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Happy Hour Game Not So Happy for the Lightning.

For the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Monday Happy Hour game against the Nashville Predators was definitely not happy.  It also was over in less than an hour.  Fresh off the 6-3 win on Banner Raising Saturday night, the Lightning looked sluggish losing 4 – 1.

The Lightning faced the Predators for the second time in two days. These little mini-series tend to build up some animosity. C’mon now, who among us hasn’t been to a Happy Hour without a fight breaking out?  Three minutes after they dropped the puck to start the game, Tampa’s Pat Maroon squared up with Nashville’s Ben Harpur.  The fight itself was stopped early just as Maroon pulled Harpur’s sweater over his head.  The refs jumped in as Maroon was about to give him the business. 

Nashville definitely started the game in second gear. Maybe they were playing for pride and the sting of Saturday’s loss was still with them. Their work in the Lightning zone resulted in a lot of shots without lighting the lamp. Lightning backup goalie Curtis McElhinney got the call hoping to forget his last outing in Detroit and stopped all 10 Predator shots.

In the second half of the opening period, the home team spurred on by a power play chance, beginning to pepper Predator’s goalie Pekka Rinne who stopped everything his way.  Heading into the first intermission, in a scoreless tie, the shots on goal were even at ten. Both teams had an unsuccessful power play attempt.  Through the first twenty minutes, these two teams were two peas in a pod. 

Wasn’t this supposed to be Happy Hour?

The second period began and almost immediately the Lightning earned another power play about 30 seconds in the period.  The power play looked watered down as they struggled simply getting the puck in the Predator’s zone. Needless to say, even with the extra man, the Lightning couldn’t find the back of the net. 

As soon as the Predators killed off that penalty, they took advantage of the shift in momentum to open the scoring four minutes into the second period.  Nashville’s Eeli Tolvanen snapped a shot past McElhinney to score the game’s first goal.  After this first score, the Lightning made a gritty bid for an answering goal. It never materialized.  

To make matters worse, the Lightning penalty kill which was #4 in the NHL coming into today, gave up a power play goal to the Predators. Viktor Arvidsson ripped a one timer from the right dot past McElhinney to put the visitors up 2 – 0. The Predators were playing for pride. They had lost the previous five meetings with the Lightning in this shortened season. Must have been that prideful swagger that carried Nashville two and a half minutes after the power play goal to score a shorthanded goal.  Calle Jarnkrok streaked past Braydon Point, Victor Hedman and Erik Cernak to go in all alone on McElhinney.  Nashville up 3 – 0.

It’s Closing Time

To start the third, down three goals, the Lightning had to come out playing a hell of a lot better than the first two periods. Even though Tampa had out shot Nashville 23 to 19 in the first two periods, the visiting team was up by three. 

To get the team going, Maroon dropped the mitts three seconds into the final frame.  Mathieu Olivier was his opponent in this match. There were more punches thrown than in the first scrap, most of them by Maroon.  Certainly, doing his part to rev his team up.  To a certain extent, this did fire up the Lightning. They began to have extended ice time in Nashville’s zone. 

Rinne looked like the Rinne of about five, six years ago kept coming up with the saves to keep the home team off the board,  After the fight to open the period, there seemed like there were no more whistles and the minutes on the game clock were flying by.  At about the halfway point of the period, Steven Stamkos attempted to center the puck to a streaking Yanni Gourde.  The puck went off the skates of a Nashville defender and past Rinne to close the gap to 3 – 1. 

Have to give the Lightning some credit as they tried their best to get out of the hole they dug for themselves. They assaulted Rinne with 16 goals in the final frame but he withstood the challenge and didn’t allow but the one goal. Nashville’s Mattius Ekholm scored an empty netter for the final score of 4 – 1. 

What’s Next 

No rest for the weary as the Lightning fly out to Dallas for a makeup game tomorrow night at 8:30 pm.. Including the Happy Hour Game today, the Lightning will play five games in seven days.  This stretch also has two back to backs.  

Three Stars

  1. Pekka Rinne – Saved 38 shots on 39 attempts for a save percentage of 97.4%.
  2. Calle Jarnkrok – 1 Goal, 2 Assists
  3. Pat Maroon – Two fights, just a goal and assist away from a Super Sized Gordie Howe Hat Trick

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