With Saturday’s game already put away by the start of the third period 5-1, the Tampa Bay Lightning got one back from Vlad Namestnikov. The Gila River Arena did a bang-up troll job playing the Tom Petty song “Even the Losers.” The lyrics go: “Even the losers get lucky sometimes/ Even the losers keep a little bit of pride/ They get lucky sometimes.”
That should actually be the song of the Lightning’s season. They’ve now lost more than they’ve won. They’re last in the Atlantic. They’re one point ahead of the last-place Islanders in the conference. A win here and a hard-fought overtime loss there are becoming meaningless now. Because for the Lightning, you win some... and lose a lot more.
The Lightning were just not ready for the Coyotes — which is a sentence that shouldn’t be typed, ever. After two tough losses against the Sharks and Ducks, they faced a Coyotes team that was not only the second to worst team in the NHL, but was also the worst offensive team in the NHL/barely scoring two goals a game and built 2-12-1 in their last 15 games.
Two. Twelve. And one, you guys.
Even Victor Hedman’s return couldn’t help the Lightning. Even the Triplets getting back together — which used to be an exciting thing but is hardly a blip these days — did nothing, and after the first period, the lines were thrown in disarray. Bless Cedric Paquette, but when he’s your best player on the ice... well, that results in a 5-3 loss against the Coyotes.
Coach Jon Cooper, unceremoniously sounding like he was choosing his words more carefully postgame than we’re usually used to, said the Lightning’s Achilles’ heel this season is “giving up goals in bunches.”
“Your margin for error — there is none,” Cooper said. “Yes we can sit here and say we deserve two points... we didn’t deserve two points tonight.”
Ben Bishop gave up two weird goals in the first period: one to Tobias Rieder at a sharp angle over his shoulder, and the second to Radim Vrbata short side. Paquette, his fourth line the only bright spot, scored late in the period, which brought the score to 2-1.
In the second period, the Lightning did nothing with their four-minute power play, and at the end of it, Ondrej Palat took a hooking call, which gave the Coyotes a 5-on-3. They took advantage of it, and Ryan Stone extended the Coyotes’ lead to 3-1. Less than two minutes later, Christian Fischer, in his NHL debut, made it 4-1. Martin Hanzal added a dagger with under a minute left — 5-1. The Vrbata-Hanzal-Rieder line single-handedly sunk the Lightning, as they scored nine points.
Andrei Vasilevskiy replaced Bishop for the third. Namestnikov and Palat (power play) ended up with the only goals in the period... because even the losers get lucky sometimes.