Leapfrogging game #43 on the Lightning schedule (which will be completed tomorrow evening in Newark), the Tampa Bay Lightning squared off against the Flyers tonight and were downed 4-1 at Wachovia Center.
While the Lightning started this game with jump and with a determination that had been missing the first two times these teams faced off. They were blocking shots, stealing the puck, breaking up passes in the neutral zone and capitalizing on Flyer mistakes... But they fell into a trap of committing infractions, with three penalties early in the first, and it came back to bite them in the first as Claude Giroux scored on the power play to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead. There were a total of 22 penalty minutes in the first period, and only one team rose above it - the victors.
And slowly,as things progressed, the Lightning faded back into a shell. They shot blanks, they had their own passes picked off. RW Brandon Bochenski floated near the blueline during a 2nd period flurry of Philadelphia shots in the Lightning zone while his team could use another hand to help clear the puck.
And while there was a glimmer of hope after Martin st. Louis scored late in the third period to cut the Flyers then-lead to 2-1... That hope would soon be snuffed out by a lackadaisical effort by the Lightning and pair of Flyer goals - including an empty net tally by Blair Betts.
What looked like a solid opportunity for the Lightning to pick up two points -- keeping it close through the third period during a difficult road game and difficult road trip -- turned into another showing of the Bolts as not-ready-for-prime-time players.
The Lightning have lost three times this season to the Flyers in drubbings (6-2, 5-2, 4-1). While the Bolts participated in the game early on, it looked like they became lost when trying to play a physical game against the Flyers. Distracted may even be a better word. Why shoot when you can hit? Why pass when you can dump-and-chase?
The Lightning fall back under .500, and now head back to Newark to complete Friday night's suspended game against the New Jersey Devils. They will enter the game with a 3-0 lead, and start it at the 9:12 mark of the 2nd period.
Will they finish what they started and escape with a win? We'll find out at 6PM ET.