Tampa Bay and leads do not play well together in the post-Olympics NHL

Mike Carlson

Bad habits die hard, and the Lightning need to correct this one immediately.

After the loss to the Coyotes last week, a lot of fans were demoralized and worried. I personally couldn't bring myself to look at the standings because of how the Bolts were doing at that point: 1-4-2 in the post-Olympic NHL. The wounds of the Martin St. Louis trade added to the demoralization.

Yet even in victory (by the way: three is a fluke, four is a streak) there's an awful habit the Lightning have shown in their 10 games since the end of the NHL Olympic break. The habit needs to be corrected or the potential of throwing away a playoff spot (or securing bad seeding and a guaranteed first-round playoff ouster) is possible.

Even without the playoffs, the habit is the worst type to have - getting complacent and reckless with a lead and allowing a comeback by opponents. Out of the 10 games since the resumption of play after the Olympics, the Lightning has squandered leads in all but three of those games (Dallas on March 1st, Buffalo on March 6th, and New Jersey on March 15th).

While the tying goal wasn't notched in two of those games (Florida and Vancouver), the opposition's last-frame effort and success can't be denied; a single goal away from tying the game and forcing overtime. The tying goal was allowed in 5 of those 10 contests, with all resulting in regulation and shootout losses.

The third period goal issue is the worst part of things; Tampa Bay has allowed 15 third period goals in the last 10 games. Giving up 1.5 goals a game in the third doesn't seem so bad, up until you realize the club is usually sitting on a slim lead. Last night's 3-goals-allowed third was the worst lapse the team has had since their 4-goals-allowed third in Denver earlier in the month. Yet, it is worse, as the Avalanche scored twice on an empty net.

Closing out a game and shutting down the opponent while the Bolts have a lead - be it 1 goal or 6 - has got to be worked on. More defense and more responsible play has been stressed all season, we need to see it employed with a bit more fervor.

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