Bolts’ defense falters in another defeat

by Gary Shelton on February 14, 2018 · 2 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Lightning

Gourde scored his 21st goal of the season./CARMEN MANDATO

Gourde scored his 21st goal of the season./CARMEN MANDATO

Wednesday, 3 a.m.

Are you worried yet? Nervous? Flabbergasted? Do you watch and wonder where the defense went? Do you think about what happened to the excellence?

The Tampa Bay Lightning, once again, struggled to keep the puck out of their own net against a poor Buffalo team, losing 5-3. The Bolts went through back-to-back nights, giving up nine goals. Over their last five, the Lightning has given up 20 goals.

The loss to Buffalo was a low point for Tampa Bay. Even after Tuesday night, the Sabres have only 17 wins, less than half of the Bolts' total.

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The Bolts never led Tuesday night, giving up two power play goals.

“The penalty kill, it’s been kind of a sore subject for us for quite some time now," Cooper said. "Ultimately, you don’t want to put yourself down. It happens in a game, but that’s a bad penalty to take there early in the third, especially when I don’t think Buffalo had been out of their zone for two minutes. We were kind of humming. We came out strong and we take probably a retaliation penalty and the puck ends up in our net and now we’re down by two and we’re really chasing it. It’s little tiny things that can change the course of the game and put us behind, and that was it.

“We make every power play look like the best power play in the league. The guys are trying. It’s not like they wanted pucks to go in the net. We’ve just got to do a better job structurally and we’ve got to get in some shot lanes. Penalty killing’s tough. You have to be in lanes, you have to block shots, you have to commit. It’s a tough thing to do. We’ve just got to find the right combination of guys that’s going to be able to do that.”

Making matters worse, the Lightning failed to capitalize on a long 5-on-3 power play of their own.

"Unfortunately, we had a full pretty much two-minute 5-on-3, and I think we had one shot on goal," Cooper said. "Again, there’s opportunities in the game for you to capitalize and whether it was taking ill-advised penalties, not being able to kill them off or creating penalties where you can take advantage and not doing it, just go back to the drawing board, circle back, we have to make some adjustments here and move on.

“We lost a hockey game. We’ve lost two in a row within 24 hours. You’re right, we’re not used to it but you keep playing this way, things like this are going to happen.”

For the Bolts, Yanni Gourde score his 21st goal. Vlad Namestnikov and Ryan Callahan also scored.

“I think we had 14 shots in the first period and I think we had 14 for the rest of the game," Cooper said. "Definitely not the push you want and I don’t use the whole back-to-back thing. That’s a lame excuse. We’ve just got to play the right way for 60 and we just didn’t do it.”

Gourde said the Lightning sputtered throughout.

“I think we were kind of out of sync a little bit. When we’re at our best, we’re five guys together. We attack together. We defend together. I think we might have been a bit too far apart from each other, and tonight it was a big difference. We were kind of chasing the puck a little bit.

“We’ve got to be good 60 minutes. There’s no excuse there. Our effort’s got to be great for 60 minutes. Sometimes it’s going to be a system-wise mistake, like we’re going to get out of the system and they’re going to get a scoring chance out of it, but we can’t allow an effort-wise mistake and I think it’s kind of what’s happening a little bit. We’ve got to be better for 60 minutes and work together as a team, as a group of five.”

The Bolts come home to play Detroit Thursday night in Amalie Arena. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.

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