LIGHTNING : GAMES 46 – 50 : RECAP
By Leo Haggerty

Tampa Bay begins this five-game sequence with two games on the road.  Then it’s back to Amalie Arena for a couple of home tilts.  Then, after an extended hiatus, the Bolts get back on the road with a three-game roadie starting in Pittsburgh.

The Lightning finished the last five-game series with 8 points.  Normally, that’s a great point total for a fistful of games but the Bolts have spoiled us.  The eight-point total is the lowest since sometime in November.  That should give you an idea as to how well Tampa Bay has been playing.

So, let’s see how the Lightning fare with an extended layoff at the end of this grouping.  That should be worth the price of admission alone.  Enjoy.

NEW YORK ISLANDERS (L 5-1)

This game, my faithful readers, was what we would classify in the coaching profession as a clunker.  That’s occurs when whatever you’re team does is wrong and whatever the opposition did is right. That equates to a bad loss and it happens at all levels of competitive sports.

Well, the Bolts contest with New York met that criteria.  Henceforth, the Lightning were beaten by the Islanders 5-1 at Nassau Coliseum.  Tampa Bay got down early and just couldn’t recover.

New York scored three markers before the game was five minutes old.  The Lightning only managed six shots on goal in the opening period and were totally outplayed by the Islanders.

The Isles added another goal midway through the middle period before the Lightning dented the scoring column.  D Ryan McDonagh (5) cut the lead to 4-1 at 18:12.

To the Bolts credit, they attempted to get back in the game.  They peppered New York G Thomas Greiss with 22 shots on goal but #1 only let one get past him.

The Islanders finished the scoring with an empty netter late in the final period.  That made the final count 5-1 in favor of New York.

G Griess was phenomenal making 38 saves in the win.  Tampa Bay G Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 23 shot in the defeat.  #88 dropped to 18-5-2 on the campaign.

Now it’s off to Dallas for a date with the Stars.  Let’s see if the Bolts fare better in Big D.

DALLAS STARS (W 2-0)

Tampa Bay got the train back on the tracks with a 2-0 victory over the Stars at the American Airlines Center.  This game was all about #88.

G Vasilevskiy was superb.  The shutout was just what the doctor ordered at the end of a road trip for the Lightning.

The Bolts scored first at 7:55 of the first period.  F Ondrej Palat (7) got the puck Stars G Anton Khudobin that gave Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead at the completion of the first 20 minutes.

The second period belonged to both goaltenders.  The Lightning #88 and the Stars # 35 were spectacular in keeping both teams off the scoreboard.

Tampa Bay closed out the scoring at 9:15 of the final period.  D Mikhail Sergachev (2) lit the lamp for the final marker.

G Vasilevskiy had 35 saves to move to 19-5-2 on the year.  G Khudobin to the hard-luck loss stopping 19 shots.

The Bolts return to Tampa for a couple of tilts.  The Lightning take on their closest competitor in the Atlantic Division, the Toronto Maple Leafs, in the front end of the home stand

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (L 4-2)

In a battle of the top two teams in the Atlantic Division, Toronto emerged victorious with a 4-2 decision over Tampa Bay.  For anyone who witnessed this contest, it was playoff-level hockey at its best.

The Lightning opened the scoring on a power play.  F Brayden Point (30) slid the puck past Maple Leafs G Frederik Andersen at 9:48 of the opening period.  The Leafs evened the score exactly two minutes later and both teams went to the locker room all tied at 1.

Toronto scored a couple of markers in the second period sandwiched around a Bolts goal.  After the Maple Leafs took the lead, Tampa Bay evened the score 37 seconds later.  D Victor Hedmon (6) lit the lamp at 13:43 but the Leafs retook the lead just over a minute later.  That left the Lightning on the short side of a 3-2 count at the second intermission.

The third period was a preview of what post-season hockey will look like.  The Bolts peppered Anderson, who ended up with 36 saves, with 16 shots in the third period.  The Maple Leafs countered with 14 shots at #88, who made 27 saves of his own but fell to 19-6-2 on the campaign, with the last one an empty-net counter for Toronto.

For the first time in a long time, Tampa Bay has lost two games in regulation during the five-game span that I cover.  The Bolts get a chance to get back on the left side of the dash when the San Jose Sharks come calling next.

SAN JOSE SHARKS (W 6-3)

The Lightning got back in the win column with a 6-3 conquest of the Sharks at Amalie Arena.  The win improved the Bolts record to 11-1 following a loss.

Tampa Bay struck for two goals in the first 20 minutes.  F Mathieu Joseph (12) put the biscuit in the basket at 3:32.  F Alex Killorn (11) followed at 17:51 depositing the puck behind San Jose G Martin Jones.  The Sharks cut the Bolts lead in half with just 21 ticks left in the opening period with a power-play goal of their own and both teams headed to the locker room with the Lightning holding a 2-1 lead.

San Jose evened the score just under a minute into the middle period.  F Yanni Gourde (12) put the Bolts back on top again at 7:29 and Hedman (7) extended the advantage at 12:01 with a power-play marker.  That put Tampa Bay a 4-2 on top at the end of two periods of play.

The third period was a repeat performance of the opening two stanzas with Tampa Bay lighting the lamp twice and San Jose with a singleton.  Both Lightning goals were notched by F Steven Stamkos (25 & 26) with the first finding the back of the net at 5:08 and the later was of the power-play variety at 14:15.  The Sharks finished the scoring at 19:23 of the third period and Vasilevskiy was visibly upset with allowing that goal with such little time left in the contest.

#88 finished with 36 saves and upped his record to 20-6-2 on the year.  Jones stopped 20 shots in a losing effort.

Now, the Bolts have a 10-day break until they resume play.  Tampa Bay will then begin a three-game-in-four-days road swing starting in Pittsburgh with a date with the Penguins before heading to the Big Apple for a back-to-back with the Islanders and the Rangers.

With such a long layoff, I’ll post this now and update after the Pens game the end of January.  Until then, enjoy.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (L 4-2)

Like the Lightning, we are back.  After an unusually long hiatus, that included All Star Weekend, Tampa Bay lost a
4-2 decision to Pittsburgh at the PPG Paints Arena.

Before the first period was to the halfway point, the Bolts found themselves on the short end of a 3-0 score.  The final two markers occurred over a 16 second span as the first period ended with that score.

Both teams were held scoreless in the middle period.  Lightning G Vasilevskiy and Pens G Matt Murray both were outstanding in keeping the score at 3-0 at the end of 40 minutes.

Tampa Bay managed to light the lamp twice in the final session.  F J.T. Miller (8) put the biscuit in the basket at 15:50 and Stamkos (27) continued his hot streak with a power-play goal at 17:56 but it was too little and too late.

The Lightning may have been a little rusty with the long layoff but the effort was there for the Bolts as it showed on the stat sheet.  Tampa Bay forced G Murray to make 33 saves, 16 in the first period, to preserve the victory for the Penguins.  G Vasilevskiy turned away 18 shots in dropping to 20-7-2 on the campaign.

Tampa Bay ended this five-game sequence with only 4 points.  That was one of the lowest period in a long time and we’ll see how the Bolts react with a Big Apple back-to-back against the Islanders and the Rangers to start the next five-game span before returning to Amalie Arena.  Look for the next post around the middle of February.