Wednesday, 4 a.m.
The Rayification of the Tampa Bay Lightning continued Thursday night at Amalie Arena.
Once again, the Lightning struggled as if it was going nowhere.
Once again, the defense was leaky.
Once again, the goaltending was suspect.
Once again, the offense didn't produce much, getting off only 13 shots the last two periods.
Once again, the Lightning came into the game talking about how important it was, yet fizzled when the game was tied in the third.
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Once again, the Lightning left looking funny at the officials, talking about a non-call when Brad Marchand hit Anton Stralman from behind. From there, the Bruins scored twice in the final two minutes of the second period.
All in all, it looked once again like the Lightning was trying to walk in the footsteps of the Tampa Bay Rays, who finished firmly in the cellar last year. They blamed officials. They didn't hold other teams. They didn't score. You know. Like this.
And once again, the Lightning creeped closer to the cellar (one point) with the 4-3 defeat. Once again, it was about a good start and a flat finish for the Bolts, who are 3-8-2 in their last 13 games. It is beginning to look like Chris Archer is playing goal and Steven Souza is in charge of scoring and Brad Miller is playing defense. In other words, ouch.
“How many games are we in?” asked John Cooper. “Fifty games in? I guess not too mystified anymore. It’s become a regular occurrence. I don’t know how many times I’ve got to say consistency. It’s tough because you have such a strong first period, strong in the sense, it’s not that we had a ton of scoring chances, but we gave up nothing. And then to give up the amount of scoring chances we did in the second and third. They go out there and change the way they play. You pat them on the back and say good first period, and then they go out and not play so well. The other team’s got something to do with it as well, but clearly we weren’t the same team in the second and third. It’s too bad.”
Alex Killorn scored twice for the Bolts, who finally had a game with three goals. Alas, it wasn't enough.
The Bolts thought they got a raw deal — bad teams always do — when Stralman was hit from behind by Marchand and nothing was called. Cedric Paquette took a hard hit on a penalty.
“A lot happened in that,” Cooper said. “There’s the whatever you want to call, the non-call on Stralman or whatever it was. Then we kind of, I don’t know what happened after that. We’d given up a few shots to that point, but we hadn’t given up a ton of scoring chances or anything like that. Then there’s the hit on Paquette, and I thought that pushed it over the top. We didn’t really answer after that, and then anytime you’re going to give up a goal with under a second left in a period, you know what, now you’re chasing the game a little bit. It was tough because, again, we hadn’t given up a ton and just a couple plays like that seemed to rattle us a bit and that was it.”
Regardless, the season continues to circle the drain. Tampa Bay is now 22-23-2, and they have shown little interest in even getting back into the race. By the time Steven Stamkos returns, the team may be so far out of the race they'll be listed in the AHL standings.
“It’s upsetting in the second that we have a 1-0 lead and then all of a sudden one of our guys gets hit from behind,” said Tyler Johnson. “They score two goals like that without us even answering. That’s just unacceptable. We’ve got to stick up for each other, and that just can’t happen.”
Lately, the Lightning seem to be saying "unacceptable" a lot. If there is a word to describe their season, it is that one.
What else can't happen did in the third period. Johnson had a breakaway, but instead of shooting, passed backward. No goal.
“I read a two-on-zero,” Johnson said. “I should have been selfish. I screwed up. It’s easier to say after the fact. It’s just one of those things.”
Killorn was disappointed the team couldn't maintain the grit it showed in the first period.
We have to be more consistent. I think our first period was great. We came out really aggressive…We were playing physical. It seemed like we really wanted to win this game. In the second period, I’ll give them some credit they played well, but we have got to show a bit more fight than that. We played decent in the third but that second period is really what killed us.”
Tampa Bay plays against Ottawa Thursday.