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Laying an Egg on Their Road Trip Finale, Lightning lose in Calgary

The last game of the five game road trip for the Tampa Bay Lightning is tonight in Calgary.  So far, the trip has been just average. We saw an exciting overtime win in Seattle and a win in Edmonton that stopped the Oilers eight game winning streak. We also saw the two losses in Nashville and Vancouver by a combined score of 9-2. Tonight is the rubber game of the road trip. This one breaks the tie. They come home after tonight’s game. To a man, they want to come back with a win tonight. Going to the West Coast is a tough trip for any team that plays their games in the Eastern time zone. If the Lightning come back winning three of five means they also would have won five of their last seven as they come home. Closing out the month by playing five of their last six in the friendly confines of Amalie Arena.

Andrei Vasilevskiy gets the nod to start in net for the Lightning. Dan Vladar starts for the Flames. Calgary is struggling over their last few games. In their last 10 games, they are 3-5-2. Victor Hedman returns to the lineup after missing the last couple games. Christopher Tanev is out with an injury for Calgary. In this Jekyll and Hyde season, the question for a game like this is: Will Tampa play as they did two nights ago in Edmonton? Or will we see the team that lost emphatically in Nashville and Vancouver? The answer determines the success of this, the longest road trip of the season for the Lightning. 

First Period

As it often happens, once the game began, both teams seemed to be feeling each other out. Even when Mikey Eyssimont was whistled for the game’s first penalty, the defensive game plan from both teams seemed to be to challenge every shot. There will be no free looks at either netminder. Every pass was challenged. No check went unfinished. 

There may not have been goals or assists on the stat sheet but with five minutes remaining in the opening period, there were 15 hits delivered. Eight by Tampa and seven for Calgary. The Lightning also had 8 hits by this time with three for Calgary. It was shaping up to be a tightly played game.  

The first period finished how it started. In a scoreless tie. Calgary won the shot battle with eight shots to Tampa’s six. These shot totals didn’t really challenge either goalie. This type of game could come down to who scores first.

Second Period

It didn’t take long in the middle period for the game’s first goal. Three minutes into the second period, A.J. Greer of the Flames wristed the puck past Vasilevskiy. It was a goal that Vasilevskiy should have stopped. He seemed a bit surprised by the speed of Greer’s shot but we have seen him stop plenty of similar shots in his career. 

Immediately after that initial goal, the Lightning were showing some signs of answering but the Flames were up to the defensive tasks. On the other hand, a few minutes after the Greer goal, Mackenzie Weegar blasted a shot from the blue line. The puck rang off the post but angled into the net to give the home team a 2-0 lead. Now, the Flames are playing with a mix of confidence and reckless abandon. 

Sure enough, about 45 seconds after their second goal, the Flames scored their third goal in the span of five and a half minutes. The inconsistent second period play for the Lightning this season reared its ugly head in this game. During the first four games of this road trip, the Lightning had been outscored  9-0 in the second period. Now, that tally is 12-0 in the second period. Sure, they outscored the opposing teams in the first and third periods of these same games by a 13-7 mark but this underwhelming play in the second period has to be corrected sooner rather than later.

Third Period

After the debacle that was the second period tonight, the Lightning had 20 minutes to show what they have in the tank. Maybe it’s for pride, maybe it’ll be for the two points. Whatever the team has, they are down to this final regulation period to show exactly what they have. 

In the first few minutes, it was clear that the Lightning weren’t going to go away quietly. They were forcing the issue in the offensive zone. Their work paid off. Nikita Kucherov from behind the goal line centered the puck to the low slot. Brayden Point snapped the puck past Vladar for the Lightning’s first goal of the game. Still a long way to go, down by two with 15 minutes left in the game. 

Seconds after Point’s goal, the Flames committed a penalty putting the Lightning on the power play. The Lightning won the faceoff and 15 seconds into the power play, Steven Stamkos slapped a wicked shot past Vladar for a goal. Now, we got a brand new game. Calgary’s lead had gone from three goals to just one at 3-2. There was 14 minutes to go in the game. Plenty of time. 

For the next five minutes, the Lightning were pushing to tie the game. Calgary was back on their heels and their 2nd period performance was a fading memory. AS the period continued to wind down, a failed attempt by the Lightning to get into the Calgary zone led to a rush by the Flames. Connor Zary with Brandon Hagel draped all over him, snapped a shot over Vasilevskiy’s shoulder for Calgary’s fourth goal of the game. 

This was the backbreaker. The Lightning fought like hell and peppered Vladar and the defense with shot after shot. All to no avail as Calgary wins 4-2. 

Three Stars

  1. Dan Vladar – Calgary goalie stopped 30 of 32 shots and made the difference in this game.
  2. Nikita Kucherov – Top scorer in the NHL, adds two more assists to his season total.
  3. Steve Stamkos – 1 goal for his 5th goal in last two games.

What’s Next

The boys are heading back home tomorrow. Tuesday night at Amalie against the St. Louis Blues. Puck drops at 7:00 pm.

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