It’s been a rough stretch for the slumping Bolts. They have lost three straight games. Their last win was one week ago against the Detroit Red Wings. In that game, the Red Wings absolutely dominated the Lightning, outshooting them 45-18. Andrei Vasilevskiy was the difference in that one. Prior to the Detroit game, the Bolts had lost three of their last four. In total, they have just two wins in their last eight games. They desperately need to play better this afternoon in Buffalo. The Sabres are also looking for a bounce-back game today, as they were trounced by the Boston Bruins 7-1 in their last game. So, which team would turn its fortunes around today?
Slumping Bolts Strike First
As in their previous game, the Lightning got off to a promising start in this one. Their second power play of the game was a dangerous one with plenty of chances but nothing to show for them. Finally, as the seconds ticked down, Brayden Point fired it home to extend his goal streak to seven straight games and put the visitors up 1-0.
That's *checks notes 📝* a SEVEN-game goal streak for Pointer!! 😮💨 pic.twitter.com/ooQ0rsZoC8
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) March 4, 2023
The lead lasted less than three minutes before Buffalo took over the game completely. The Sabres got their first power play of the game and quickly took advantage as Tage Thompson beat Brian Elliott for his 42nd of the season. And that’s how the first period would end. In a 1-1 tie. Unfortunately for the Bolts, the second period- which has been deadly for them of late- was coming up.
Second Sinks Slumping Bolts Again
Last Sunday in Pittsburg, Brian Elliott got pummeled in the second period, yielding six goals to the Penguins. Well, at least today’s second period was only half as bad, as the Lightning surrendered three goals and did not score any of their own.
The only highlight of the period for the Bolts was trade deadline acquisition Tanner Jeannot. Jeannot had his first fight as a member of the Lightning, and he dealt a decisive blow to Riley Stillman.
Tanner Jeannot's first fight as a member of the Lightning. pic.twitter.com/rJBktszcQg
— Chris Krenn (@Chris_Krenn) March 4, 2023
Just like last Sunday, the opposition scored in the dying seconds of the frame to add another element to the pain.
The Benching of Slumping Bolts
The third period had some interesting twists. The Sabres picked up right where they had left off, scoring less than a minute in on a power play. But that was not really an interesting twist. What was interesting was the particular Bolts not on the ice for the entire third period. The Lightning’s top three players did not get onto the ice that frame. Coach Jon Cooper made the decision to bench Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Brayden Point.
Down 5-1 and without their big stars on the ice, the Bolts did make a game of this one. Alex Killorn scored his 16th of the season from Nick Perbix and Nick Paul at the 2:55 mark to pull the Bolts within three once again. Just over 10 minutes later, with the Lightning shorthanded, Tanner Jeannot made his presence known once again. He made a nifty play getting the puck across to Killorn who got his second of the period and 17th of the season.
Getting 'em back 👊 pic.twitter.com/zZqmTDxXuh
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) March 4, 2023
With the Bolts now within two goals with six and a half minutes to play, perhaps, it was time for the big guys to come back out? They needed two quick goals- a feat with which Stamkos, Kucherov, and Point certainly have experience. But Jon Cooper did not waiver from his decision and the big three rode the bench the entire period. Cooper was definitely making a statement.
Following the game, Cooper explained his reasoning, “You gotta put your team in the best position to win. 99.9 percent of the time, those guys give us the best chance to win when they’re on the ice. We just felt in the third period that they weren’t giving us the best chance to win… that’s how it was for today. Those guys are an extremely important part of our team but for 20 minutes tonight, it was… I thought the other guys could get it done and you know what? They almost did.”
This one ended in a 5-3 final extending the Lightning losing streak to a season-long 4 games.
1- Tage Thompson- 1 goal, 1 assist
2- Jeff Skinner- 1 goal, 1 assist
3- Tanner Jeannot- 1 fight, 1 knockdown, 1 assist
Will the benching of the stars motivate this team back into the win column? We won’t have to wait too long for the answer as the Bolts face off against the high-flying Carolina Hurricanes tomorrow afternoon in Carolina. Game time is 3pm.
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