Passive Lightning play resulted in a loss tonight against the Hurricanes in Carolina. Coming into this match up, the Lightning were sitting on top of the league as well as the division with 50 points. In second place in the Central Division sat Carolina. They were three points back of Tampa with a game in hand. In what could very well be a preview of a postseason series, the Lightning lost to the Hurricanes in their barn by a score of 4-3.
Nothing Could Be Finer
The third game of the current three game road trip wasn’t going to be easy. Carolina is keeping pace with Tampa for divisional supremacy. Injuries to defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Erik Cernak would make a victory more challenging for the Lightning. Carolina’s Vincent Trocheck, a Lightning killer since his days in South Florida, would also be out for the game. As this 56 game season has a little more than 20 games left to be played, the importance of every game is magnified.
Almost immediately after the initial puck drop, former Lightning Cedric Paquette was called for high sticking. Let the chippiness begin. While the Lightning didn’t take advantage of the extra man, the ice began to tilt in their favor. Shortly after the Hurricanes killed off the penalty, the Lightning with a strong forecheck kept the puck in Carolina’s zone. It paid off with a goal by Blake Coleman. Jan Rutta directed a slap pass towards the net which Coleman deflected past Carolina goalie James Reimer to open the scoring.
Never a bad thing to score first on the road. Two minutes later, the fourth line of the Lightning kept their recent hot play blazing. Relentless on the forecheck, through grit and determination got the puck to Pat Maroon with Reimer woefully out of position. Two goal lead and nothing could be finer in this game in Carolina.
Make no mistake, Carolina has played very well the entire season thus far. To expect them to throw in the towel would be foolish. After new Lightning defenseman Andreas Borgman was whistled for elbowing, the Hurricanes unveiled their league’s best power play. Despite a recent slide, the Lightning and their 8th best penalty kill did their job, maintaining their two goal lead into the first intermission.
Passive Lightning Play
The Lightning coming off an uninspired game in Dallas were hoping to turn their fortunes around. Answering that bell with two quick first period goals seemed to do the trick. Even quicker than those two Lightning goals, the Hurricanes had an answer of their own. In the span of one minute and two seconds, Carolina took advantage of two really bad Lightning line changes. First, former Lightning Paquette went in all alone on Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and put Carolina on the board.
As the home crowd was still buzzing about that Paquette goal, Sebastian Aho tied the game 62 seconds later on a two on nobody break (bad line change). Clearly, the momentum belonged to the home team. Now, that the two teams were tied, the playoff level intensity began to creep in the game. Just like a playoff series, we saw some post whistle scrums in and around both nets.
The chippy play led to both teams getting penalties as Nino Neiderreiter of Carolina and Blake Coleman for the Lightning each were called for two penalties in the period. Unfortunately, for Tampa, Carolina took advantage of the second Coleman penalty as Martin Necas scored on the power play. Just like that, Carolina took a 3 – 2 lead. Getting out shot 14 to 7 exemplifies the passive Lightning play throughout the period. It should be pointed out that in Dallas two nights ago, the Lightning also took a two goal lead in the initial period. They also gave up three goals and the lead in Dallas. The passive Lightning play is the culprit here.
Passive Lightning Power Play
Starting the final period down by a goal, the Lightning had their work cut out for them. Could they pull this game out? Coach Jon Cooper, hoping to infuse his squad with some energy started the third period with his fourth line. Maroon, Matthieu Joseph and Ross Colton were the best Lightning line through the first two periods. Working relentlessly, the RPM line (Ross, Pat, Matthieu) began to rev things up for Tampa.
During their first shift, 22 seconds into the period, Joseph scores to tie the game at three. Anyone watching the game definitely knows now that this game with the intensity level was coming down to next goal wins. In the first half of the final frame, the Lightning had to kill two penalties. No small feat as Carolina has the best power play team in the league.
As the minutes wind down and the game goes back and forth, Borgman was called for tripping at the 15:39 mark of the period. The Lightning up to this point had killed four of five penalties in the game. They needed to find one more kill in them. They didn’t. Necas scored his second goal of the game. Tampa had one final chance as Carolina was penalized with a little over two minutes remaining. The Lightning with the second best power play in the league failed and that was the ball game. Even their once vaunted power play had become the passive Lightning power play.
FIRST STAR – Martin Necas with two goals and two assists
SECOND STAR – Sebastian Aho with one goal and one assist
THIRD STAR – Pat Maroon with one goal and one assist
The Lightning are coming home for a four game homestand beginning Tuesday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets at 7:00 pm.
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