If the 3-2 loss on Tuesday to the Toronto Maple Leafs was a case of "good process, bad result", then consider Thursday night's effort in Ontario against the Ottawa Senators "bad process, bad luck, worse result" as the Tampa Bay Lightning dropped another division game on the road in regulation to a team that will very soon be nipping at their heels in the standings if the Lightning don't get back on track.
The first period got off to an ignominious start, as the first shot on goal for the Sens came from Marc Methot and went straight into the gaping Lightning net. That's because Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop made the ill-advised move to skate out near the boards to try to beat Mika Zibanejad for a loose puck. He ended up flat on his stomach on the ice as Nikita Kucherov chased the Sens forward, appearing to clip the back of Bishop's head with his skate and knee as he leapt over the sprawled netminder.
Bishop remained down on he ice for a few agonizing minutes before being helped off the ice by head athletic trainer Tom Mulligan. It was later announced that he has an "upper-body" injury that looked rather concussion-esque and that he would not return to the game. Anders Lindback came in between the pipes in his stead already facing a 1-0 deficit.
The first period wasn't pretty in general, as the Lightning looked absolutely shellshocked following the injury to Bishop, not unlike the way they looked on November 11, 2013. The shot attempts tell the tale pretty well:
TB credited with 9 shot attempts (7 on goal, 2 blocked, 0 missed), OTT with 24 (12 on goal, 6 blocked, 6 missed) in the 1st.— Bolt Statistics (@BoltStatistics) January 31, 2014
The Lightning were unable to complete simple breakout passes and were routinely hemmed in by the Sens, who took advantage of more sloppy in-zone play by the Bolts to make things 2-0 before the end of the first. Jason Spezza sped down the left win and used a quick-stop and cut to the middle to leave Sami Salo off balance, then fed a pass through the slot past Victor Hedman and Tyler Johnson for an easy goal for Erik Karlsson.
The second period saw some signs of life from the Bolts early, as Alex Killorn finished a rush with a 5-hole snipe on Craig Anderson to bring the Bolts within a goal at 2-1. But, stifling any momentum the Lightning could build, the referees called for rink repairs just after Killorn's tally. Even worse, the injury bug struck the Bolts again. Valterri Filppula left in the second after blocking a shot with his leg, but returned; he later left again in the middle frame and was ruled out for the rest of the contest.
The Sens scored again to regain the two goal lead off another brutal own-zone giveaway by Radko Gudas, who has struggled mightily in recent games with mental mistakes and decision-making with the puck. A misplay near Lindback saw Gudas cough the puck up right to Zack Smith, who circled back to the slot and snapped a turnaround shot off the pipe and into the net behind Lindback.
The rout was on after that as Kyle Turris and Bobby Ryan bookended the 2nd intermission with a pair of goals assisted by each other with more poor defensive coverage by the Lightning and an inability for Lindback to make a save. Turris' came off an odd-man rush and Bobby ryan made it 5-1 with a quick one-timer as the Bolts again scrambled around in their own end with little semblance of defensive structure or composure.
With the game well in hand, Tyler Johnson added a late shorthanded tally on a breakaway sprung by Ondrej Palat in the neutral zone, but it was a meaningless goal in a game that had already been decided long ago.
Don't tell Jon Cooper that though, as he pulled Lindback for the extra attacker with more than 3 minutes remaining in the game and the score 5-2 favoring the Sens. The Lightning responded with some inspiring 6v5 offense -- granted, Ottawa was coasting -- and Victor Hedman added his 11th goal of the season to make the final score 5-3.
Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune added this update on Bishop after the game:
Bishop said he felt weak after the hit, but feels much better now, no dizziness but has a slight headache, said he passed concussion test— Erik Erlendsson (@erlendssonTBO) January 31, 2014
- Martin St. Louis' assist on Hedman's third period goal was the 600th helper and 965th point of his NHL career, tying him with Maurice "Rocket" Richard for 85th on the all-time scoring list. One wonders where St. Louis would be on that list had he not lost a season and a half of games in his scoring prime to Gary Bettman.
- The injury to Ben Bishop leaves the entire organization reeling in net: Anders Lindback remains a sub .900 NHL goaltender (.852 tonight), Kristers Gudlevskis is heading to Sochi to represent Latvia at the Olympics soon, Cedrick Desjardins is replacement-level at best, and Riku Helenius can't stop pucks from ECHL shooters. What was very recently an organizational strength is once again a great, gaping hole. There's no word on if the Lightning will be in the mix to acquire a goalie before the Olympic trade freeze. But this is something to keep an eye on moving forward.
- While the effort came with score effects firmly in play and the game already essentially over, it was still nice to see Jon Cooper pull Lindback at the end of the game in spite of the 3-goal deficit. Too many coaches get caught up with an "acceptable loss", i.e. one that looks better on the scoresheet. Cooper understands that a loss is a loss is a loss, and losing by one goal or four doesn't matter in the long run.
- Something is wrong with Radko Gudas. There's been speculation he's fighting an injury, but the mistakes he's making on the ice seem to be more about his vision on the ice and his decision making, which to be frank, has been quite bad of late. His patience with the puck on his stick had been a strength, but now he's letting a forechecker harry him into a mistake far too often.
- There's no word yet on Valterri Filppula, either, but if he were to miss extended time, my expectation would be that Vladislav Namestnikov would get the call from AHL Syracuse to fill the gap up the middle. A team without it's top-two centers can't possibly expect to keep pace by calling up bottom-6ers like Dana Tyrell or Mike Angelidis, and Namestnikov has earned at least a cup of coffee in the NHL with 30 points in 28 AHL games this season.