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Tampa Bay Lightning put forth uninspired effort in 4-1 loss to Arizona Coyotes

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Lethargic play leads to another loss against a team the Lightning shouldn’t struggle against.

NHL: Arizona Coyotes at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Lightning were outplayed by the Arizona Coyotes in a 4-1 loss that was never in reach. Uninspired is probably the best way to describe how the Lightning played this evening. They had surges of control, but it was far and few between.

The first period was rather uneventful for both teams; Arizona and Tampa Bay played a physical, low event period. Arizona had the edge once the period ended, but outside of a power-play opportunity they didn’t maintain a lot of offensive pressure. The Lightning had flashes of pressure, but largely spent the period being harassed by the Coyotes forecheck and defensive pressure.

Tampa Bay didn’t do anything specifically terrible, however, Arizona’s pressure on the Lightning defense at the offensive blue-line created a few turnovers and breakaways for the Coyotes. When the Lightning did manage to keep the puck in the offensive zone they were unable to get any clean shots towards Antti Raanta. The Lightning killed their only penalty of the period and looked very effective during the kill, they managed to clear the puck whenever they recovered it and limited Arizona’s ability to get clean shots towards the net (largely the only positive from the period).

The biggest event of the opening frame was the injury to Adam Erne. Erne went to chip a puck up the left-wing boards where he was checked by Luke Schenn. Erne went low to avoid the hit and his back leg got caught up with Schenn’s inside leg. Erne’s momentum carried part of his body forward while the other part was jammed against the boards. Erne immediately went down and was unable to get up under his own power. I can speculate on what the injury is, but the only thing we definitively know is that it’s a lower-body injury.

Entering the second on a penalty kill is never an ideal situation, but due to Cedric Paquette’s foolish interference penalty at the end of the first that is the predicament the Lightning found themselves in. Thanks to another effective kill (and the play of Louis Domingue) the Lightning managed to avoid the special team pitfall yet again.

That positivity would only last for a bit longer as the Coyotes began to take control of the game. Tampa Bay looked disinterested often during the period and Arizona pounced on them at every turn. Everyone knows how this sequence goes; opposing team dictates play for minutes at a time while the Lightning try to hold on for a stoppage or a clearing attempt which inevitably ends up in the Lightning net. That’s exactly what happened when Trevor Murphy scored his first NHL goal to give the Coyotes a 1-0 lead. This goal was more of a result of Arizona’s aggressive forecheck along the boards than the Lightning doing something obscenely wrong. Domingue never saw the shot as it whizzed by his head and into the net.

Suddenly, the lightbulb went on for the Lightning and they managed to create some real offensive pressure for the first time in the game. Unfortunately, they were unable to capitalize on that pressure even though they had a few chances that were either deflected or saved by Raanta. The Lightning received their first power-play 14:23 into the period and aside from two solid chances the power-play units were largely ineffective. The same problems that we’ve seen over the season were there again; blind passes to no one, poor passing decisions while in shooting positions, hesitating to shoot the puck, and failing to get clean shots on net. To add insult to injury, Chris Kunitz lost an edge in front of Raanta and fell onto the Arizona goaltender, which he was penalized for (in my opinion that is one call that can’t really be argued, Kunitz lost an edge all on his own and fell on Raanta).

The abbreviated 4-on-4 time was uneventful as play moved towards an Arizona power-play. The Coyotes managed to extend their lead to two after Jakob Chychrun converted on the power-play after a scramble near the Lightning net. The play began as Chychrun carried the puck into the Lightning zone near the blueline. Chychrun deked along the blueline before lofting a pass to Derek Stepan at the left faceoff circle. Stepan one-timed a pass cross-ice to Richard Panik to the right of Domingue. Panik attempted to deflect the shot past Domingue but was stopped on his initial attempt.

Clayton Keller recovered the loose puck as he skated behind the net. During this sequence Domingue was sprawled out along the side of the net after his initial save on Panik while a flurry of Lightning players began to scramble around him. One went behind the net to chase Keller while three more attempted to play goalie. No one managed to pick up Chychrun in the slot waiting for a pass. Keller fed the puck to Chychrun and the young defender easily put it past the mass of bodies to give the Coyotes a 2-0 lead.

The remaining 2:38 of the second period provided little optimism as Tampa Bay limped into the second intermission after being outplayed by a team with a 25-39-11 record, 61 points, and a -55-goal differential (prior to this game’s results).

A bit more aggression came from the Lightning entering the third period, but it was too little too late as the Coyotes still controlled play for large portions of the period. An untimely tripping penalty to Tyler Johnson sapped any kind of early pressure the Lightning managed to create as they returned to the penalty kill. Tampa Bay managed to kill the penalty, but they did little to tilt the ice in their favor. Arizona continued their aggressive play and repeatedly created turnovers in all three zones. Tampa Bay managed to play marginally better defensively in the first half of the third period, but one lapse in coverage gave the Coyotes the opportunity they needed to increase their lead once more.

Brendan Perlini ripped a one-timer past Domingue to put the Coyotes up 3-0 midway through the period and effectively put this game out of Tampa Bay’s reach. There isn’t much to dissect here—Arizona carried the puck into the zone along the boards and threw the puck on net. Dylan Strome recovered a loose puck and passed it to Perlini at the top of the slot where he promptly hammered it past Domingue. The goal was initially waved off for incidental contact as it was thought that Nick Cousins interfered with Domingue, however, Cousins didn’t touch the netminder and was overturned after Arizona challenged the call.

A late power-play provided the Lightning a chance to deny Raanta a shutout and Kucherov provided that small slice of victory as he one-timed a pass from J.T. Miller to make it 3-1. Tampa Bay tried to pressure the Coyotes after Kucherov’s marker but the same issues that plagued them throughout the game were still there. Poor passing, not shooting, having shots blocked, failing to recover loose pucks, and an inability to get around the Coyotes defense hampered any kind of offensive pressure the Lightning hoped to create.

Add in an empty net late in regulation by Clayton Keller and you have your final 4-1.

The Good

Nil

I could say the penalty kill was good, and to an extent it was, but Tampa Bay didn’t do anything really positive in this game. They were off this evening, missing passes, and making poor decisions. They were simply outplayed by Arizona—simple as that.

The Bad

Uninspired Play

As I stated in the previous point, Tampa was outplayed in this game. They didn’t play horrendously or great, they just put forth a rather uninspired effort. Arizona pounced on them time after time and the Lightning seemed content just to get the game over with. The Lightning have clinched a playoff spot and are focusing on securing the top seed in the Eastern Conference. That should be plenty of motivation for this team to play at the level they know they’re supposed to, but this evening’s game gave off the impression that the Lightning were lethargic tonight. Boston is only four points behind and the showdown Thursday at TD Garden could be a battle for first place if the Bruins get past the Winnipeg Jets tomorrow.

If the Lightning want to secure that top seed they’re going to figure out why they’ve been so inconsistent over the past few weeks. Sure, they have injuries, but everyone has injuries. You still have to go out on the ice and play like you know how you’re supposed to.

The Whatever

Take it away, everyone!

Highlights

(Perlini’s goal for some reason isn’t showing up on NHL for a highlight, we will edit it in once it becomes available)