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Special teams fail Lightning in 3-2 overtime loss to Predators

Special teams have been a huge issue during the first ten games of the season for Tampa Bay

Nashville Predators v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images

Sometimes no matter how well a team plays overall, they still lose. Tampa Bay played a sound game at 5v5 this evening; they controlled 51% of the shot attempts at 5v5, won the scoring chances battle 26-23, tied the high danger chances at nine, and generated an xGF% of 52%. That’s good no matter which way you cut it. However, special teams has been the Lightning’s Achilles heel during the early portion of the season and it reared it’s ugly head once again this evening as Tampa Bay fell to the Nashville Predators 3-2 in overtime.

Tampa Bay went two for four on the penalty kill this evening and it was the only real way Nashville was creating dangerous chances.

This style of play at 5v5 is a recipe for success, tonight it just didn’t work out for the Lightning. Why? Bad penalties, and some rotten luck on the penalty kill. The Lightning ended up taking five in this game, with two being rather questionable ones. Regardless, it’s up to the team to kill them and Tampa Bay failed too many times in that regard this evening.

The Lightning did manage to look very good on an early penalty kill with Luke Witkowski in the box for holding, but their second penalty saw Ondrej Palat penalized for tripping at 13:54 and Nashville got a little bit of puck luck to go their way on this one.

For the most part, Tampa Bay is fine on this penalty kill. The puck deflects off Erik Cernak’s stick and over Curits McElhinney’s shoulder. The effort is there and the idea behind Cernak’s play makes sense, it just didn’t go the way he planned. It hurts, but you shake that goal off.

After 20 minutes, Nashville controlled 57% of the shot attempts at 5v5, but were close to even in the expected goals department (50.29% to 29.71%), and led in scoring chances 11-10. Not a great period for Tampa Bay, but the swing for Nashville happened late in the period.

In the second, Tampa Bay dominated Nashville. They controlled 69% of the shot attempts, out chanced Nashville 10-5 (2-2 high danger chances), and generated an xGF% of 58%. They also forced Nashville into three penalties that saw Tampa Bay go one for three on the man advantage and assert themselves in a manner that we’ve grown accustomed too.

Scoring 32 seconds into the period on the man advantage is one way to make a statement, especially when it’s done six seconds into said man advantage. Nashville got some puck luck on their goal, so it’s only fitting that Tampa Bay got some luck themselves with this Steve Stamkos goal.

Tampa Bay’s pressure would continue to give Nashville fits, and it culminated in Tyler Johnson’s third of the season at 9:25. This goal is all Brayden Point keeping the play alive below the goal line and in front of the net. This must’ve been one of the easiest goals of Johnson’s career, he had all day to pick his spot.

Entering the third period with a lead and momentum is always a good sign, but Tampa Bay faltered during the final frame and struggled to keep pace with Nashville as regulation wound down. An interference penalty on Ryan McDonagh at 14:31 opened the door for Nashville and they came barging through it.

Victor Hedman’s rushed clearing attempt is the culprit here. There isn’t a single Predators jersey around him as he blindly throws the puck out of the zone only for Roman Josi to knock it out of the air to keep the play alive. This is where you would like Hedman to take a quick look and gauge his options, but the pressure that Nashville had been applying prior to the faceoff must’ve made Hedman think there was someone near him.

Tampa Bay struggled to maintain any sustained pressure as regulation expired, and so off to overtime we go.

It was a fantastic opening minute of overtime for Tampa Bay. They were controlling play, forcing Nashville to panic a bit in the offensive zone, but it was all for naught when Tampa Bay was called for an extremely questionable too-many-men on the ice (the second one of the game).

Tampa Bay did kill the penalty, but seconds after it expired, Nashville ended it.

This was a game that Tampa Bay shouldn’t have lost if we’re being honest. They outplayed Nashville at 5v5, and didn’t allow them to penetrate the slot all evening. That’s a sound gameplan, but poor special teams play will always doom teams in close games, and it did yet again for Tampa Bay this evening.