The Tampa Bay Lightning surged in the final moments of the third period, but it proved to be too little, too late as the Lightning fell 4-3 to the Winnipeg Jets.
The Tampa Bay Lightning has certainly been on an upswing since their trip to Sweden. The Lightning took both games in the NHL Global Series against the Buffalo Sabres. Then, the Bolts returned home where they absolutely demolished the New York Rangers 9-3 at the Amalie Arena.
The Lightning certainly had a lot to live up to as they returned to Amalie tonight to take on the Winnipeg Jets. The question would become whether the team could get off to a strong start and keep momentum on their side. Regrettably, the Bolts wouldn’t quite get the start they were looking for.
Just before the two-minute mark in the first period, Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey would fire the puck towards the net. A deflection by forward Mathieu Perreault would sail right past Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy and into the back of the net to give the Jets an early lead.
While this is definitely not the worst thing in the world that could happen (just ask the New York Rangers about the start to their last game) it was definitely not the start everyone was hoping the team would get tonight. On the bright side, there was plenty of hockey left to play.
It took a bit for the Lightning to get going, but eventually, the team started to find their groove. There was less than a minute left in the first period when the Lightning would strike. Defenseman Victor Hedman would pick up his fourth goal of the season with an assist from captain Steven Stamkos.
When the buzzer would sound to end the period, the Lightning and Jets would be tied with one goal apiece. The Bolts would lead the way in terms of Shots on Goal, outshooting the Jets 9-7. On the flip side, the Jets would decidedly control the Faceoff Circle, going 67-33 through the first 20 minutes of play.
The most important thing at the start of the second period would be for the Lightning to hit the ice running and control the pace of the period. This is something the Bolts would achieve. Unfortunately, the push would be short-lived. Just under three and a half minutes into the second period, the Lightning would be headed to the Penalty Kill as Yanni Gourde would get sent to the box for two minutes for Interference against Morrissey.
The Lightning was able to kill the penalty, but their luck wouldn’t hold out for very long. A little over two minutes after the Bolts would kill the Gourde penalty, the Jets would reclaim the lead with a goal from Jack Roslovic. Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper would challenge the goal for Stoppage.
Regrettably, the Lightning would lose the challenge and the call on the ice would stand. Thanks to the unsuccessful challenge, the Lightning would receive a penalty for Delay of Game. The penalty would be served by Carter Verhaeghe. It was a whole 11 seconds into their man advantage when the Jets would increase their lead to two goals with a goal from Nikolaj Ehlers.
The Lightning would receive a Power Play opportunity of their own as Jets defenseman Dmitry Kulikov would head off for two minutes for Boarding Anthony Cirelli. Not only would the Lightning not be able to make anything of the man advantage, but they would almost go down another goal as the Jets had a fairly good short-handed goal chance. Thankfully, the Jets couldn’t pull the trigger on this one.
When the buzzer sounded to end the second period, the Lightning would trail the Jets 3-1. Unlike the first period, the Shots on Goal were right down the middle in the second for a two-period total of 18-20 in favor of the Bolts. The Lightning would hold things down in the hits department, outperforming the Jets 12-22 through two, but the Jets would once again control the Faceoff Circle, going 57-44 through two periods of play.
The Tampa Bay Lightning would get a bit of an upper-hand in the early moments of the third period. The Lightning would end up on the Power Play as Jets defenseman Nathan Beaulieu would head to the sin bin for two minutes for Holding. Regrettably, the Bolts wouldn’t get to take full advantage of the Power Play.
There were 15 seconds left in the Lightning Power Play when defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk headed off for Hooking. Maybe it’s just us, but from where we’re sitting, the Lightning simply couldn’t seem to catch a break this afternoon. There would be plenty of work left to do if the Bolts wanted to get back into this game.
Just before the halfway point in the third period, the Lightning would be headed back to the Penalty Kill once again. This time it would be Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov who would be headed off for High Sticking against Nikolaj Ehlers. The good news here is the Lightning was able to kill the penalty and return to full strength.
Things would start to get really chippy between these two teams as the period progressed. Around the halfway point in the period, fans would get to witness fight after fight as both teams started to get heated. For the most part, no one would come out with a clear advantage. If anything, it was somewhat of a hindrance for the Bolts as it pulled their attention away from the task at hand.
As the time continued to tick off the clock, the pressure would start to mount for the Bolts. The Lightning found themselves at a 3-1 deficit with less than five minutes left in the period. This would mean they’d have to come up with two to three goals in the next five minutes. Impossible? No, of course not. Easier said than done, though.
The Lightning would certainly give their best effort of the game in the final minutes of the third period. At 17:44, Steven Stamkos would pick up his 400th career goal to make this a one-goal game. Unfortunately, less than one minute after the Stamkos goal, Jets forward Kyle Connor would hit the empty net to re-extend the Jets lead to two.
The Bolts hadn’t quite given up hope just yet. There were less than 30 seconds left in the game when Anthony Cirelli would pick up his second goal of the season, with assists from Kucherov and Hedman, to give the Bolts a glimmer of hope this game could swing back in the Lightning’s favor.
Despite the Lightning’s furious charge in the latter part of the third period, the Bolts would ultimately fall 4-3 to the Winnipeg Jets. The Lightning would outshoot the Jets 9-14 in the third period for a three-period total of 27-34 in favor of the Bolts. On the other side of the ice, it would be the Jets who would continue to dominate the Faceoff Circle, going 58-42 through three periods of play.
The simple fact of the matter is, if the Lightning played the entire game the way they played the last five minutes of the third period, the skate may very well have been on the other foot. The true tipping point of the game was the failed challenge early in the second period. The penalty assessed here opened the door for the Nikolaj Ehlers goal, which seriously shifted the momentum for the Jets.
The Lightning has a couple of days off before they head out on the road. On Tuesday, the Bolts make their way to the Enterprise Center in St. Louis to take on the St. Louis Blues. From there, it’s off to United Center where they will do battle with the Chicago Blackhawks. Then, the Lightning will make their way home to the Sunshine State to take on the Anaheim Ducks.
The Bolts definitely started off this season on a less-than-stellar note, but things have certainly rebounded over the last couple of games. The Lightning didn’t pick up the victory tonight, but there were moments in the game where the Bolts showed their true colors. If they can take what they learned from tonight’s game and build on it before their encounter with St. Louis on Tuesday, the Lightning will find themselves in a solid position.