After a solid six-game road trip, the Tampa Bay Lightning looked to welcome their fans with a win against the Colorado Avalanche, a team they had a five-game winning streak against. Had is the operative word. Colorado capitalized on their chances, especially during the second period to defeat the Lightning 6-2 Saturday night.
Defeat is putting it lightly, Colorado slapped Tampa Bay, and the Lightning couldn’t muster enough of a response to mount a comeback. There were some positives to take from this game, specifically how strong Tampa Bay played in the first period, but a horrid three minute span in the middle frame ultimately doomed the Lightning in Saturday’s contest.
Tampa Bay started the game on their back-foot as Colorado dictated the pace during the first minute. It wasn’t until the line of Steven Stamkos-Brayden Point-Nikita Kucherov stepped onto the ice that the Lightning managed to muster some pressure on Colorado. This led to an abbreviated period of some back and forth play with the Lightning gaining the edge due to their neutral zone pressure. However, once Colorado got the puck into the Lightning zone and managed to maintain control of the puck, things started to get a bit sloppy for Tampa Bay.
The sloppiness reached an apex when Pat Maroon and Luke Witkowski collided as they tried to clear the defensive zone. That led to this.
Tyson Jost kept the play alive for Colorado and inadvertently set up the collision of Maroon and Witkowski. This created an outnumbered scenario for Tampa Bay and Jost eventually wired a one-timer past Andrei Vasilevskiy to give the Avalanche the early lead.
Shortly after Jost’s goal, the Avalanche got another opportunity to extend their lead when Braydon Coburn took a slashing penatly at 4:33. With how deadly Colorado is on the man advantage, and how erratic the Lightning have been on the penalty kill, this could’ve been an ugly start. However, Tampa Bay’s penalty killers held strong and didn’t allow a single shot to make it toward Vasilevskiy during the man advantage. Led by Anthony Cirelli’s aggressive play Tampa Bay managed to kill the penalty and gain some momentum.
From here on, the period was all Tampa Bay. At 7:41 Nikita Zadorov was penalized for slashing, but Tampa Bay floundered their man advantage with inconsistent zone entries, poor shot selections, and an over-reliance on one-touch passing. This didn’t deter Tampa Bay though, they continued to pressure Colorado.
An in-close scrum in front of back up netminder Pavel Francouz led to scoring chances, but no goals. Later, Alex Killorn forced a turnover by Cale Makar in Colorado’s zone that led to a chance by Cirelli. Mikhail Sergachev carried the puck into the offensive zone before saucering a pass to Yanni Goude who then fed a pass to Ondrej Palat that was also thwarted by Francouz. Cirelli generated two more scoring chances on his own that were denied by Francouz and the crossbar.
It wasn’t until the 17:35 mark that the Lightning finally evened the score.
Folks, Kevin Shattenkirk is a bargain for the Lightning. Aside from the forwards working Colorado along the boards this goal is due to Shattenkirk deftly feeding a pass to a streaking Ryan McDonagh. Gourde managed to get a piece of McDonagh’s backhand shot to deflect it past the goaltender. All they needed to do to stay in the game moving forward was to keep this pressure up and not make any mistakes
Colorado looked like a team on the second game of a back-to-back in the first period, but once they got their legs back they took it to the Lightning—in three minutes.
I don’t hate the positioning by Tampa Bay here, Stamkos is in a good spot and simply whiffed on the puck. What I don’t like is how little Stamkos did to try and interfere with Jost’s shot. Also, this is a shot Vasilevskiy has to stop. There’s little reason for it to beat him.
What the replay doesn’t show is how Colorado worked Tampa Bay for a good 15-20 seconds before the goal. Turnovers and an inability to clear the zone doomed Tampa Bay here. Little else to say here.
Then the Lightning just fell asleep. No one is in the right position, and they’re all scrambling to try and negate anything. They failed and were outclassed in three minutes by a supposedly tired team. There’s no excuse for this stretch of play from the Lightning.
The remainder of the period saw the Lightning push back numerous times, but the Avalanche kept most of their shots toward the outside. Francouz saw little trouble in close, and on numerous occasions Tampa Bay was one and done in the offensive zone. Colorado still managed to put a few scares into Tampa after going up three goals, but the Avalanche seemed content to play a more controlled game once they gained their lead.
Possession was tied at 50% this period, with Tampa Bay edging Colorado in scoring chances 8-7 and in high danger chances 3-1. It mattered little as Colorado’s chances generated an xGF% of 56% compared to Tampa Bay’s 44%. Tampa Bay still had 20 minutes left to salvage something from this game, but they would have to limit their mistakes and find a way to put the puck in the net.
Score effects were in full force this period, and it mattered little for Tampa Bay. They controlled possession and scoring chances, but Pavel Francouz was not having any of it this evening. The Czech goaltender put on a show this evening against the Lightning. Tampa Bay can take solace that they controlled pace when the game was close, but those three minutes of ineptitude in the second period proved to be too much to overcome. Especially once Nazem Kadri embarrassed Shattenkirk for the fifth Avalanche goal of the night.
Tampa Bay continued to push the pace as they tried to put some pressure on the Avalanche. Anytime they did manage to generate a quality chance, Francouz was there to thwart them. Pat Maroon had a chance, Francouz was there. Point had a chance, Francouz was there. Deflections were even failing to reach Francouz for most of the game until Tampa Bay finally managed to dress the score up with Victor Hedman’s first of the season.
Cool, they scored finally. It mattered little as a few minutes later Mikko Rantanen did this.
Whatever this game was, Tampa Bay needs to expunge it from their collective memory. This was one of those games. It’s frustrating that it came against a team on a back-to-back and playing their backup goaltender, but that doesn’t mean a win is a guaranteed thing. Shake this game off and get back to work so you don’t get embarrassed by Pittsburgh on Wednesday night in prime time.
Pavel Francouz was downright dominating this evening. Colorado best buy him steak dinners for the rest of the season with the spectacular saves he made all night. If Colorado gets that kind of play from their backup, they’re going to rack up wins all season.