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Lightning lose 3-2 in Nashville overshadowing Erik Cernak’s first NHL point

Poor Louis Domingue.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Nashville Predators
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - NOVEMBER 19: Erik Cernak #81 warms up prior to a game against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on November 19, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Lightning walked into Nashville with a chip on their shoulders. They had just come off back-to-back wins against Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and they were first in the East and tied for first in the entire NHL.

Unfortunately, they let their opponents the Nashville Predators walk all over them for two periods before finally putting up a fight in the third. Poor Louis Domingue was getting hammered with shots left right and center, and miraculously was able to keep his team in the contest all the way until the end. At one point in the second period. the Predators had a 25 shot-attempt advantage over the Lightning, you only see those numbers when you watch the Anaheim Ducks play, not when the first- and second-place team in the league go at it.

Below is a summary of the events of the game. Perhaps there will be something we can glean from this loss before we meet this team again in June.

First Period

1-0

The broadcast started their analysis of Pekka Rinne by praising his glove side and the fact that he uses it more than any other goalie in the league. So Victor Hedman quickly put a cork in that story seconds later by walking into the offensive zone with the puck and blasting a shot past Rinne on the low glove side. There really wasn’t much to this play other than Heddy wiring a shot that beat the reigning Vezina winner from distance.

Brayden Point and Erik Cernak got the assists on Hedman’s first goal and only third point in five games. Hedman’s had a slow start that was stunted because of his injury, but if he can get his shot back like he did on this goal, he should be just fine.

Wait... Roll that back. Erik Cernak with the assist? THAT’S HIS FIRST CAREER NHL POINT! PAAAAAARRRTTYYYYYY!!!!!!!!

A little bit more seriously, it’s been interesting to watch Cernak’s rise through the Lightning organization coming from Los Angeles in the Ben Bishop trade all the way back in 2016 (boy, could they ever use him now, eh). Cernak came in with minimal hype due to the fact that a team who was destined to contend for the Cup, and was a year removed from the Stanley Cup Final, was selling at the deadline and looking to reset from an injured season. Nevertheless, the kid took the summer to get faster, work on his puck-handling, and gain some muscle. One solid season with the Crunch as their #1 defenseman later and he’s already in the NHL. Pretty cool.

Midway through the first, there was a scary moment involving Louis Domingue. Anthony Bitetto of the Predators blasted a hard and high shot from the point that hit the Lightning netminder in a soft spot near his face. The broadcast went to a commercial break as Domingue was on the ice waiting for medical attention. During the break, I think most Bolts fans prayed to the Hockey Gods with The Rev Ty that he wasn’t hurt. Thankfully when the broadcast returned, he was just fine. But not without a shot of third-stringer Eddie Pasquale looking anxiously into space on the bench.

1-1

The Bolts started to get a little lax defensively in the neutral zone, as the Predators were able to create a few odd-man rushes and a breakaway. Hedman would take, I would say, an unnecesary penalty on Ryan Hartman when he slashed him after his breakaway chance.

On the kill, Ryan McDonagh was forced to take a holding penalty to stop a Preds player from burying a rebound following a giveaway at the Lightning blueline. All of a sudden, the Bolts were down two players with both their best penalty killers in the box. The boys were able to kill the first penalty, and “winger” Hedman was able to clear a puck once he left the box. But with three seconds left in the McDonagh penalty, Kyle Turris scored from the side of the net. So close!

Late in the period, Cernak was seen skating to the bench on one leg. It didn’t look too serious, but more defensive injuries is not what the team needs.

After One

With the exception of the first shift of the game when the Point line created an early power play, the Lightning were completely out-played. They were out-shot 8-16 after 20 minutes, and even if you take out all the power plays, they were still down 7-10. In terms of shot attempts, they also trailed 9-19 at even strength. Scoring chances were the same, a 4-10 deficit.

The Predators have been getting a lot of shots from the top left point, but they’ve also had chances at the top of the faceoff circles and in front of the net.

Second Period

First off, good news. Cernak was back to start the second period. He looked A-okay in his first shift, too. Secondly, more good news! The Lightning started the period on a good note by getting the first three shots of the period. Point’s drive to the net off the rush was the best chance of the three.

The Lightning found themselves in the midst of another scary moment when one of the brightest youngsters on the team Anthony Cirelli got hit squarely in the side of the head from a defenseman’s slap shot. Cirelli got tripped up with another Preds player and was falling to the ice as the shot came in. It was a scary moment, but it appeared the helmet got the brunt of the blow.

1-2

Despite yet another good start, the Lightning got complacent and just let the Predators close in on them. Steven Stamkos couldn’t push Filip Forsberg into the corner and the young Swede wired a wrister past Domingue on the far side. The Preds also pulled back ahead in shots, more than doubling the Lightning 12-27 midway through the period.

1-3

And once again, after a decent shift in the offensive zone by the Stamkos line that failed to yield a shot, the Preds come back and Ryan Johansen perfectly tips a Craig Smith shot around Domingue and into the net. Watching the replay again, wow, J.T. Miller, great back check there.

This game eerily reminds me of the Arizona game (which I also recapped here! Condolences welcome in the comments). The forwards are simply not doing enough at either end. That needs to change if this team is going to beat good teams like Nashville.

Domingue was getting clobbered in this game to this point. Not only was he being shelled at nearly a shot a minute pace, but the Predators were simply walking into his blue paint and getting all in his face. I can’t fathom the number of times I saw Domingue on his butt trying to stop a rebound with the padless side of his legs or his arms. The Lightning defense were doing nothing to move their adversaries out of the way, and they were consistently getting burned for it.

2-3?

With barely a few minutes left in the second, Alex Killorn thought he scored to bring his team back within one goal. As he and his teammates celebrated, the referees started chaufeurring Killorn to the penalty box. Turned out, he had tripped the defenseman covering him moments before he scored. It was predominantly the reason why he was so open to finish off the play. I guess that’s fair. Ugh.

After Two

The Lightning got out-shot once again and not only trail the Predators 17-28 in shots, but they’re also down 3-1. Even the even-strength shot metrics were ugly, the Bolts were behind in shot attempts (22-41), shots (15-23), and the team was massively behind in scoring chances (8-22).

Third Period

And for the third time on the night, a Lightning player took a point shot hard to a soft spot on the body. This time, Dan Girardi took one square to the chest while being hauled down in front of the net. In my opinion, that should’ve been a tripping penalty similar to Killorn’s call.

2-3 (for real this time!)

Jon Cooper put Point and Nikita Kucherov back together and it immediately payed dividends. The two elite skaters waltzed through the neutral zone and a quick give-and-go from Kuch to Point back to Kuch gave #86 enough space to wire a shot past the glove side of Rinne.

As the period went on, Tyler Johnson, Point, and Kucherov combined to give Kuch a wiiiiide open chance all alone in front of Rinne. Kucherov went to the backhand, but Rinne stopped him cold with the glove.

And again that line! This time Point walked in, was allowed all the time and space in the world, and ripped the shot off the post before bounding straight back. Couldn’t get closer than that.

In the dying seconds, Johnson had a gorgeous chance off a cross-ice pass from Kucherov, but he shot it into the side of the net.

Lightning lose 3-2 and close out the season series against the Nashville Predators with an 0-2 record.


Takeaways

  • The Lightning didn’t deserve to win this game. An atrocious first two periods do not get forgiven because the team got chances at the end of the third period. They were playing behind the whole game and not only did the period by period stats show it, but the final score does as well.
  • Full credit to Louis Domingue, who was shelled for two straight periods and had to come up massively on more than one occasion while the skaters in front of him, who had let him down, tried to redeem themselves. Point was the only good forward, and I think that’s mostly from a third-period bias. Ryan Callahan also had a steady performance in that he didn’t do anything bad while doing nothing offensively.
  • Nice to see Heddy get a goal. Really cool to see Cernak get his first career NHL point, but I sadly feel like those moments are gone by the wayside now. Hopefully when the rookie pivot scores his first NHL goal, it’ll be surrounded with a little more pomp and circumstance.