Game 21: Tampa Bay Lightning at Los Angeles Kings

Harry How

If you were worried the Lightning would turn into a hot mess without Steven Stamkos in the lineup, look no further than this game for affirmation of your worst fears, as the Bolts looked terrible in every facet of the game, ultimately losing 5-2 to the Los Angeles Kings.

There were a lot of Chicken Littles around when Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos went down with injury on November 11 against the Boston Bruins.

The Bolts responded with a pair of terrific efforts, one on the road against the Montreal Canadiens and one at home versus the Anaheim Ducks, to assuage some of the worry surrounding the the Bolts sans Stamkos.

But after a 5-2 shellacking at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings, maybe those worries start to creep back up.

In the first period, the Tampa Bay Lightning got off to a good (late -- 10:30 PM EST) start, keeping the puck in the Kings end for much of the early part of the period with dump-ins and timely pinches by the defensemen. But a quick flurry in Tampa's end resulted in a good scoring chance in the slot for the Kings, forcing Radko Gudas to take a holding penalty and sending LA to the first power play of the evening.

The Lightning's top-10 penalty kill played a solid kill, however, keeping the zone time down with good coverage at the attacking blue line and forcing the Kings to take long, unscreened point shots for their only looks at Ben Bishop, who also chipped in with some good puckhandling to kill off penalty time.

The Kings, however, turned their power play into some 5v5 momentum that would last much of the first period, forcing Bishop to make a couple of terrific saves in tight in the second half of the opening frame to preserve the scoreless tie.

LA turned some transition offense into an early lead after a clean breakout led to a rush into the Lightning zone, where Drew Doughty dropped the puck off for Anze Kopitar who snapped a shot to the top shelf before Bishop could really react. The Lightning then took a penalty off the ensuing center-ice draw (an Alex Killorn hooking call) to put the Kings in a great position with an early lead and a man advantage opportunity to increase it. Matt Frattin tipped a Slava Voynov wrist shot past Bishop to make it 2-0 with 3:11 remaining in the first.

The Lightning would get a power play chance of their own late in the first when Tyler Johnson drew a high sticking call to Justin Williams. The Bolts got one good chance on their man advantage, but a hard shot ringed off the crossbar and the post and managed to stay out of the net to keep the Kings ahead 2-0 heading into the first intermission.

The parade to the penalty box continued in the middle frame, as Brett Connolly took a brutal offensive zone penalty for interference sending the Kings right back to the man advantage just as the Lightning were beginning to push back. On the ensuing power play, Drew Doughty stickhandled through the entire Tampa Bay diamond formation, attempting to feed a pass through the slot that was broken up by Alex Killorn -- straight into the empty net. The goal was credited to Justin Williams, who touched it last, and it was technically a 5v5 goal because Connolly had just exited the box.

Rather than mounting any sort of 5v5 comeback, the Lightning put themselves right back in the box and behind the eight ball as Pierre-Cedric Labrie -- playing in his first game in weeks -- took a double minor for high-sticking, forcing the Bolts to continue to defend for a good chunk of the 2nd period, putting them back on their heels and further establishing a huge territorial advantage that lasted most of the first 40 minutes for the Kings.

The Lightning finally broke through on that same man advantage -- albeit on the second half of the double minor -- to go even at least for that single power play with a nice hesitation play by Victor Hedman to find Valtteri Filppula alone on the right wing. Filppula one-timed the puck behind Scrivens, who was aggressively challenging Hedman, to make things 4-1.

Sloppy own-zone play, which has plagued Tampa Bay lately, continued for the Bolts, and a brutal turnover by Brett Connolly led to an unchallenged wrist shot for Dustin Brown in the slot on Ben Bishop that Brown buried to put this one away at 5-1 with over 3 minutes remaining in the 2nd period.

Head coach Jon Cooper elected to leave Ben Bishop in the game to start the third period, and the Lightning found a bit of luck at the start of the final frame when Victor Hedman flung a harmless wrist shot towards the net before it could clear the zone. The puck redirected off Kings defenseman Alec Martinez and past Scrivens to make things a more respectable 5-2 early in the third, but that would be the last time the Lightning put one past Scrivens.

The Lightning took advantage of a relaxed Los Angeles Kings club in the third period, with the game pretty much already decided the Kings were content to dump, chase, and defend, spending a lot of time in their own zone in the final twenty minutes but doing a good job of keeping pucks out of dangerous scoring areas and making the Bolts work for the few opportunities they did generate.

The Lightning will look to regroup as they head north to play the San Jose Sharks on Thursday and the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday.

Game Notes

  • While the Lightning ended the first period with a 2-0 deficit, this game was won in the second period, where the Los Angeles Kings were in championship form and absolutely dominated, outscoring the Lightning 3-1 and outshooting them 11-2.
  • The Lightning had almost zero 5v5 offense tonight, in part due to the early parade to the penalty box but also due to good defense, puck possession and forechecking by the Kings. One goal for the Bolts was a power play marker (on the back half of a 4 minute double minor) and the other was a lucky deflection of a Kings player on what was essentially a Victor Hedman dump-in.
  • Victor Hedman's goal and assist tonight gave him 100 points for his NHL career.
  • Sami Salo (66.7% Corsi For) and Richard Panik (53.3% Corsi For) were the only positive (50+% Corsi For) players for the Lightning, as the Kings controlled the puck for the entire night, even while nursing a three-goal lead in the third.
  • On the flip size, the Kings feasted on Radko Gudas, who was on the ice for just 4 shot attempts for the Lightning and 22 for the Kings (15.4% Corsi For).
  • Dmitry Korobov skated 13:21 in his NHL debut, including taking a full penalty kill shift, and had a blank score sheet (with one hit and a pair of giveaways). While he didn't look out of place on the bottom pairing, the team's inability to break out or generate any sustained offense in the first two periods would suggest one of Andrej Sustr or Mark Barberio -- or both -- will draw back in against San Jose and/or Anaheim.
  • The Kings had a near 2:1 faceoff adavtange, leading 40-24 for the game. Nate Thompson (44%) was the only regular Lightning center above 40% at the dot.
  • The Lightning (now 14-7 on the season) lost consecutive games for the first time all year long and are now 0-2 on this West Coast road trip, giving up 11 goals in two games after giving up only two goals in the first two games after the Steven Stamkos injury.
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