Lightning reeling after another loss to Columbus

by Gary Shelton on April 13, 2019 · 2 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Lightning

Killorn scored the only Lightning goal./CHUCK MULLER

Saturday, 4 a.m.


The Tampa Bay Lightning, who spent most of their regular season scribbling in the record book, is in trouble.

The Bolts, losers of back-to-back games only twice all season, lost their second straight playoff game to the upstart Columbus Blue Jackets  on Friday night, losing a lopsided 5-1 decision that left you wondering if the playoff pressure has gotten to them.

The Blue Jackets, who qualified for the playoffs on the final day of the regular season, scored the first three goals of the game and coasted.

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Vasilevskiy has given up nine goals in two games./CHUCK MULLER

Columbus now returns home for two games and, if successful, could end the Bolts' season on their home ice.

“We’re in a tough position, but we’re not going to quit," said captain Steve Stamkos, who failed to score again. "We’ve got to take a page out of their book and go on the road and win a hockey game. We just got to focus on Game 3. It’s tough, it just hasn’t gone our way right now.

Stamkos hasn't scored in two games./CHUCK MULLER

"It’s not from lack of effort, guys are working hard, we’re just not working smart enough. They’re executing their game plan a lot better than we’re executing ours. Special teams, again, has been our Achilles’ heel in these first couple games and that was a strong point. We have to give them credit, but we’re focused on Game 3.”

The Bolts had an historic regular season and three 40-game goal scoresr and the league's leading goaltender in wins. But they haven't been very good in the playoffs.

J.T. Miller reaches for the puck./CHUCK MULLER

Tampa Bay now must win four of the next five games to win the series. Otherwise, it will be a staggering upset.

"We had a tremendous regular season, statistic-wise," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said."Both our special teams finished first, but the regular season is different from the playoffs and things just happen so fast and, all of the sudden, it's 0-0 and there's a lot of excitement going into Game 1. Then all of the sudden you’re down 0-2 at home and alarms are going off.

"Have we faced a ton of adversity this year? We haven't. I've been in the league six years and it probably hasn't gone any easier than it has this year. So now we have some adversity and teams face it all the time and they face it in little pieces and this is a five-alarm fire. But it's adversity and

Point squares for the Blue Jackets' Zach Werenski./CHUCK MULLER

sometimes that's good, sometimes you have to go through stuff like this. We'll see how we respond. The one thing I do know about being with this group is, they find a way and I'm sitting here and we're going to be in Columbus 48 hours from now and there's no other bench I want to be behind but ours, that's how much faith I have in this group."

Still, the Jackets seem in control, clogging lanes, forcing the puck deep.

“I think they did a really good job of stopping our speed and clogging our neutral zone up a lot," said defenseman Dan Girardi. "That’s a good play by them. We’re trying to get some speed and get pucks deep, but we don’t get it behind them, they turn it quick and had some transition. We’ll go back to the drawing board here, watch some video and figure out what we can do better in Game 3.

Erne went toe-to-toe with Columbus' Josh Anderson./CHUCK MULLER

“If you asked us at the start of the series that this will be the result, obviously, we’d be pretty surprised. But we have to give them some credit, they’ve been playing two hard games, two 60-minute games. It seems like when we do make a mistake, they’re making us pay for it. We are not happy where we are right now, but all it takes is one for Game 3 there at Columbus and we’re right back in the series.”

For the Lightning, however, it isn't a matter of deciding to win. It's how to play better enough to win.

“We’ve got to win the next game," Stamkos said. "That’s it. There’s no sugar coating it. We didn’t accomplish what we wanted to do at home. After the Game 1 loss we wanted to come out with a better effort. We’re not executing right now. We have to stick with our game plan. When you don’t stick to it and you’re playing a good team over there, it’s going to cost you.”

Once again, much of the focus will be on the struggles of Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. Cooper tried to deflect blame.

"If you look in the 82 games -- and I know they've had success point-wise -- but they have gone two games in a row without scoring," Cooper said. "It's unfortunate that it's happening in Game 1 and 2 in April of the playoffs, but last time I looked Kuch didn't have a point in all 82 games and neither did Stammer. So this happens, it's just unfortunate right now."

The teams play Game 3 on Sunday at Columbus' Nationwidee Arena. The puck is scheduled to drop at 7 p.m.

Columbus goalie  Sergei Bobrovsky made 26 saves in Game 2./CHUCK MULLER


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