Bolts open second half with a humbling loss

by Gary Shelton on January 31, 2019 · 0 comments

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Stamkos scored his 27th goal of the year./CARMEN MANDATO

Thursday, 4 a.m.

Okay, it was right here ... just a minute ago.

Maybe Jon Cooper left it in his other pants. Maybe it rolled beneath the couch. Maybe someone forgot to pack it.

Whatever happened, the Tampa Bay Lighting's mojo is missing.

The Lightning opened the season half of their season Wednesday night with a nice-sized splat, losing a 4-2 game to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pens scored three times in the game's first 10 minutes, all on just five shots. The stat line for goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy after one period: he had stopped two shots, and he had let in three.

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Vasilevskiy allowed three goals in the first period./JEFFREY S. KING

For the Bolts, it was something of a warning shot regarding what the rest of the season might look light as play tightens.

It was the team's third loss in five games, an eye-raising number for a team that has lost only 11 all season.

The Bolts fell behind 4-0 (on eight shots) in the second period. J.T. Miller and Steven Stamkos scored in the last 4:10 to make the final score closer.

“It’s tough when you’re coming out of a long break like that and you’re in a NHL game and playing against a really good team," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "I thought we actually had a really good first period. We made three mistakes, and they all end up in our net.

"It’s tough to come back from that hole. But, you leave that first period and the guys obviously down 3-0 were dejected and I just thought we lost our legs a little bit in the second, gamed it out in the third, clawed back a little bit. But you’re down four, it’s tough.”

The Bolts are still 37-11-2 and have the NHL's best record.

“It’s dig your heels in time now," Cooper said about the playoffs. "It’s the same for us. We’ve got to take this to the finish line. It’s about honing our game. Some good things come out of this? There’s no question. But in the end, we didn’t get any points out of it, and now we’ve got to move on and play a tough Islander team.”

Stamkos thought the Bolts deserved a better fate in the first period.

“You look at the first period, it was what, 16-5 in shots?" said Stamkos. "They had three power plays, the 5-on-3, it just wasn’t the start we wanted coming back from a 10-day layoff. A little sloppy, which we were trying to avoid, but it’s inevitable when you haven’t played in that amount of time.

"We just kind of got behind the eight-ball and they capitalized on their couple chances they got. It was just an uphill battle from there. I thought we stuck with it but just too sloppy to start the game. Hopefully we can now get over that hump and play the game with no excuses after tonight.”

Stamkos said it wasn't the kind of game the Bolts wanted after a long break.

“It was a weird game in terms of when you come off a break like that and have a first period where you did a lot of good things but the score didn’t indicate that," Stamkos said. "What are you going to do? We had some looks. We had some offensive zone time for sure in the first. It would have been nice to get one. It’s not the start that we wanted. We knew we would have to try to keep it pretty simple early on, and they made some plays and we turned some pucks over and just to the wrong people and they capitalized.”

Brayden Point said the team's turnovers contributed to their poor first period.

“Tough turnovers, the first three," Point said. "Obviously mine was a bit of a backbreaker early…I thought we skated decently well for coming out of the break. I think just timing’s a little bit off, puck skills are just a little bit off, so hopefully we get that out of our system.

“I think it’s just tough. You lose your timing a little bit and the puck skills. Your reads are a little off sometimes. It’s not an excuse, but it is a little more difficult for sure. We just had some turnovers, and they capitalized.”

Point said the margin of error is tightening in the league.

“Yeah, teams are really fighting for points, all teams are fighting for points," Point said. "It tightens up. Teams play tougher D. It’s tougher to get chances. When we get those chances, we’ve got to really bear down and make them count. Tonight we didn’t do that.”

Ryan McDonagh said the result might have been different if the team had been able to score in the first period.

"It would have been nice to get rewarded with one and keep it close," McDonagh said. "But we were pretty positive in the fact that we killed off a big 5-on-3 and really kept us in the game there. We had a positive attitude even though being down three.

"You’ve got to shake off the plays that happened there to give them the lead, and I think the biggest thing we talked about after the game is not letting this snowball here, realize this is our one game now back from break and there’s no more excuses with that and we’ve got a really tough test of a team that put a good thumping to us last time.”

The Lightning continue their three-game road trip Friday night when they take on the New York Islanders at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The puck drops at 7 p.m.

 

 

 

 

 

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