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Game 59 recap: Tampa Bay Lightning attack sputters in 3-2 loss to Los Angeles Kings

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A strong first period gave way to an uneven second and an anemic third as the Tampa Bay Lightning fell 3-2 on Monday night to the Los Angeles Kings on the second night of a back-to-back.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

If this game had been played with both teams rested, one has to wonder if the result might have been different.

But after a strong start that faded quickly, the Tampa Bay Lightning ultimately fell 3-2 to the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night at Staples Center.

The first period was obviously Tampa Bay's best; they came out aggressive with the puck and sound in their neutral zone defense, limiting chances for the Kings to get set up in the offensive third and moving quickly up ice whenever they forced a turnover.

The Lightning got on the scoreboard first for their efforts, a clean-up goal from Nikita Nesterov -- his first career tally in the NHL.

Unfortunately, the Lightning legs faded fast and the Kings pounced on a misplay -- Andrej Sustr covering the center third of the ice, or rather not doing so -- for an Anze Kopitar breakaway goal to tie the game in the 2nd period. Tallies from Jordan Nolan and Jeff Carter, on similar egregious breakdowns, doomed the Lighting in spite of a solid effort in net from rookie netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the best spurt of play for the Lightning came in the last 1:30 with Vasilevskiy on the bench for an extra attacker and the Kings firmly in a defensive shell trying to hold on for the regulation win. Tyler Johnson's goal with 36 seconds remaining came in the middle of a big flurry of chances for the Bolts, with two more pucks whistling just wide in the waning moments and a big save on Steven Stamkos by Jonathan Quick to seal the deal. In truth, the Lightning were just a few minutes away from carving a hard-earned point out of this one.

There isn't too much to complain about with the team's overall performance, given they played (and won) the night before in San Jose and given the fact that the Kings, in spite of their record, are a strong team. Road games against good teams are hard enough as it is, so adding the extra hurdle of no rest doesn't help. The third period was rough, with almost no push towards the Kings net until the last minute, but that's to be expected from a team playing its sixth period of hockey in the past 30 hours.

Game Notes

  • I attended this one as a fan, so in lieu of stats/analysis/notes here are some observations from the eyes of a guy in a Stamkos jersey at Staples Center.
  • The Kings held a moment of silence for Steve Montador before the game. Audible murmuring throughout. ("Who?").
  • Perhaps it's Los Angeles' precarious (non) playoff position, but Kings fans in general were more ornery with me (and other away fans) than they typically are. Lots more gesturing and middle fingers and *cough* Tampa Bay sucks *cough* than I've experienced in the past watching games at Staples. A couple of USC bros tried to apologize to me for how shitty Tampa Bay (the city) is and I calmly told them that I also enjoyed my first beer.
  • With 1:17 remaining Kings fans started streaming to the exits, no doubt concerned more with getting on the freeway before everyone else than the actual result of the game. Tyler Johnson's 6v5 goal in the final minute came with about 1/3 of the sellout crowd already out of the building.
  • Tampa Bay Lightning jerseys spotted: Steven Stamkos (3), Martin St. Louis (2), Vincent Lecavalier (2), Dan Boyle (1), Jonathan Drouin (1), Brenden Morrow (1). No idea why anyone would be possessed to buy a Brenden Morrow Lightning home sweater but there that guy was.