Could this be the jolt the Tampa Bay Lightning needed to get back on track? Well, there was 60 minutes of hockey in front of them to get the job done. The only thing left for them to do was put one skate in front of the other and get it done.
One thing that is rather curious about tonight’s game is the fact the New York Rangers elected to play goaltender Antti Raanta between the pipes tonight in lieu of their starting goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. Raanta has played just one game so far this season; a 7-4 victory over the San Jose Sharks on October 17th.
While the numbers would insist the Lightning were outplayed in the first period, which to some degree they were, the Bolts still managed to create some good scoring chances for themselves. If they wanted to emerge victoriously, the Bolts would have to find a way to start capitalizing on those opportunities.
As we mentioned before, the New York Rangers put a decent amount of pressure on the Lightning in the first period. The Rangers would outshoot the Lightning 16-10 in the first period.
A good number of those shots on goal more than likely came on one particular play where Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop must have been forced to make 3-4 stops in a row as players piled in front of the net. Unfortunately for the Lightning, this dog pile in front of the net would cause a problem for more than just Bishop.
As Vladislav Namestnikov was sent tumbling to the ground thanks to the pileup in front of the net, Vladdy would catch the back end of Mats Zuccarello’s skate right in the face. Vladdy looked pretty shaken up when he made his way off the ice. Thankfully, after being evaluated, it was nothing serious and he was able to return.
Towards the end of the period, things would start to get really heated, really quickly. Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello would clip Ryan Callahan along the boards. Needless to say, after missing the first month of the season due to an injury, the last thing a player wants is to go out thanks to someone else’s mistake.
Callahan definitely gave Zuccarello the business as he made his way off the ice. Thankfully, the referee did the same as Zuccarello was sent to the sin bin for two minutes forthe offense. Unfortunately, the Lightning would not be able to make anything of the man advantage.
The Tampa Bay Lightning struggled both offensively and defensively through the first period of play, but this was absolutely nothing in comparison to what the Lightning would encounter in the first period. Most Lightning fans would agree that suppressing the urge to curse was one of the most difficult parts of the second period.
Just 4:45 into the second period, an inopportune turnover at the blueline would lead to Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn getting blown away in the defensive zone and Rangers forward Rick Nash would end up on a breakaway that would break the ice for the Rangers and give them the early lead.
Less than two minutes later, the Lightning would find themselves scrambling once again. The difference here is this time it was slightly less their fault. The Rangers were perfecting their passing game in front of the net when Lightning forward Valtteri Filppula found himself without a stick.
When Bishop found himself open on the glove side, there was no one there to bail him out. Needless to say, this opened the door for Rangers forward Michael Grabner to score his third goal of the season and extend the Rangers lead over the Lightning to two.
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Not frustrated just yet? Wait 22 seconds and get back to us. Braydon Coburn would turn over the puck in the defensive zone once again. This would open the door for Nash to get off a drop pass to Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey, who would score the Rangers’ third goal in less than two and a half minutes.
Just when you think things can’t possibly get any more frustrating for the Tampa Bay Lightning and their fans, well…it does. Both Alex Killorn and Jonathan Drouin would get called for a penalty (Killorn for Roughing and Drouin for Holding) on the same play, giving the Rangers a 5-on-3 opportunity.
Thankfully, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s penalty kill squad was on top of their game and were able to miraculously allow the Lightning to emerge from the potential disaster unscathed. This may seem like something small in the grand scheme of things, but on a night like tonight, we’ll take what we can get.
With less than two minutes left in the period, the Rangers would go on the offensive once again. Rangers forward Kevin Hayes would rush the net and take the shot on Bishop. Bishop would turn away the first attempt, but Rangers forward J.T. Miller would get his stick on the rebound and jam it right through Bishop’s five-hole.
But wait…there’s more. With just five seconds left in the second period, Alex Killorn would pick up his second penalty of the period (third of the night) for tripping Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh.
This would mean the Lightning would start the third period of play on the penalty kill. On the bright side, this would be the end of what turned out to be one of the worst periods the Tampa Bay Lightning have played in a very long time.
The Tampa Bay Lightning would be outshot once again in the second period; this time 15-11. Add this into the first period totals and you come up with 31-21 Rangers through 40 minutes of play. Given the amount of firepower the Lightning have in their arsenal – especially with the return of Callahan – these numbers should be vastly different. Alas, they were not.
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On the bright side, the Lightning were able to kill the residual penalty from the second period when they returned to the ice for what Lightning fans prayed would be the final period of play. Like we said before, the little things really matter in situations like this one.
If you can possibly fathom it, just before the halfway point in the period, things actually began to get worse for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Nikita Kucherov would fire off a shot towards the net. Unfortunately, it would be picked out of the air and brought back down to the ice.
J.T. Miller would get his stick on the puck and send it flying down the ice. As the puck made its way to the stick of Michael Grabner, who would end up on a breakaway, Grabner would shoot and he would score. This would be his second goal of the night and fourth of the season.
Just when you think there is no way in this universe things could get more disheartening for Tampa Bay Lightning fans, well…
At 14:47 in the third period, Michael Grabner would pick up his third goal of the night, securing the hat trick, to give the Ranger a 6-0 lead over the Lightning. It was about this time in the game where many Lightning fans started to get itchy channel changing fingers and start to check out of the game. Who could blame them at this point?
Unbeknownst to popular belief, there was one high point in tonight’s game. We know, we didn’t see it coming either, but hey…something, something, little things.
It was 15:21 in the third period when Rangers forward Brandon Pirri would earn himself a one-way ticket to the sin bin for Cross Checking Cedric Paquette. Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman would keep the puck in the Lightning offensive zone, passing the puck forward to Nikita Kucherov.
Kucherov would waste no time in sending the puck soaring towards the net to the stick of Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. Stamkos would just get his stick on the puck as he sent the puck flying past Rangers goaltender Antti Raanta and into the back of the net to break up the Rangers’ shutout opportunity.
Unfortunately, with less than four minutes left in the game, it was simply too little, way too late. When the final buzzer would show the Lightning mercy, the Rangers would defeat the Lightning 6-1 from Madison Square Garden.
On the bright side, the Tampa Bay Lightning have split their road trip in half. While this doesn’t sound bad all by itself, when you consider the way the road trip started and then look at how it ended, it is more than a little disheartening.
There were defensive miscues all over the place, the Lightning’s offense seemed almost timid, and the team looked absolutely nothing like the Tampa Bay Lightning team that started the season.
One of the first things that needs to happen is Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper needs to break up Andrej Sustr and Braydon Coburn on defense. For the life of us, we cannot understand why these two were paired together. Also, as Mike Corcoran pointed out on Twitter tonight, there is absolutely no reason why Cooper shouldn’t recall defenseman Slater Koekkoek from Syracuse. None whatsoever.
We have a very distinct feeling the Tampa Bay Lightning are going to be holding one of those “coming to Jesus” closed-door meetings when they make their way back to the locker room tonight. The Boston Bruins are going to be just as unforgiving when the Lightning make their way back to the Amalie Arena on November 3rd.
If the Tampa Bay Lightning wants to get back on the right track and start playing like the team that started out the season, things are going to have to change; and rather quickly. The Lightning is one of the most formidable teams in the NHL right now, and they should be playing as such.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have tomorrow off as they make their way back to the Sunshine State for their encounter with the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night. Hopefully, this time away from the ice will give the Bolts the time they need to hit the reset button and be ready for the big, bad Bruins.