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Jerseys Change but Poor Play Continues for Bolts

For much of the first third of the season, the Tampa Bay Lightning were a Jekyll and Hyde team. They had flashes of greatness! But then they also had some times when they looked downright awful. Heading into the all-star break, they finally started to put it together. They looked like a dangerous team once again on a regular basis. But the break seemed to cool down the red hot boys in blue. In the seven games since, they lost the first two, won the next three, and then lost the next two. It’s as though the Jekyll and Hyde team has returned. Which team would the Lightning faithful see tonight?

Who (or what)  could be responsible for the Bolts’ recent poor play? Many fans believed they had the answer… it was the new third jersey! Somehow, that black jersey was messing with our boys in blue! Sure, they’d won the first game handily over the Avalanche is said black jerseys. But then came a horrible trouncing at the hands of our in-state rivals the Florida Panthers, followed by a painful loss to the cellar-dwelling Ottawa Senators. So, to the relief of many fans, the Bolts returned to their regular home blue jerseys tonight. Would that be the spark they needed to return to their previous form?

Maybe It Wasn’t the Jerseys

Back in their familiar blue, the Lightning were clear about their goal for tonight. They wanted to score early and not have to chase the game. Unfortunately, the Washington Capitals had other ideas. Just two and a half minutes, the Bolts found themselves doing exactly what they did not want to be doing- chasing the game. Nicolas Aube-Kubel scored to put the Capitals up 1-0.

The Lightning did have some nice chances, but Darcy Kuemper had all the answers.

And with time winding down in the period, Lightning defenseman Haydn Fleury sustained an injury after a check. Although he was down, there was no whistle and play continued. The Bolts, including Andrei Vasilevskiy, were focused on Fleury instead of on the play. The Capitals ultimately made them pay as Connor McMichael notched his 11th of the season to double the Washington lead.

More Sloppy Seconds

Second periods have been tough for the Lightning and tonight would prove to be no exception.

They did manage to break through Kuemper nearly halfway through the period. Brandon Hagel extended his point streak to 11 games as he rifled a feed from Brayden Point and found the back of the net. Nikita Kucherov notched the second assist to add to his league leading point total.

But the Capitals stormed back. Brandon Hagel was tripped up at center ice with no call to give Washington an odd man rush. Anthony Mantha tucked the puck past Andrei Vasilevskiy to restore the two-goal lead.

Last Chance of the Homestand

The Bolts had one last period to try to make this a winning homestand. And they seemed determined to do just that! They came out with a renewed sense of purpose. At 2:42, Nick Paul reminded fans where the phrase “Nick Paul does it all!” comes from. Paul took a pass from former Capital Conor Sheary, whizzed past the Washington defense, and blasted his shot top corner past Darcy Kuemper to pull his team within a goal.

And just 24 seconds later, as that goal was being announced, the boys in blue jerseys gave their fans something else to cheer about. Tyler Motte found himself open in front of the Washington net and hammered home the game-tying goal.

Moments later, the Capitals regained the lead. Or so it appeared. The Lightning challenged the goal as offside. The reviews clearly show that the play was, indeed, offside and the goal came off. Tie game again.

Unfortunately, the Bolts could not hold on. They gave up the go-ahead goal with five minutes remaining. The Lightning pulled Vasilevskiy in the final minutes for the extra attacker. Capitals scored into the empty to seal the victory. Bolts lose their third straight on this homestand.

Three Stars

1- Connor McMichael- 2 goals

2- Dylan Strome- 2 assists

3- Brandon Hagel- 1 goal to extend his point streak to 11 games

Up Next

The Bolts hit the road as they head to New York to face the Islanders on Saturday at 2pm.

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