The Nashville Predators beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 in front of a sellout crowd of 19,204 at Amalie Arena in Tampa Thursday night.
The Lightning came into tonight's game with the opportunity of earning a number of accomplishments. Chief among them, the possibility of officially clinching a slot in the postseason. Also on the table: gaining ground on and possibly passing the Montreal Canadiens for first place in the division, extending the franchise record for wins at home to 31 and setting a new season mark for overall wins with 47. Unfortunately, all of those opportunities passed by the wayside just over four minutes into tonight's game.
"Ben Bishop's been unreal for us. I think in his last ten games, what's his save percentage? It's nine-high and well below two goals against. Would he like to have some of those back? There's no question, but would we have liked not to turn the puck over on the first one? Yes. Could our d-zone covers have been much better on the third one? Yes. He's our last linbe of defense, and it got to him and they went in. It happens. It happens in games. We only scored two; it wasn't enough." - Lightning head coach Jon Cooper
The Predators got their first goal of the night at 3:28 of the first when Mark Riberio scored on an assist from Roman Josi.
Just 40 seconds later at 4:08, Paul Gaustad doubled the lead on an assist from Taylor Beck.
While 56 minutes is plenty of time to overcome a two-goal lead, the Lightning were unable to really mount much of a sustained, quality attack, in spite of outshooting the Predators 30-19 over the course of the game.
There were glimpses of hope, however. The first coming at 19:31 of the first when Vladislav Namestnikov halved the lead, scoring on helpers from Andrej Sustr and Mark Barberio.
The first ended with Nashville up 2-1
At 6:47 of the second, the deficit stretched back to two when Michael Santorelli scored for the Predators. Calle Jarnkrok and Viktor Stalberg were credited with assists on the play.
After that goal, Lightning starting goalie Ben Bishop was pulled in favor of Andrei Vasilevskiy. Bishop stopped eight of the 11 shots he faced while Vasilevskiy was perfect against the eight shots he saw over the rest of the night.
The Lightning got within one again at the 13:19 mark, with Brian Boyle scoring on assists from J.T. Brown and Jonathan Drouin, but that's as close as they would get.
Their last real opportunity came on a power play with 4:19 remaining but they were unable to cash in.
"(I'm) pissed off about our effort on the power play. It's pretty frustrating. We have a chance to get back in the game and we put forth that kind of effort, don't win any battles on the wall. It was embarrassing. We had a chance to make a difference in the game and we didn't do that." - Lightning forward Steven Stamkos..
Meanwhile, the Boston Bruins had lost, in overtime, to the Anaheim Ducks and the Montreal Canadiens were facing a three goal deficit against the Winnipeg Jets midway through the third (as of time of publication).
The Lightning will now head out on the final road trip of the season, beginning with a visit to the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday, March 28.
- The Predators sweep the regular season series with the Lightning 2-0.
- J.T. Brown has points in three consecutive games.
- Cedric Paquette returned to the lineup after missing six games with an upper body injury.
- The Lightning slip to 14-15-3 when opponents score first this season.
- The Lightning honored Anthony Holloway as the 39th Lightning Community Hero of the season during the first period of tonight's game.. Holloway, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to Derrick Brooks Charities, United Way, Clearwater for Youth and St. Pete Police Explorer Post. It is the duty of the police department to protect and to serve the community. As Police Chief for the St. Petersburg Police Department, Holloway greatly emphasizes his role as a servant and has been an integral force in facilitating positive relations between law enforcement and the youth. While serving as Police Chief of the Clearwater Police Department in 2011, he initiated "Operation Graduate", an agenda to assist Clearwater students obtain their high school diploma and college credits, as a means to improve their quality of life. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of Clearwater for Youth, a non-profit organization that promotes and supports sports activity to build character and life lessons such as sportsmanship and teamwork. Holloway also contributed financially to develop a citywide youth basketball program. As a result of Holloway's service to the community, he has been recognized for numerous awards including the SERTOMA Service to Mankind Award, IACP/CISCO Community Policing Award (awarded to the Clearwater Police Department while Police Chief), and the Joseph F. Cornelius Family Foundation's Award for Outstanding Officer of the Year.