The Tampa Bay Lightning’s struggle against top ten teams continued Tuesday as they fell to the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2. Tampa Bay’s record against top ten teams this year fell to 7-12-5 and they’ve dropped 9 of their last 10 against top teams. The Lightning had a strong first period but were unable to keep the momentum through the final 40 minutes. The Lightning would mount a comeback in the final minute but it ultimately proved to be too little too late.
Despite the not scoring any goals the Lightning did not struggle at all in the first. In fact, they played very well. Tampa Bay was able to prevent Carolina from getting to their game (which is puck control and a high volume of shots). They were able to cleanly get the puck out of their own end through the neutral zone and into the attacking end. In addition to outshooting the Hurricanes they doubled up Carolina in offensive zone time. Despite this they were unable to score on Frederik Andersen who would go on to stop 27 of 29 and make numerous key saves throughout the game.
Special Teams Second
It was clear from the start of the period that Carolina was going to push back. They were able to cause more havoc on the forecheck, disrupt Tampa Bay’s breakouts and thus spend more time in the offensive zone. The Hurricanes were also able to get back to sending a high volume of shots towards the net as they registered 20 in the second period. However, it would be the penalties that would come back to haunt the Lightning in the second. It has become a recent trend as six out of their last eight games Tampa Bay has taken more than four penalties. It cost them against New York on Saturday and it would cost them in Carolina on Tuesday.
Just over five minutes into the second the Bolts would take a needless too many men bench minor that would set up the Hurricanes’ first goal. Martin Necas found some space at the left circle and was able to place a shot under the blocker and over the pad of Andrei Vasilevskiy. Then late in the second Stamkos was called for a slash. This set up Tony DeAngelo for his tally that would give Carolina the lead for good. Half way through the opportunity DeAngelo sent a wrister that got tipped on the way through and beat Vasilevskiy.
Sandwiched in between the two powerplay goals against was a goal from Nick Paul. Playing in his Lightning debut, Paul (who came over in the Joseph trade from Ottawa) sent his own wicked deflection past Andersen. The goal seemed to give the Lightning a boost as Carolina had really picked up the pace in the second. However, it was nothing that could overcome the penalties.
Bolts Struggle in Carolina’s Third
Let’t be real, the Hurricanes are the one of the best teams in the league. They have incredible young stars in Sebastian Aho and Svechnikov that can score, but they also play incredibly well with the lead as they are a physically demanding team to play against. Carolina played the third nearly perfectly. Not only did they continue to make it difficult for Tampa Bay to get out of their own end, but when they did the Lightning had to struggle to get through the neutral zone. When they did, it was mostly one and done for the Bolts.
Carolina also played very well in transition. Whenever the Lightning bobbled or lost the puck it was quickly picked up by the Hurricanes and taken the other way. Its how Carolina put the game away. After an errant pass from Rutta was taken, Carolina was able to enter the zone and work the puck around. Although Vasilevskiy was able to stop Jaccob Slavin’s initial shot, the rebound came right to Aho who was able to tuck in. Down 3-1 the Lightning tried and to build something but were again frustrated by good defense. Nikita Kucherov who struggled to get open all game, finally got a chance all alone and rang it off the post.
The only real pressure the Lightning were able to put together came in the final two minutes. With Mikhail Sergachev and Jordan Staal off for penalties, the Lightning pulled Vasilevskiy to get a 5-on-4 advantage. At last the Bolts were finally able to put some pressure on Carolina. Alex Killorn would score on a deflection in front to make it 3-2 with 59 seconds left. However, to was too little too late for Tampa Bay.
the Tampa Bay Lightning will make the next stop in Boston to play the Bruins. Thursday’s game will be the second stop on a four game road trip. After Boston the team will play a back to back with Detroit on Saturday and the New York Islanders on Sunday. The game against Boston will be big one as the Bruins sit just one point behind Tampa Bay. If the Lightning continue to struggle they might find themselves in a wild card Spot.
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