The Tampa Bay Lightning lost to the St. Louis Blues 3-1 in St. Louis. The game was close on the stat sheet with the Lightning getting the better of the expected goals but that didn’t translate into results as Blues goalie Jordan Binnington was the star of the game.
The biggest story of the night for the Lightning was multiple players suffering varying degrees of injuries. The only one to not eventually return to the game was Nikita Kucherov. He took a hit from Brayden Schenn at the end of the second period and did not return for the third.
The loss marks the second in a row for the Lightning following their three game win streak that started during the trip to Sweden.
The first period was not exciting but it was effective for the Lightning. They didn’t generate much offense but they gave up almost nothing at the defensive end. Even though the shots were relatively even by the end of the period, the Blues got nothing in terms of quality and didn’t threaten to score in the period. At the other end, the Lightning were no offensive dynamos themselves but they did manage to generate a couple of good chances including one that ended up in the back of the net.
The first came about four minutes into the game when Pat Maroon nearly aroused a confusing emotional reaction from the Blues fans as he attempted to bat in a rebound following a Ryan McDonagh shot. Jordan Binnington managed to get his pad on it and keep the game scoreless.
The Lightning also got the first power play of the game as Jay Bouwmeester held Kevin Shattenkirk. The Bolts power play did a good job of getting set up in the zone but didn’t execute once they got there. Both the first and second units wasted opportunities in structure.
For much of the period, the Lightning fourth line was the only one that seemed to generate any pressure in the offensive zone. But ultimately, the third line was the one to get on the board. With under four minutes to go in the period, Alex Killorn recovered a loose puck in the corner and slid a pass to Anthony Cirelli who was loosely covered in front of the net. The young center banged the shot past Binnington to give the Lightning the lead.
As the period wound down, the Blues got their first power play when Victor Hedman took an interference penalty battling with Ryan O’Reilly in front of the net. The penalty kill did its job preventing St. Louis from generating any threatening offense. The final ninety seconds of the power play carried over to the second period.
The Lightning killed the remainder of the penalty successfully to start the second period. But that was not a harbinger of good things to come. Over the the following 18 minutes, the game fell apart, the Blues tied the score, and several Bolts suffered injuries.
The first injury came just moments after the penalty kill ended as Cedric Paquette blocked a shot with his ankle. He returned to the game but his skating appeared to be affected on his next couple shifts. A couple minutes later, Ondrej Palat took a puck to the face. He also returned to the game but not until the period was almost over.
In between those two painful plays, Brayden Point got one of the best chances of the period for the Lightning on the rush. Tyler Johnson hit him with a good pass but Point couldn’t quite corral it as he crashed the net.
The Bolts continued to get good chances through the first half of the period. Killorn got the next one after a great play by Cirelli to steal the puck in the offensive zone and set him up for a one timer in the slot.
At the 11:30 mark, Luke Schenn took a cross checking penalty that began a parade to the box that would continue for the rest of the period. The Lightning got the better chances of the two teams while shorthanded on this penalty. Again, Cirelli and Killorn combined. Cirelli got away clean on a breakaway but couldn’t finish. Killorn collected the rebound but Binnington made it back to back saves to keep the lead at one goal.
The Lightning killed the penalty and then went on a power play of their own a minute later. Just like the first period, the first unit did a good job of getting into structure but mucked up their passing and wasted the chance. Andrei Vasilevskiy killed the penalty for good by playing the puck outside of the trapezoid area leading to 44 seconds of 4 on 4 play.
Neither team scored during the rest of the special teams time and the game returned to 5 on 5 with a little over five minutes left. The Blues tied the game on a rebound goal by David Perrod after Colton Parayko threw the puck into the crease from a bad angle along the boards. The initial shot was harmless but no one blocked out Perron and he erased the Lightning lead.
Things got much worse with a couple minutes left in the period as Brayden Schenn landed a big hit on Nikita Kucherov. By the letter of the rulebook, it was probably a clean hit. But Kucherov wasn’t prepared for it as he had just played the puck and didn’t see Schenn coming. The defending Hart Trophy winner skated off slowly and went to the locker room immediately. Erik Cernak stepped up on Schenn earning a double minor for roughing while Schenn got a single minor.
Brayden Schenn levels Nikita Kucherov pic.twitter.com/tuETi7bTFo— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) November 20, 2019
The Lightning killed off the penalty as the period ending sending the game to the third still tied at one. The Blues had a commanding lead in shots but the Lightning still led in expected goals.
The third period was yet another disappointing one for the Lightning. Not in that they played particularly poorly but in that much like Saturday against the Jets, they once again suffered a loss in a game where they probably deserved at least a point.
The Blues got the better chances early in the period starting with a scramble around the net where they got multiple whacks at the puck. But the one that ended up in the net for the game winner was fully on the Lightning defense.
First, Mikhail Sergachev inexplicably failed to collect a dump in instead forcing Vasilevskiy to play it. He failed to clear the puck giving the Blues a possession that never should have been. From there, the Lightning scrambled around the defensive zone with Luke Schenn looking particularly out of place. That poor sequence ended with Oskar Sundqvist beating Vasilevskiy cleanly to give the Blues a lead they would not relinquish.
As bad as that play was, the Lightning played well enough over the remainder of the game to tie it. But that didn’t happen because Binnington closed the door. First, he shut down Killorn on a wide open chance from the slot. Then, Stamkos missed the net trying to pick a corner on the rush. Maroon was next to be turned away as he backhanded a rebound chance. And finally, with two minutes left, Binnington finished it off by stoning Johnson on a rush chance.
To add injury to injury, Vasilevskiy took an elbow to the head from Sammy Blais. The Lightning goaltender was visibily shaken but stayed in the game after conversing with the trainers. So if you’re keeping count, that’s Paquette, Palat, Vasilevskiy, and of course Kucherov who suffered some sort of injury. The first three returned to the game. Kucherov did not.
Jayden Schwarz sealed the deal with an empty net goal to make it 3-1 in the final seconds. At the end of the game, the Blues led in shots but the Lightning had a slight lead in expected goals.
After seemingly getting back to form against the Sabres and Rangers, the Lightning have now lost two consecutive games to the Jets and Blues. That alone is not a reason for concern as both games were close and the Lightning were arguably the better team in both contests.
But considering how the season started, seeing them return to the wrong side of the score sheet is naturally a little disconcerting. They’ll get a chance to get back on track against a weak Chicago team on Thursday. If the losing streak continues there, it might be time to start worrying again.
But more important than any wins or losses in this part of the season is Nikita Kucherov’s health. The team isn’t going anywhere without him so here’s hoping the injury isn’t too serious and he can rejoin the team relatively soon.