The good news is that this was a non-Conference game, and the consequences in regards to the Bolts' slim playoff chances are minimal. The bad news is that it was a flashback to the same style of hockey that the Lightning's seven-game point streak made seem like a thing of the past.
A slow start in the first period, an early goal on a defensive breakdown, and a quick goal by the Kings after a Bolts goal all punctuated a poor effort that was painfully reminiscent of the team's struggles in November and December. Struggles that put the playoffs so out of reach to begin with.
While you might normally expect a long feeling-out period in a matchup of teams that very rarely play each other, quite the opposite was true. The Kings came out early and controlled play. The Lightning were generally on their heels, and it cost them early. A Martin St. Louis dump behind Dwayne Roloson and the Lightning net led to some defensive confusion on the part of the Lightning. Matt Greene was able to scoop up the loose puck, and make a quick feed to Justin Williams on the point. Anze Kopitar deflected Williams' point shot at the side of the net and past Roloson to make it 1-0.
The Lightning responded with some decent pressure and a few opportunities, but as was the case most of the night, Kings goalie Jonathan Quick - aided by a strong defense - came up strong and kept the Bolts off the scoreboard.
Following the Bolts pressure was a long streak of back and forth play with the teams trading scoring chances. The only real excitement through this stretch was that nearly every shot the Kings took hit something or someone in front, demanding several reflex plays from Dwayne Roloson.
An odd-man rush for the Lightning that ended with one too many passes from the Bolts began to swing momentum to the Tampa Bay side. Steven Stamkos and Teddy Purcell both had open net chances and either missed or hit legs and feet in front. Just as the Lightning momentum was coming to a peak, Pavel Kubina took an interference penalty late in the period, and the Kings managed to slow the Lightning down.
After a penalty kill and an intermission, the Bolts came out sluggish again and it ended up causing Steve Downie to take a bad tripping penalty to give the Kings their second power play of the game, and their first of the second period. The Kings only garnered one good chance on the power play with Roloson making a save with no rebound through a tough screen in front of him.
Not long after the teams traded bad turnovers resulting in big saves by both goalies, Steven Stamkos tied the game with his 35th goal of the season. Rob Scuderi set up to take a slap shot in the Lightning zone, but his stick broke and the puck trickled to Eric Brewer. Brewer hit Purcell on the outlet, who fed a perfect pass past a sliding Scuderi to Stamkos who buried the puck into an empty net.
A skirmish on the very next sequence resulted in a power play for the Lightning as Kyle Clifford took a penalty for roughing. This power play would end up dooming the Bolts.
Victor Hedman took a backhand shot as time in the penalty expired that missed the net and was corralled by Scuderi. Scuderi hit Clifford in stride at the Lightning blue line, and Clifford beat Roloson on the breakaway between his legs to give the Kings a lead they would not relinquish.
With the Lightning again waiting to fall behind a goal in order to control play, a seeing eye puck off of an unsuccessful poke-check from Roloson landed right in Dustin Penner's wheelhouse. Penner buried to put the Kings up 3-1 with assists going to Mike Richards and Jarrett Stoll.
The Bolts managed to draw two penalties in the third period, with an additional man-advantage coming with just under two minutes left with Guy Boucher electing to pull Roloson, but Quick and the Kings defense was up to the task. Most of the period was spent with the Lightning defensemen fielding the puck behind their own net after Kings dump-ins. The Kings closed out the last two minutes to finish the contest.
- Today was Steven Stamkos 22nd birthday.
- Marc-Andre Bergeron and Adam Hall made their returns to the lineup tonight after injuries.
- Marty St. Louis had his nine-game point streak snapped.
- Anze Kopitar's first period goal was only his second in his last eight games.
- Matt Greene's assist was his first in 29 games.
- The mythical Evan Oberg was recalled for the game and per the usual was a healthy scratch.
- This was the first time the Kings have played in Tampa since 2009.