The 13th time was the charm for the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise, as the Jets beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2 at MTS Center tonight, ending the longest active winning streak against a single opponent The Lightning had not lost to Atlanta / Winnipeg since opening night of the 2009 season.
To play down the loss, the saying goes that all things must pass. Yet it was the actual passing that should leave a sour taste in fans mouths. Another disjointed effort by the Lightning, with another horrible 1st period on the road, helped seal the team's fate.
Dwayne Roloson, who shutout the
Thrashers Jets when these two teams met at Times Palace 16 days ago, was chased midway through the 2nd period, having stopped 18 of 22 shots on goal. His effort wasn't helped along by the team playing in front of him. Meanwhile, Winnipeg was able to rely on Ondrej Pavelec's efforts in net time and again to ensure the end of their five game winless streak. Ondrej stoped 30 of 32 shots on goal for the 'Peg.
Victor Hedman returned to the lineup tonight, and Guy Boucher decided to play around with his lineup - utilizing the 11 forwards / 7 defenseman lineup that he was willing to utilize so often last season. You couldn't say if this was a strategy or insurance move, because it didn't really make a difference.
The almost part of things didn't matter. Dustin Byfuglien took a point shot from the right faceoff circle and made things 2-0 at 6:58 of the first. The goal was arguable, as there seemed to be contact with Roloson. Some may see it as a deliberate embellishment by Dwayne, others would note it as goalie interference. Regardless, the Lightning allowing that 2nd goal made it 19 goals allowed in the 1st period by opponents this season.
There were efforts of course, moments when the Lightning seemed to throw everything and the kitchen sink at Ondrej Pavelec. The instances were all too brief though.
Tampa Bay couldn't even manage to score on its six power play opportunities, including a 4 minute power play in the 2nd, and a 1:17 5-on-3 opportunity near the end of the 2nd.
It's hard to tell what exactly the Lightning need at this moment... A long, thoughtful (if not heated) conversation between the players is a first step. Acknowledging the fact that the effort has become a top-down game, where everything is expected of Marty, Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier and whomever these guys are lining up with on offense. It would seem that the bottom two lines have been muted or neutered by personnel. The talent is there, but stepping up just hasn't taken place. Don't get me wrong, there is good defensive play coming out of the bottom two lines... There just needs to be more production out of that group.
And while complaints can be levied on the lower lines for lack of production, the overall group -- top liners and bottom-liners -- have failed on special teams. The once vaulted Lightning power play sits 20th in the NHL, converting all of 15% of its opportunities on the season. The penalty kill unit is stopping 880% of opposing opportunities. It failed to stop Winnipeg tonight, allowing the Jets to score on one of their two power play opportunities.
The Lightning head back to Tampa, where they will e playing four of their next five games. The next opponent will be the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night at 7:30 PM.