Friday, 4 a.m.
Perhaps they could not accept the horror of giving up a half-dozen goals on consecutive nights.
Perhaps they could not swallow giving up four goals on Nashville's first eight shots.
Perhaps they could justify being blown out in their own building.
For whatever reason, the Tampa Bay Lightning had trouble swallowing a 6-1 loss to the Nashville Predators Thursday night, a loss that left the team 19-17-4 and on the outside of the wild-card chase.
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Forward Tyler Johnson suggested that this wasn't really like a 6-1 loss. Defenseman Victor Hedman said the same. And coach Jon Cooper, at first, agreed with them. After all, it was 1-0 after one period, and 2-1 halfway through the second. But Nashville's Pekka Rinne was sharp, and Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevski was not, and Nashville scored the final four goals of the game.
For Tampa Bay, it was an even dozen goals in their last two games, and it was three or more goals in 14 of the team's last 19 games. Most nights, it has been a leaky defense that has contributed to the team's demise. Thursday night, it was a rare soft goaltending night by Vasilevskiy.
Cooper said “no” to the question of whether it felt like a 6-1 loss.
“We defended,” Cooper said. “We worked. We had 70 shot attempts at the net. We held them to barely 35 or something like that. There’s a lot to build on that. We didn’t really give them much the whole night. They did an exceptional job.
“You can look at it both ways. Did they do an exceptional job blocking shots or did we shoot them into them? They had 24 blocked shots. That’s a lot. That’s more than shots on goal they had. They were defending as well, but I thought we did a lot of good things. We didn’t have a ton of scoring chances either so, that’s what I’m saying. It’s hard to say if the score was indicative of the game, but, as you said, we’re going to wake up in the morning and it’s going to say 6-1 so I guess it was a 6-1 game.
"The puck had eyes for them. It didn't have eyes for us. It happens."
Cooper shrugged off the tough night by Vasileveskiy.
“He’s a young goalie,” Cooper said. “Eventually, he’s going to be a starting goalie in this league. You’re not going to have you’re A-game every single night. Nobody does. Under certain situations like this, Hall of Fame goaltenders have all gone through this. It’s how are you going to be the next game? Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get ready for the next game. That’s all you can do.
“Tyler Johnson doesn’t have his A-game every single night. Ondrej Palat, go down the list, everybody doesn’t have their A-game every single night. I felt for him tonight, but, in saying that, we only scored one goal. So, regardless of how he did, it would have still been tough to win just getting one.”
Johnson scored his 12th goal for the Lightning to avert the shutout.
“I thought actually our first period wasn’t too bad. We were down one there,” Johnson said. “I think they had a couple seeing-eye ones that went in, kind of changed the momentum of the game. I thought we were working, but we weren’t our best. We didn’t respond well enough to take over the game, and obviously that’s tough.
“If you look at that game overall, I don't know if it is a 6-1 game. It wasn't as bad as the score (indicated).”
Said Hedman: "Just one of those games where you can't find a way to score. I definitely don't think it was a 6-1 game. A tough one to explain.”
The Bolts, roughly halfway through their season, now travel to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh over the weekend.
At this point of the season, the Bolts are scuffling. They need to start by keeping the puck out of their net. A few quicker starts wouldn't hurt either.
Otherwise, the team might lose a few more games that don't feel as bad as the scoreboard says.