take the ice once again.

Hopefully, this will give some of the less injured players to heal their bodies and be ready to take the ice when the Lightning returns from their four-day break. While there is virtually no chance of the Bolts getting Steven Stamkos back in the lineup, it would be nice to see Lightning alternate captain Ryan Callahan, Nikita Kucherov, and/or Ondrej Palat back in the lineup.

On Wednesday, December 28th the Tampa Bay Lightning returns home to the Amalie Arena to take on another Atlantic Division foe, the Montreal Canadiens. The following night, the Lightning will play host to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

It’s never easy to get back in the game when you’re shoved straight into yet another back-to-back series,  but if the Lightning can get some of their heavy hitters back in the rotation, the difficulty of the task at hand reduces greatly.

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The action against the Canadiens is set to kick off at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday night from the Amalie Arena. As always, if you can’t make it to the game, you can catch all the action on Fox Sports Sun or on the go with the Fox Sports Go app. Hopefully, the Lightning will have a late Christmas present in store for their fans.