Thursday, 4 a.m.
Maybe it was the slow start.
Maybe it was the missing teeth.
Maybe it was Carey Price, being just a little bit better than Ben Bishop.
Regardless, it shows how much we have come to think of the Tampa Bay Lightning. They lose, and we search for a reason for it. It can't be one hot team running into another one. Can it?
Maybe it was the power play goal.
Maybe it was the empty netter.
Maybe it was Nikita Kucherov's injured shoulder.
And so we search for a reason that the Lightning lost 3-1 to the Canadiens Thursday night. We wonder how much a four-shot first period mattered. How about Ben Bishop's missing two teeth? How about Nikita Kucherov, who slid into the boards and hurt his shoulder?
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This is the ultimate compliment, you know. We expect the Lightning to win, and when they do not, we break out the magnifying glasses to find the reasons. Defeat simply does not compute. One goal doesn't make any sense.
The truth, of course, is that Montreal has a good team, too. You don't go 7-0-1 by accident. Sure, you can quibble that the Lightning needed more traffic in front of the net. You can roll your eyes about the third period. You can argue that, after all their comebacks, the Bolts were simply due to lose one.
The thing is, the NHL is a proving ground. This team has shown enough to hint that they'll be pretty good.
That said, it's a challenging weekend with the Devils on Saturday and the Rangers on Sunday,
Tampa Bay took a 1-0 lead on Alex Killorn's sixth goal, but Montreal came back with an even-strength goal (by Alex Galchenyuk), a power-play goal (by Max Pacioretty) and an empty-netter (by Torrey Mitchell) to win.
"It was tough," Killorn said. "I think it was similar to a playoff atmosphere. Two good teams, it was tight checking, weren't a lot of opportunities. We knew that coming in. We wanted to be patient. We get that lead, I thought we could have played a little bit better with that lead. Not that we didn't play well in the third, but they were pretty opportunistic on that power play and they had a good period. They were just a little bit better in the third."
Carey Price stopped 30 of 31 shots for Montreal. Ben Bishop stopped 23 of 25.
"It was a pretty even game," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "In the end, special teams; they got the power-play goal, and we didn't. We had that kind of four-minute stretch there when we had one decent look. It comes down to two good teams playing. Chances were probably even, shots were close. It was a tight-checking game, and it came down to special teams and they got the better of us.
"You need to get almost perfect shots to go in, and they just had one more than us."
The Lightning now travels to New Jersey to play the Devils on Saturday night. They play the New York Rangers Sunday.