There should be no doubt that the Lightning are knee-deep in the "no easy opponents" part of their season. After facing two different league's-best-teams on successive nights with Anaheim and Nashville respectively, tonight they faced a St. Louis Blues team that came into tonight's game having accumulated the same number of points as the Lightning with 74. And tonight, the Blues capitalized on two relatively short stretches of shoddy play to score more than enough goals to walk away with a win that wasn't really as close as the score might indicate.
"We didn't play well defensively. Other than the third, we didn't play well at all. Giving pucks away, not winning battles, kind of the opposite way we wanted to come out and opposite the last time we played these guys. It's not acceptable, especially in front of our fans. We have to learn a quick lesson from this, that we can't just show up for games and win." - Steven Stamkos
Tampa Bay's worst enemy this season, the dreaded Bad Start made another unwelcome appearance. The Blues had outshot the Lightning 7-1 after five minutes, of which the puck spent mere seconds in the St. Louis zone.
"Our start was horrific. They came ready to play. They clearly knew what happened to them the last time we played them; even though they found a way to win, that we outplayed them. They came in here pissed off. They have been a top team in this league for a while and they proved it." - Lightning head coach Jon Cooper
"It's almost one of those things by fear. When they really took it to us for a wole game in our building, we knew we needed a great performance to have a chance tonight and we got that from a lot of guys tonight." - St. Louis forward David Backes
The Blues got their first goal of the night at the 1:50 mark from T.J. Oshie on an assist from Alexander Steen.
On the power play at 4:47 Dmitrij Jaskin easily split defenders Andrej Sustr and Victor Hedman to skate in and score on Lightning goalie Ben Bishop. Steen picked up the assist on the play.
Bishop was less than stellar on the night, stopping nine of 34 shots and being relieved by Andrei Vasilevskiy after two periods.
The period ended with St. Louis on top 2-0.
The Lightning started the second period much better and halved the lead at 8:03 when Tyler Johnson converted on the power play, assisted by Nikita Kucherov and Anton Stralman.
Shortly after that began the three and a half minute nightmare.
It started at 12:15, after Steven Stamkos made as bad a move as you're ever likely to see from him when he skated right into David Backes who was just standing in the Tampa Bay slot. Backes picked his pocket and fed Steen for an easy goal.
Less than two minutes later at 14:11, Backes scored on assists from Oshie and Alex Pietrangelo.
Just over a minute after that at 15:23, Paul Stastny scored the Blues' fifth goal of the night, getting assistance from Patrik Berglund and Ian Cole
The Lightning would counter with a goal from Brett Connolly at 17:28, getting help from Valtteri Filppula, bringing the score to 5-2, St. Louis after two.
The Lightning drew closer when Stamkos scored at 6:31 on assists from Alex Kilorn and Stralman.
With Vasilevskiy in net, who would go on to stop all nine shots he faced, and nearly 14 minutes remaining, it appeared that a comeback was at least possible and the Lightning did manage to string together a number of good scoring chances. However, Blues netminder Brian Elliott was up to the challenge and kept the Lightning out of the net the rest of the way. Elliott stopped 26 of the 29 shots he faced on the night.
St. Louis added an empty net goal, unassisted from Vladimir Tarasenko at 18:55 to cap things off.
"Hopefully, we can regroup; start the game on time because these buildings that we're going into on this trip are exceptionally hard to win in." - Stamkos
The Lightning will now head out west for a five-game road trip and will be in action again on Sunday when they visit the San Jose Sharks.
- St. Louis head coach Ken Hitchcock passed Dick Irvin for fourth place all-time in wins as a head coach in the NHL with 693. He now trails only Joel Quenneville (739), Al Arbour (782) and Scotty Bowman (1244).
- The Bolts have been impressive at home, entering tonight's game tied with Nashville for most home wins in the league,
- This was the second and final regular season meeting between St. Louis and Tampa Bay, with the Blues sweeping the season series.
- The Bolts don't play at home again until February 27 when they host the Chicago Blackhawks.
- Kucherov extended his points-scored streak to five games.
- The Lightning rank first in the NHL with 10 players having reached double digits in goals scored.
- The Lightning were outshot 44-29 and are now 14-8-1 in games where they are outshot.
- Cedric Paquette, J.T. Brown and Nikita Nesterov were tonight's healthy scratches.
- The Lightning are hosting "Hockey Day in Tampa Bay" on Sunday, February 15, and will conclude with a watch party at Amalie Arena for the game between the Lightning and Sharks. More details about the event can be found here.
- The Lightning honored Rechi Butler as the 29th Lightning Community Hero of the season during the first period of tonight's game. Butler, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to Derrick Brooks Charities, Abe Brown Ministries and House of Restoration. Tonight's Lightning Community Hero is a living example that there is hope for those who have lost their way. After committing 21 felonies, Butler had a spiritual encounter and made the decision in 1989 to turn away from a life of delinquency and criminal activity that had previously characterized his existence. From that moment moving forward, he has made it a mission to use his story to pull other convicts out of the abyss that once held him captive. To carry out this mission, Butler started his own company, Irene and Joe's Lawn Care, and hires ex-offenders to give them a second chance at life when very few employers will give them any consideration. In 2009, he founded the Get It Straight Foundation, a non-profit organization, to reach youth and adults with the message of self-empowerment, positive decision making and avoiding situations that lead to bad outcomes.Butler has organized anti-crime rallies in parts of Tampa with the highest crime activity. He uses his story to speak to inmates in federal prisons and youth jails. Butler also conducts life skills training and fatherhood initiatives to help single fathers reconnect with their children. In addition to tonight's recognition, Butler's positive contributions in the Tampa Bay community have garnered the attention of local media and the reception of numerous other awards.