Lightning hangs on despite wobbly third period

by Gary Shelton on February 23, 2018 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Lightning

Hedman says the team has to play better in the final period./ANDREW J. KRAMER

Hedman says the team has to play better in the final period./ANDREW J. KRAMER

Friday, 3 a.m.

Once again, the Tampa Bay Lightning is having trouble slamming the door.

The Bolts, ahead of Ottawa by a comfortable 4-1 margin, had to hold on for a 4-3 win on Thursday night. It was the Lightning's 21st win on the road this season, which is tied for the team's third-most ever.

The Bolts built a comfortable lead with goals by Tyler Johnson, Victor Hedman, Vlad Namestnikov and Brayden Point. But Ottawa outshot the Lightning 11-6 in the third period to come close.

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Namestnikov scored his 20th goal of the season./ANDREW J. KRAMER

Namestnikov scored his 20th goal of the season./ANDREW J. KRAMER

“We played pretty well for the first two periods," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "We actually didn’t play all that bad in the third, we just, some of our decision making when you’ve got the lead, you’re up whatever it was 4-1, you don’t necessarily have to make it 5-1, 6-1, but it seems like we keep wanting to make it that way. We were taking chances to do that.

"Ultimately, that led to some penalties. Obviously, our power play was, we had six minutes of power-play time and I don’t think we got a shot on goal. You add that up and that hurts your game. On a bright spot, I know we gave up a 6-on-4 goal but our penalty kill did a good job. Louis (Domingue) made the big saves when he had to.”

Tyler Johnson scored the first goal of the game./CARMEN MANDATO

Tyler Johnson scored the first goal of the game./CARMEN MANDATO

It wasn't the first time the Bolts have finished a game on their heels.

“The third period was really disappointing the way we played," Hedman said. "We played scared out there. That’s not a good recipe for success. The first 40 minutes was pretty good. That won us the game, and Louis played really well in the third and got us the win.

“We’ve got to keep playing the same way. We can’t hold on for dear life during a game we’re up 4-1 heading into the third. We’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror and come up with a recipe. We know what works for us and we’ve got to get back to that.”

Johnson said the Bolts' problems were in their heads.

“It’s a mentality," Johnson said. : I mentioned structure, you’ve got to stick in there and that’s a choice. Right now, for whatever reason, we have times when we’re not making that choice and we have to do that. When you get into the playoffs, you can’t let teams have that momentum, have that thinking that they’re back in the game. We’ve got to do a lot better than that, and that’s the entire team.”

Point scored  for the Lightning./CARMEN MANDATO

Point scored for the Lightning./CARMEN MANDATO

Johnson suggested that the Lightning might be playing tentative in the third period.

“I think that’s a little bit of it," Johnson said. "Our game is being aggressive and forcing and doing all that, but at the same time it’s just making the right decisions, maybe not making that high-risk play. It’s just getting the puck deep, sticking to kind of an easy game. For whatever reason, we’ve felt like sometimes we need to make that extra play that quite frankly at that time of the game you just don’t have to. We have to do a way better job of realizing when we can do it and when we can’t. We’re learning but it’s getting to a point where we’ve got to be bearing down on it.”

Namestnikov became the fifth Lightning player to score 20 goals this season. The franchise record is six players -- on two occasions -- with one of them coming in the Stanley Cup season.

Domingue had 33 saves in relief of Andrei Vasilevskiy.

“He made some big saves for us," Johnson said. "He’s a great goaltender. He was great for us. Unfortunately, we had to rely on him a little bit too much. He made some Grade-A saves and we have to do a lot better job in front of him. He was definitely the reason why we were in that game and the reason why we got two points.”

Said Cooper: “I liked our goalie’s game tonight. Kind of a rough break on the potential goaltender interference. That one could have gone either way, so I kind of felt bad for him because he didn’t really have a chance to get across and make the save. They’re trying to score too, and they capitalize on the ones they scored on. But I thought all in all, he had command in the net. He was consuming the pucks. He was smothering the rebounds. He was kicking the rebounds, and obviously he gave us a chance to win the game.”

The Bolts conclude their road trip Saturday in Montreal. The puck drops at 7 p.m.







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