The Tampa Bay Lightning fall short in their final game of their five-game road trip in a heated 3-1 loss against the Nashville Predators at the Bridgestone Arena.
The Tampa Bay Lightning entered tonight’s contest in a rather interesting position. While the team is riding a high from bringing home points in every single one of their games thus far on the road trip, the sting of the players lost along the way continues to pain the Bolts.
The good news here is the Tampa Bay Lightning were able to get one of their players back in the lineup tonight as they charged into the Bridgestone Arena to take on the Nashville Predators. Lightning forward Brian Boyle made his return to the ice after missing Saturday afternoon’s contest with the Philadelphia Flyers due to an Upper-Body Injury.
Despite the good that happened prior to puck drop, the game didn’t get off to the start the Tampa Bay Lightning and their fans would’ve hoped for. It was just over four minutes into the first period of play when the Predators would break the ice and open up the scoring.
Nashville Predators forward Viktor Arvidsson would get his stick on the puck in front of the net and send the deflection right past an unsuspecting Ben Bishop to get things started. At this point, Tampa Bay Lightning fans said to themselves “it’s only one goal.” For the remainder of the first period, this would remain the case.
One of the biggest downfalls for the Lightning in the first period of play would be their lack of aggression, not just physically, but with the puck as well. Through the first 20 minutes of play, the Predators would outshoot the Lightning 10-7.
While this may not be the worst shots on goal ratio fans have seen this season, it is not the kind of play that is going to pick up the two points in the final game of the road trip. The Lightning would need to be much more aggressive in the second period if they wanted to right the ship and get back on course.
Unfortunately for the Lightning, this is not exactly how things played out in the second period of play. Just before the halfway point in the period, the Lightning would find themselves on the penalty kill as Lightning forward Brayden Point was sent to the sin bin for tripping Predators defenseman Roman Josi.
Predators defenseman P.K. Subban would use the opportunity with the man advantage to pick up his fourth goal of the season and extend the Predators lead over the Bolts to two. Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop clearly felt as if he was interfered with on the play, but the refs didn’t seem to agree and play would continue.
At this point, Tampa Bay Lightning fans couldn’t possibly be any more frustrated with the game. It was at this point the hockey gods uttered the words “challenge accepted!” This would only be the beginning of the frustration of the Lightning and their fans.
Just around three minutes after Subban capitalized on the power play to extend the Predators’ lead to two, the 27-year-old Predators defenseman would pick up his fifth goal of the season, extending the Predators’ lead even further to three.
This would remain the score when the buzzer would sound to end the second period of play. Once again, the Lightning allowed the Predators to control the pace of the game throughout the period. While they did increase the pressure ever-so-slightly, the Bolts were still outshot 13-7 for a two-period total of 23-15.
While this is absolutely no excuse for the Lightning’s situation at this point in the game, the referees seem to have swallowed their whistles tonight as they missed a number of calls that could potentially have impacted the flow of the game. This would come back to play a major factor in the third period.
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The third period definitely started off on the wrong foot for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Before the halfway point in the period, Lightning forward Vladislav Namestnikov was cross-checked from behind by Viktor Arvidsson and send crashing head-first into the boards.
The scary part of the entire situation is the refs didn’t even seem interested in making a call on the play until the determined that Vladdy was bleeding. What kind of officiating is that? Furthermore, Arvidsson only incurred a two minute minor on the play. Should this not have been a minimum of a double minor?
Of course, on the very next play, the referees whistle Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman for skating on stride in front of Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis, essentially negating the Lightning’s power play opportunity. Being completely honest, we’re not exactly surprised by this. That’s what is truly frightening.
Remember how we said the referees not making the right calls in the game would come back to play a factor in the game? Well, the final minutes of the third period are where things would finally reach their boiling point.
Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis would blatantly take a run at Lightning forward J.T. Brown. Having reached his tipping point, Brown was absolutely incensed and wasted no time in taking his frustrations out on Ellis. As Predators forward Filip Forsberg decided to insert himself in the action, a dog pile started along the boards.
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Surprisingly enough, both sides came up evenly penalized on this encounter. Ellis would get a two minute minor for Interference and a 10-minute misconduct. At the same time, Brown would be assessed a two minute minor for Roughing and a 10-minute misconduct.
While we still assert Forsberg should’ve been assessed a penalty for his part in this whole fiasco, we’ll take what we could get at this point in the game.
Thankfully, it was the intensity in J.T.Brown’s eyes and the fight in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s souls that led to what would happen next. Lightning forward Tyler Johnson would pick up his seventh goal of the season to ruin the shutout for Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne and get the Bolts on the board for the first time.
Unfortunately, it would prove to be too little, too late for the Tampa Bay Lightning as they would fall short 3-1 to the Nashville Predators in their final game of their current five-game road trip. While Lightning fans are certainly not pleased with the outcome tonight, bringing home 8-10 available points is nothing to frown at.
One thing the Lightning were missing in tonight’s encounter is intensity. Now, this could most certainly be attributed to their lengthy road trip and the amount of stress something like this puts on the body. It could also be attributed to the amount of injuries the team has suffered as of late.
In either one of those situations, the Tampa Bay Lightning are going to have to fight and forge their way through adversity as they have in years past if they want to continue their winning ways and make their way to a repeat performance in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Whether fans want to admit it or not, the referees played a rather large role in the result of tonight’s game. Now, we are in no way, shape, or form, making excuses for the team’s loss. The team knows how things usually work when it comes to the refs and what they need to do to overcome.
At the same time, any of the missed calls in tonight’s encounter could potentially have changed the entire flow of the game. There is going to come a point where the National Hockey League is going to have to step in and do something about the grossly uneven officiating this season, and we’re not just talking about in Bolts games.
One would think with both Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly in the crowd tonight in Nashville, they would start to see the issue at hand. Only time will tell if this serves to be the case.
At the very least, one could easily suspect the NHL Department of Player Safety will take a look at Arvidsson’s hit from behind on Namestnikov and enforce some sort of discipline for a play that could’ve ended very differently and potentially end someone’s career.
Despite the penalty situation, if the Tampa Bay Lightning wants to get back on track and kick off their return to the Amalie Arena on a high note, the Bolts are going to have to shake off tonight’s loss and get back to the aggressive and controlled style of play fans have become accustomed to.
Next up, the Tampa Bay Lightning head home to the Amalie Arena on Wednesday night to take on the Philadelphia Flyers for the second time in four days. It’s definitely going to be another high intensity, physical battle on the ice. We can only hope Lightning fans are ready for another tense encounter.