Lightning loses to Rangers on late mistake

by Gary Shelton on March 7, 2017 · 1 comment

in general, Tampa Bay Lightning

Vasilevskiy is 3-0-1 in his last four games./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Vasilevskiy is 3-0-1 in his last four games./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

This is the kind of year it has been.

Finally, the Tampa Bay Lightning gets a great night from its goaltender. It gets some energy from a defenseman. It peppers the opposing goaltender.

And it loses.

Again.

This has been the kind of year it has been.

The Lightning stood toe-to-toe with the New York Rangers for most of Thursday night. It was 64 seconds away from a shootout. And its best

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The Lightning fond energy after Luke Witkowski (28) fought Tanner Glass (15)./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

The Lightning found energy after Luke Witkowski (28) fought Tanner Glass (15)./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

player, Victor Hedman, makes a wild pass in the extra period, and the Bolts  lose.

Again.

Yes, the Lightning played well. But what good is playing well when a professional team loses? How do you embrace a night that could have ended with two points instead of just one? How can you not feel that a point slipped away?

Hedman's wild pass in overtime led to the Rangers' goal./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Hedman's wild pass in overtime led to the Rangers' goal./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Oh, Lightning coach Jon Cooper tried. Really, he did. He wants whatever juice the Bolts can claim from this one. So he doesn't gripe and he doesn't whine. He speaks in positives.

Still, you have to wonder if this one dripped acid into the pit of his stomach.

“I’m really pleased," Cooper said. "In the end, they’ve got a really good hockey team. They’re good. We’ve been playing really well. It was one of those games that I thought both teams deserved a point.

Anton Stralman moves the puck for Tampa Bay./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Anton Stralman moves the puck for Tampa Bay./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

"I thought we deserved the other one. But, I say that, and then I think back to the Carolina game and their coach probably was thinking the same thing in that game. Sometimes you get them. Sometimes you don’t. We did everything we could do to try to win that game. Tip your hat to both goaltenders. I know everybody’s screaming for more scoring in the league, but that was a pretty darn exciting 0-0 game.”

Well, yeah, it beat losing to Arizona. That's a given. Still, the scoreboard read 1-0 the wrong way.

Drouin tries to score againt Rangers./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Drouin tries to score against Rangers./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

"You’re talking a Monday night, and that building was rocking," Cooper said. "I think the Witkowski-Glass fight had a lot to do with it. I think that got it going, but there was chances (on) both ends. There was big saves. The game had it all. I liked our emotion.

"Were we perfect? No, but we did everything in our power to win. Give them a  lot of credit: They’re a 40-plus win team and rightfully so. They hung in there. We tilted the ice at times during the game and their goalie made the saves for them. When they tilted the ice on us, Vasy was making saves. Fans got their money's worth tonight, except for the disappointment of not getting the last point. We needed that point a heck of a lot more than they did.”

And that's the thing. The Lightning has a lot of bodies to climb over before it can be considered good enough to make the playoffs.

Garrison and the Lightning defense are playing better./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Garrison and the Lightning defense are playing better./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Cooper, as is his way, did not focus on the wild pass by Victor Hedman that set up the winning goal for the Rangers.

“Victor had it," Cooper said. "He tried to make a pass and we didn’t get it. All of a sudden now, it’s a quick strike and that’s what overtime becomes. Overtime’s not about creating chances. It’s about capitalizing on mistakes. We made a mistake and they capitalized. That was it.”

Hedman accepted the responsibility for the pass.

“I obviously saw it wrong," Hedman said. "I thought Drouin w as over there. It was one of those plays you want back. I thought I made a play that was right, but I have to be better. It was a miss by me and I'll take responsibility. I've got to be better in that situation."

The play resulted in the Rangers only score on 33 shots, a breakaway goal by Mika Zibanejad. It was the first time the Bolts have been shut out since a 4-0 loss to Washington Dec. 23.

In years past, this was the kind of game the Lightning usually won. It would scrap away, and someone -- Ryan Callahan, maybe Steven Stamkos -- would chip in a puck and the team would win 3-2.

Not this year. This year, this kind of game goes wrong too often. It slips away.

“I think we took another step tonight," Anton Stralman said. "I think we upped our game. Maybe for five minutes in the third they had some momentum going, but otherwise I thought we played strong for 60 minutes. That’s what you need this time of year. It’s not the one game that’s going to decide it. It’s the team that can play the most consistent throughout this last stretch that’s going to make it.”

Do the Bolts still have a chance? With their point, they're momentarily two points out of the last playoff spot. That's close enough with 17 games left.

Last year's team would have pulled this out.

This year's team? At this point, in these days of sunshine and rainbows, no one knows.

Braydon Point penetrates the Rangers' defense./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Braydon Point penetrates the Rangers' defense./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

 

 

 

 

 

 

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Larry Beller March 7, 2017 at 9:55 am

That was an unfortunate mistake by Hedman but he is just the latest in a long line of great Lightning players that have that knack of turning the puck over in key situations by trying to make the great play instead of the safe play. Guys like Vinny, Marty, and Stamkos have all done it at various times. Seems like it goes with the territory of being a great player or at least it has with the Lightning down through the years.

Hard to believe the team is only 2 points away from that last playoff spot. It’s been such a long and difficult uphill climb. At least the team is fighting (literally) hard for it now.

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