The Tampa Bay Lightning entered their road trip finale this afternoon in a city where they have a rich history. Calgary Flames fans will long remember a controversial “no-goal” ruling in game 6 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Final. Even 19 years later, many a Flames fan will still insist that the puck that would have given Calgary a 3rd period lead fully crossed the line. Instead, the Lightning won that game in overtime and then returned home to take game 7 for the franchise’s first ever Stanley Cup win. Today’s game does not have the same level of significance, of course, but it is still an important game for both sides. The Flames are in a tough battle for a wildcard position in the Western Conference. They currently find themselves on the outside looking in with 51 points. That point total is tied with the 8th place Colorado Avalanche but the defending cup champions have played 3 fewer games. The Bolts, on the other hand, are solidly in the playoff mix. However, their road game had struggled at just 9-9-0 heading into this road trip. They won the first 3 games, ensuring that they would return home with an above .500 road record. But then they lost in Edmonton Thursday night. Today’s game is the difference between continuing to hover around road mediocrity versus making a solid statement that they can be a dangerous road team.
Lack of Discipline Plagues Bolts on Road Trip Finale
Some were predicting that the Lightning would start off strong in this game after a frustrating loss in Edmonton last game. But those predictions would not come to fruition, as the boys in blue started off sluggish and slow. Calgary had 7 of the first 8 shots of the game. But the Bolts would get the first power play of the game. Would the man-advantage provide the spark they needed? Sadly, it did not. The Lightning managed just one shot and the Flames got a couple of good looks of their own short-handed.
Perhaps still looking for that spark, Ian Cole dropped the gloves with Calgary heavy-weight Milan Lucic. They both headed to the box for 5 minutes. Four minutes later, Anthony Cirelli took a penalty for tripping Nazem Kadri. The Bolts killed that one off and under half a minute later, Erik Cernak was called for roughing. This time, the Flames wasted no time, scoring on a shot from the point tipped in by Kadri just 6 seconds in to make it 1-0.
Seconds later, Nikita Kucherov, still angry about an elbow earlier in the period, went after Andrew Mangiapane and got called for tripping. Zach Bogosian leapt to his teammate’s defense and roughed up Mackenzie Weegar. And the Lightning found themselves down by two men for a full two minutes. The Bolts killed it off for the final minute and 18 second of the first period.
Bolts Look to Bounce Back in Road Trip Finale
After a very lackluster first period, the Lightning desperately needed to find their game in the second. The first period ended with shots on goal favoring the Flames 15-4. Shot attempts favored Calgary 31-9. And the Bolts were starting the period still down two men for 42 seconds.
The Lightning did kill off the five on three. But Calgary continued to dominate in chances. Just over halfway through the period, the Bolts finally broke through. Steven Stamkos continued his recent torrid pace with an unassisted goal for his 23rd of the season. With the goal, Stamkos extended his goal streak to three games and his point streak to eight games. More importantly, he had tied this game.
Stammer drops the HAMMER pic.twitter.com/0q6KTjZPAH
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) January 21, 2023
And the Bolts were not done there! Just 48 seconds later, Vladislav Namestnikov gave the Lightning the lead as he deflected the puck past netminder Dan Vladar.
There ya go, Vladdy!! pic.twitter.com/XepFUKUHAW
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) January 21, 2023
The lead would not last long. One minute and ten seconds to be exact. Tyler Toffoli took a shot that bounced off Victor Hedman and into the net. Moments later, some chaos ensued. Nikita Zadorov cross-checked Corey Perry to the ice and held him down there. Somehow, that resulted in offsetting minor penalties. Zadorov for roughing and Perry for holding. Perry was not a happy man after that call. He let the referree know it, and wound up with a 10-minute misconduct in addition to his 2-minute minor. Just under 2 minutes later, Rasmus Andersson scored for the Flames. Another shot that bounced in off Hedman. Calgary would take a 3-2 lead into the final frame.
Road Trip Finale Ends on a Weak Note
The Bolts never found their stride in this game and looked like a shell of the team we’d seen on the first 3 games of the road trip. Calgary truly dominated every aspect of this one. Dillon Dube scored his 11th of the season at the 7:40 mark of the third to give the Flames a 2-goal cushion. They never looked back. The Bolts were unable to create any offensive pressure. At the 9:07 mark, Blake Coleman hit Ian Cole with a high stick, drawing blood. He was sent to the box for 4 minutes. The Lightning managed nothing during the first 3 minutes of the man-advantage. They finally did get a shot in the last minute of the extended power play when Corey Perry got in alone. Vladar made a nice save.
The Bolts got a small breath of life when Anthony Cirelli tipped one past Vladar to pull his team within a goal at 4-3 with four minutes remaining in the game. But that was as close as they would come. Calgary put two goals into the empty net when Coach Jon Cooper pulled Andrei Vasilevskiy for the extra attacker.
A road trip that started off so strong ended on a very weak note for the Bolts. Let’s hope coming back home can turn their fortunes around and get the boys back to their winning ways!
3 Stars of the Game
1- Rasmus Andersson- 1 goal, 2 assists
2- Andrei Vasilevskiy- Kept his team in a game in which they were dominated
3- Tyler Toffoli- 1 goal, 1 assist
The Bolts return home after this 5-game road trip and face the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night at 7pm.
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