The Tampa Bay Lightning simply couldn’t overcome their early mistakes as they fell 3-2 to the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Tampa Bay Lightning took on the Carolina Hurricanes at the Amalie Arena on Saturday night, less than 24 hours after dropping a closely contested game to the Washington Capitals. The Lightning would play without forward Alex Killorn and defenseman Braydon Coburn. Both players sustained lower-body injuries during Friday night’s OT loss in D.C.
For Killorn, this absence brings to an end to his 236 game iron man streak. His iron man streak was tops among all Lightning players.
Lightning Coach Jon Cooper led off the game with his fourth line, which would be his most effective line for the first two periods of the game.
The game began in a pedestrian manner with both sides registering a few non-threatening shots early on. However, a botched line change saw the Lightning take a too many men call with 15:49 to play in the first period. The penalty would prove costly as less than 30 seconds into the penalty kill a shot by Sebastian Aho barely trickled by Lightning netminder Curtis McElhinney.
Just minutes later a second poor line change by Tampa Bay would leave Carolina forward Jordan Martinook all alone in front of Curtis McElhinney. Martinook would make no mistakes as he buried a beautiful snap shot over McElhinney’s glove. Just like that, it was 2 – 0 Carolina.
The Bolts would begin to wake-up following a great shift by the fourth line, which saw Yanni Gourde barely miss his mark on a shot from the slot off of a feed from Pat Maroon. Maroon was able to slide the puck to Gourde after he won a puck battle down low despite being outnumbered by Hurricane defenders. Gourde’s chance was quickly followed by another scoring chance from Cedric Paquette.
The offensive chances were quickly followed by an excellent defensive play from Jan Rutta. Who sprawled out in the defensive zone to stop an odd-man rush from the Hurricanes.
The fourth line would continue to generate high-quality scoring chances for the remainder of the first period. Most notably, Cedric Paquette would be robbed by Hurricanes goaltender James Reimer, who used the blade of his skate to deflect Paquette’s shot out of mid-air.
The shift would end after Maroon drew a holding penalty with 3:22 left to play in the first.
The power play would fail to capitalize after only generator two shot attempts. One each from Kucherov and Stamkos. Both would miss the net entirely. However, the Bolts were able to continue their offensive pressure for a few more shifts.
Tragedy would strike once again with 6.9 seconds left to play in the first. A seemingly harmless wrist shot from Aho was destined to go far wide of the net, but Carolina forward Jaccob Slavin was able to get a piece of his stick on the puck causing a wild deflection that slid between McElhinney’s five-hole. The Lightning would head to the locker room down 3-0.
Jon Cooper would once again begin the period with his fourth line. They immediately rewarded his loyalty by drawing another penalty. This time Brock McGinn would go to the box for high sticking Yanni Gourde (the box score officially lists this as a roughing minor, but the play clearly showed Gourde taking a stick up high).
The power play, like the one before it, did not generate any scoring chances. The Bolts would spend roughly 40 seconds of the power play in the offensive zone. The rest was spent chasing down clearing attempts by the Hurricanes.
However, the fourth line would once again send the Bolts to the power play when Clark Bishop tripped Paquette just 1:07 after the first penalty of the period expired. The third time was nearly the charm for Tampa, but James Reimer continued his excellent play by stonewalling Tyler Johnson from point-blank range.
The game would delve into chaos from that point on. The teams would trade blown opportunities when Carolina forward Warren Foegele missed a wide-open net that would have finished off a 2-1 by Carolina. Just 30 seconds later, Steven Stamkos would send his own rebound over the net and out of play. Missing a wide-open net that was vacated by Reimer who was sprawled out on the ice after making the save on Stamkos’ first shot.
The Lightning strung together several good shifts in a row but was unable to find a way to beat Reimer. Stamkos alone had several good scoring chances. However, his unlucky night would continue as his shots were easily handled by Reimer. Including one where Stamkos fell on his face halfway through the shot.
McElhinney would make a mistake playing the puck and leave the net wide open. Luckily for McElhinney, Point, Rutta, and Sergachev were back in defense and prevent the Hurricanes from easily taking a 4-0 lead.
McElhinney would redeem himself, with a great save on a breakaway to end the period.
Despite a plethora of chances, the Lightning was unable to crack James Reimer and they headed to the second intermission still down 3-0.
The third period would start much like the second period with the Lightning heading to an early power play after Jake Gardiner got called for hold Anthony Cirelli 2:39 seconds into the period. This time the Bolts would capitalize.
Brayden Point would finally find a way to get the puck by Reimer when an attempted centering pass slid under his right pad. The Lightning was on the board with 16:34 to play. The rally was just beginning.
The Lightning would record the next five shots on goal on way to a dominant third period. McElhinney would not even have to face a shot until 9:34 seconds into the period. That would be just one of two shots the Hurricanes recorded all period.
Those next five shots included a great scoring chance by Johnson off a feed from Stamkos, who was once again denied by Reimer from point-blank range.
With 14:10 left to play Cedric Paquette would draw his second penalty of the night after taking a high stick from Joel Edmundson. This was the fourth penalty forced by the fourth line during the game. Despite several good scoring opportunities, the Lightning would not be able to convert again until midway through the third period when Tyler Johnson finally broke his scoring drought sending a rocket of a shot past Reimer’s head and into the netting.
The wild third period continued with a prolonged stretch of 4 on 4 hockey that saw both teams create a series of scoring opportunities.
The Bolts would be put a man down with 5:26 seconds left to play when Steven Stamkos was called for hooking on Jordan Staal. A great effort from the Lightning penalty-killing units would limit the Hurricanes to just one shot on goal and the Lightning would kill of the penalty will relative ease. Leaving the Lightning just three and half minutes to try and complete the comeback.
The final three minutes provided no shortage of action. The Lightning pulled goaltender Curtis McElhinney with 2:38 left to play in the third. With the extra attacker on the ice for Tampa, all chaos broke loose in the Hurricanes zone.
The Lightning created good puck possession and dominated zone time, but once again Hurricanes netminder James Reimer was up to the task. He stopped all three Lightning shots on goal during the final three minutes of play. Add in several blocked shots, tips, and shots that barely missed the net and the Hurricanes have to feel pretty lucky the Lightning was unable to tie the game.
With 35 seconds left Teuvo Teravainen hit Stamkos from behind as he went to play the puck along the boards. Stamkos would lose possession of the puck as he fell into the boards face first. This allowed the Hurricanes to clear the puck and started a scrum around the site of the hit.
Four players from each team would be involved in the scrum, but only Victor Hedman would be assessed a penalty for slashing on Andrei Svechnikov. A Play that occurred far away from the scrum that was occupying every player on the ice except Hedman and Svechnikov.
The penalty on Hedman would bring the Bolts comeback bid to an unsuccessful end. The Lightning was more concerned with the lack of a call on Teravainen. Several members of the Lightning, include Stamkos was seen yelling at the refs.
Including Pat Maroon who seemed the most upset by the lack of a call. Maroon would be ejected from the game for his comments. True to form, Maroon ensured he took enough time leaving the bench to fill the officials with all of his parting thoughts.
Fourth Line Continuing to Shine
This recap would not be complete without mentioning the play of the fourth line. Despite not finding a way to factor on the score sheet, the fourth line made numerous other contributions to the game.
They combined for five shots on goal. Gourde and Maroon played over 2:30 each on the power play and Paquette had over one minute of penalty killing time, most of which came during the crucial penalty kill with five minutes left in the third.
All three members were rewarded for their play by Coach Cooper with plenty of ice-time. Paquette logged 16:29 of ice-time. His third most all season. Maroon, despite being ejected late in the third saw 17:26. The most he has ever played in a game as a member of the Lightning. Yanni Gourde, perhaps the fourth-liner who is playing the best played 18:21. His second-highest total of the season.
Clearly they were not the fourth line tonight. They opened the first and second periods as the starting line and played in critical portions of the game. The even led the team in ice time through the first half of the game.
With Killorn out and Joseph and Verhaeghe seeing very limited ice time. The Lightning plays most of the game with only nine forwards. Essentially promoting Gourde – Maroon – Paquette to the third line.
This loss marks the Bolts third loss in as many games. The Lightning played well in all three of their loses but ultimately came up short. Collecting just one out of six possible points.
After previously winning six of eight games, these three losses show the Lightning are still not where they want to be. Even after improving their play the Lightning has not been able to compete with cup contender teams.
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They have not defeated a team currently in the playoff position in over a month. Their last win against such a team came way back on October 23, when they defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2. The Lightning will have another chance to record a win over a playoff team when they visit the Nashville Predators on Tuesday.