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Defensive lapses doom Lightning in 6-4 loss to Jets

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Too many defensive breakdowns by the Tampa Bay Lightning allow the Winnipeg Jets to ring up six goals and run their winning streak on the road to three games.

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Tampa Bay Lightning
Joel Armia of Winnipeg moves the puck against Tampa Bay’s Andrej Sustr during the Jets 6-4 win over the Lightning at Amalie Arena in Tampa Tuesday night.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Winnipeg Jets beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-4 at Amalie Arena in Tampa Tuesday night.

In spite of the fact that the Lightning never held a lead and put forth a less-than-stellar defensive effort throughout, for large chunks of this one it felt like they were thisclose to getting a chance to steal some points. But it simply wasn’t meant to be, and frankly they got the result they deserved.

The first period was marked by a lots of penalties, with three minors assessed against Winnipeg and four against Tampa Bay between 2:38 and 10:58. Special teams appeared to be an area the Lightning might be able to exploit, with the third-best power play in the league and the Jets coming in ranked 27th on the penalty kill. Unfortunately, the Bolts did themselves no favors on the power play by committing penalties that wiped away the man advantage and struggled to win faceoffs, especially during the first two periods.

Instead, it was the Jets who scored first on the power play, getting a goal from Mark Scheifele at 7:25. Andrei Vasilevskiey made the initial stop but dropped the puck and it dribbled behind him somehow. Patrik Laine and Toby Enstrom picked up the assists.

The Lightning would end up outshooting the Jets 17-6 during the period, but trailed 1-0 at intermission.

At 3:43 of the second, Matthew Peca’s first career goal in the NHL tied the game. He got helpers from Vladislav Namestnikov and Alex Killorn. Less than a minute later, Winnipeg regained the lead when Nikolaj Ehlers converted on a penalty shot.

At 5:19, Jacob Trouba scooped up a loose puck between the circles and snapped it past Vasilevskiey to pad the lead. He was assisted on the play by Mathieu Perreault and Blake Wheeler. Dustin Byfuglien’s wrist shot from just inside the red line at 14:44 somehow beat Vasilevskiey. Josh Morrissey and Wheeler were credited with assists on the play.

The period ended with the Lightning in a 4-1 hole, thanks in large part to the Lightning defense’s ineffectiveness in clearing pucks and bodies. They managed to halve that lead at 3:26 of the third when Ondrej Palat scored thanks to a nice give-and-go from Tyler Johnson. Nikita Kucherov contributed the secondary assist.

At 9:28, the Jets got the lead back to three goals when Ehlers scored on assists from Laine and Trouba. The Lightning kept themselves alive when Kucherov scored on the power play at 12:22, tapping in the rebound from a shot by Johnson. Victor Hedman had the additional helper.

They drew to within a single goal at 17:29, with a two-man advantage thanks to Vasilevskiey being pulled for the additional attacker and Trouba in the box for a Delay Of Game penalty. Kucherov cashed in with helpers from Hedman and Jonathan Drouin.

The Jets applied the final nail just over a minute later, when Laine scored into the empty Tampa Bay net, assisted by Scheifele and Ehlers.

For the Lightning, it’s the first game since December 10 that they failed to pick up at least one point at home, a streak of five games. The final contest in this season-long five-game homestand is Thursday when the Lightning will host the Nashville Predators.