The Tampa Bay Lightning lost a disheartening game to the New Jersey Devils tonight after initially jumping out to a 3-1 lead but surrendered four unanswered goals to the Devils before the conclusion of the game. The loss also marked the end of the Lightning’s nine game point streak dating back to the October 26 game versus the Penguins.
Now for the five takeaways from the game:
1. Mistakes Cost the Bolts
The Lightning should have won tonight’s game, but they were a victim of their own mistakes. A lost battle along the boards by Jan Rutta led to an unchecked Yegor Sharangovich scoring in front of Vasilevskiy. Dawson Mercer’s goal to make it 3- 2 was partially a result of Vasy making a rare mistake of sliding too far out of the net and allowing Mercer to slide the puck between his pad and the post. Blown coverage by the defense led to Jimmy Vesey finding himself in all alone on a breakaway. Sharangovich’s second goal involved Vasy failing to get his pad down squarely against the ice and allowing the puck to slide underneath. If the Bolts had prevented one or two of these mishaps it is likely they would have walked away today with the win.
2. Jan Rutta Remains Underappreciated
Rutta was not perfect tonight – see his inclusion in the mistakes section – but he did lead the way offensively for the team. An unassisted goal by Rutta opened the scoring in the game and he would also contribute the secondary assist on Hedman’s goal.
Don’t look now, but his five points in fifteen games has him easily on track to have his best season offensively with the Bolts and surpass his highwater mark of twenty points in his first NHL season with the Chicago Blackhawks. For a defenseman counting so little against the salary cap, Rutta’s production is proving to be a real bargain for the team.
3. Katchouk-Colton-Raddysh Line Continues Its Ascent
While they might still be referred to as the fourth line by some, their ice-time at even-strength today says they have surpassed the Maroon-Bellemare-Perry for the third line role. Coach Cooper trusted them to go out and take the opening faceoff, which they won, and set the tone for the game. Additionally, Colton and Katchouk each recorded their seconds assists of the season.
Moneypuck shows the Colton line’s shot share at 47.62% and their expected goal percentage at 48.07% for the game, but both numbers were likely north of the 50% mark before the floor fell out beneath the team in the third period. Continue to watch these three as Cooper expands their roles in the games ahead.
4. Mackenzie Blackwood Made the Big Saves
The Devils’ netminder was not perfect tonight, stopping 31 of 34 shots, but he made multiple saves that kept the Devils in the game long enough for them to mount the comeback. Most spectacularly of the saves was a 2-0 breakaway by Mathieu Joseph and Alex Killorn that ended with Blackwood robbing Killorn pointblank.
5. Brayden Point Escapes Injury
Point crashed dangerously into the end boards in the third period following Devils defenseman Ryan Graves tripping him on a breakaway. Bolts nation was left wondering if Point was okay after he got up clearly favoring his left arm. Point would be able to take his awarded penalty shot on the trip and continue playing to everyone’s relief.
The Lightning complete their weekend back-to-back tomorrow at 5pm EST against the Minnesota Wild.