Tampa Bay Lightning
Anders Lindback allowed 3 goals on 21 shots for the loss. I didn't consider any of the 3 goals weak ones, but again, you want your goaltender to help you keep contact in a close game like that and Lindback doesn't.
15:56 BUF Myers (9), (unassisted)
9:25 BUF Foligno (7), (Hodgson, Myers)
13:44 BUF Hodgson (16), (Foligno)
17:31 TB Johnson (19), (Hedman)
Tonight's result was not for a lack of effort, shots, or chances. They outshot Buffalo 44-21, which is amazing considering how low the Lightning's shot totals were on the last roadtrip. They came out with a lot of adrenaline flowing and put a ton of pressure on the Sabres. It led to them getting a little loose defensively and some stupid turnovers like the thing Mark Barberio did on Buffalo's first goal, but for the most part I can't be mad at what I saw. They dominated the faceoff circles. They dominated possession. In his return and wearing the "C" for the first time, Steven Stamkos had at least 3 chances he'd probably have potted were it not for needing to shake off a little rust. In the end, though, Jhonas Enroth stood on his head at a very inopportune time with the Lightning's playoff chances starting to head south.
Mike Kostka had 7 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 18:57. Yes, it's the Sabres, but you have to be encouraged at how well he filled in with Gudas out of the lineup and how active he was offensively.
Richard Panik had 1 hit in 13:12. The stats don't tell the tale. He was a lot stronger and more confident on the puck than he was before his demotion to Syracuse. He's now 1 game away from graduation from prospect status on the website.
Nikita Kucherov was -1 with 2 penalty minutes and 3 shots in 13:52. He failed to convert 2 breakaways and you can see how distraught he was at the bench. He's probably never faced a scoring slump like this in his life. He also is 1 game away from graduation from prospect status on the site.
Tomorrow's a big day.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 28 shots for the loss. Hard to be upset with Ben when the team in front of him allows the Blues to stickhandle at will through the slot.
7:08 TB Killorn (15), (Purcell)
14:49 TB Johnson (18), (St Louis, Hedman)(PP)
3:32 STL Berglund (11), (Schwartz, Tarasenko)
17:04 STL Oshie (15), (Steen, Pietrangelo)(SH)
3:47 STL Steen (29), (Backes, Oshie)
19:21 STL Tarasenko (19), (Backes, Schwartz)(EN)
I'm not even going to look at the standings right now, because it's irrelevant if the Lightning don't fix what they're doing right now. On the one hand, they had 2-0 leads in 3 of the 4 games of this road trip and had a 1 goal lead going into the Third Period of the other. So, they manufactured situations on the road where they should have been able to get a fair number of points. That said, the defensive zone coverage looks like a dumpster fire and that contributes to the Lightning's pretty poor possession performance on this road trip. That manifested itself in the form of just 17 shots tonight. You can't win that way.
Tomorrow's a huge day. It's trade deadline day, obviously, and the gigantic hole in the Lightning's defense has never been more obvious. Radko Gudas' play has tailed off the past couple of months and with Gudas hurt tonight, the situation got even worse. I'm of the opinion it's management malpractice if Steve Yzerman doesn't at least get an established bottom pair NHL defenseman tomorrow who can fill in on the second pair on nights like tonight when one of the top-4 are out hurt. Ideally, he'd get a legit top-4 who can also give the Lightning's shaky PK a backbone.
Also, Steve Yzerman has another doctor's visit with a view toward being cleared for Thursday night. The PP tonight actually looked decent until they absolutely wet the bed on Oshie's SH goal. But, in general it's been poor, and Stamkos should go a long way to fix that. As he settles back in, hopefully he'll also give the Lightning the not-so-secret weapon of being able to get a great individual effort goal at opportune times. They could've used that tonight after falling behind 3-2.
Nikita Kucherov had 1 shot in 10:45. Honestly, that might've been the least noticeable he's been in a game all season. He is now just 2 games from graduation from prospect status on the site.
Lightning leave another 2 points out on the road.
Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 33 shots for the loss. No way to sugar coat it: he let the team down tonight. The GWG by Erik Johnson is a softie that simply cannot happen at that juncture of the game. Ever. Certainly it's outside of the norm for Ben this season, but that's frustrating.
16:49 TB Pyatt (2), (Purcell, Salo)
17:19 COL Barrie (8), (Stastny, MacKinnon)
19:01 COL O'Reilly (23), (Parenteau, Duchene)
6:40 TB Thompson (7), (Kostka, Carle)
17:37 TB Thompson (8), (Kostka)
5:12 COL Holden (5), (O'Reilly, Duchene)(PP)
16:05 COL Johnson (8), (unassisted)
19:06 COL Holden (6), (Talbot)(EN)
19:53 COL Stastny (19), (MacKinnon, Landeskog)(EN)
That's upsetting. That's 3-4 points, between this game and the Nashville game, that the Lightning could've easily had that they squandered. Take a look at the standings and you'll see that's the difference between the current 5 point lead on the last team out of the playoffs and an 8-9 point cushion. That's a big, big difference. Self-inflicted sloppiness and bad goaltending dealt the fatal wounds tonight. I didn't think they had a great chance coming into this game with Filppula not returning, but they put themselves in position to win and they should've gotten not less than a point out of this one. That hurts.
Mike Kostka had 2 assists and was +1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 12:11. Win if you can. Survive if Mike Kostka lets you.
Vladislav Namestnikov was -1 with 3 shot and 1 hit and he was 55% on draws in 8:40. I'm shocked to see he only had 8:40 of ice time, as that was a very active 8:40 of ice time with multiple scoring opportunities and some very active work in the offensive zone. He's really settled in now, although that might be all for nothing because with Filppula and Stamkos coming back this week, it's no secret Vladdy's probably going back down.
Nikita Kucherov was -1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 11:35. He had the tying goal on his stick on the PP down 4-3 off a glorious setup from Marty and he shot it wide. He's missing these critical chances by fractions of inches in key times, and I'm starting to worry about his psyche, because his confidence level as a sniper is being seriously tested right now.
Lightning manufacture a huge win in Dallas.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 41 shots for the victory. He might want the Fidler goal back, but there's little doubt he was THE reason the Lightning won this afternoon.
1:25 TB St Louis (28), (Brewer, Palat)
12:09 TB Thompson (6), (Hedman, Killorn)
14:31 TB St Louis (29), (Palat)
15:50 DAL Roussel (10), (Connauton, Fiddler)
18:11 DAL Fiddler (4), (Roussel, Garbutt)
7:12 TB Salo (2), (Hedman, Killorn)
Bishop and Martin St. Louis were the game's first and third stars.
As the game wore on, the contours of the contest took on a hauntingly similar look to the Nashville game. I thought the Lightning did a pretty good job of trying to press for the goal to get to 3-0 and weren't that bad through the first 5-6 minutes of the Second Period, but everything went sideways after that. Once Roussel got the greasy goal to make it 3-1, Dallas just took over the game and only some good individual efforts by the likes of St. Louis, Palat, and Salo really allowed the Lightning to get 2 points (on top of Bishop raising the deflector shields). If you're looking for another silver lining, though, it's that the PK stood up and didn't disintegrate this afternoon the way it did against the Predators. Mind you, they weren't perfect and Bishop had to erase some big errors, but they didn't allow Dallas nearly the zone time and chances they gave the Preds.
If you look at the standings, you'll see why this was such a big win. They get back on par with Montreal for 2nd place in the Atlantic Division and reopen a 6 point gap on Washington for the last team out in the Eastern Conference. At 73 points after 60 games they're 1 point ahead of the pace they need to be on to comfortably make the playoffs. They didn't hit the target of 12 points for the last 10 game segment and had to burn off 2 of the 3 insurance points they had stored up, but at least they didn't fall off schedule for the first time this year. Now, they have to keep manufacturing wins somehow until Valtteri Filppula and Steven Stamkos can get settled back into the lineup and, in particular, until Stammer can get the rust knocked off.
Mike Kostka had 2 hits and 5 blocked shots in 8:42. He, unfortunately, had the Roussel goal go in off of his skate, but he wasn't awful. He makes a better option than Cote or Taormina and probably Aulie, too.
J.T. Brown as -1 with 2 shots in 14:35. He did some really good work on the forecheck with the Lightning clinging to their lead. Today was his 41st game of the season, so he has graduated from prospect status on the site.
Vladislav Namestnikov had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot and was 50% on draws in 9:08. I think you saw a marked step forward in Namesy's comfort level today, and he had some dangerous rushes with his speed in the First and Second Periods. I don't know that I trust him yet defensively, but he at least looked more like an NHLer today than he did against Nashville.
Nikita Kucherov had 2 shots in 12:15. The SunSports team was praising his defense in this game, but I thought this was a subpar game for Kucherov in that respect. He really had problems moving the puck out of the Lightning zone within the last 10 feet before the blueline. That's something that will make coaches want to strangle you.
Music City choke.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 29 shots for the loss. None of the three goals were terrible, but you'd have liked to have seen him squeeze off that third one in tight to preserve at least a point (not that the team in front of him deserved it).
5:26 TB St Louis (26), (Palat)
9:13 TB St Louis (27), (Kucherov, Purcell)(PP)
12:05 NSH Cullen (6), (Ellis, Smith)(PP)
13:16 NSH Josi (9), (Weber)(PP)
13:56 NSH Hornqvist (11), (Fisher, Weber)(PP)
Martin St. Louis was the game's second star.
That was infuriating. I thought the team came out flat as a pancake but lucked out with a goal off the rush in transition and then a softie on the PP. Staked with the 2 goal lead and with Nashville looking like they were in shock, the Lightning had all the momentum and opportunities to end the game early, especially on a PP to start the Second Period.
They sleepwalked through the final 40 minutes of that game. That compete-level was garbage. They should give back 2/3 of their paychecks tonight. Yes. They were bad and they should feel bad, and their special teams are an absolute thermonuclear dumpster fire right now. That PK, if you can call it that, is the worst PK I've ever seen the Lightning put on the ice, and there have been some awful Lightning teams that have come and gone.
The Lightning now will fall short of their 12 point target for this 10 game segment of the season, and if they fail to get a point out of the finale of the segment they will fall behind the pace they need to be on to comfortably make the playoffs. And, honestly, if they're going to allow themselves to be outworked like that and if their special teams are going to be that craptacular, there's no point in showing up for the postseason tournament. Yes, a healthy Filppula and Stamkos will make a considerable difference, so I'm not ready to load the team in a cannon and shoot them to the moon quite yet. But the work ethic was not there tonight, and that's not good enough.
16 shots on goal against a goaltender, Carter Hutton, that couldn't stop a beach ball? The Lightning should feel deep shame. Deep, deep shame.
Mark Barberio had 3 blocked shots in 16:50. Tonight was his 41st NHL game of the season, so he graduates from prospect status on the website. Sad this was such a clunker to get over the finish line on.
J.T. Brown had 2 penalty minutes, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 8:49. He'll graduate from prospect status in his next game this season.
Vladislav Namestnikov had an ill-timed minor penalty and was 20% on draws in 8:10.
Nikita Kucherov had a helper and 1 shot in 11:22. He rang a post in the Third Period with the Lightning down 3-2, and that was all she wrote for the team after that. Kucherov needs 5 more games this season to graduate from prospect status.