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Quick Strikes: Cooper says Nikita Kucherov’s injury is upper body but not a concussion

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The Bolts played well in spots, but couldn’t put it together long enough to pull out the win.

Tampa Bay Lightning v St Louis Blues Photo by Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images

The last two games have been close for the Tampa Bay Lightning. They just haven’t found a way to find the win. They are talented enough to win on nights where they don’t play their best (Tuesday was one of those nights), but unlike last season, they haven’t been able to pull the games out of the fire.

If it wasn’t for the play of Andrei Vasilevskiy, chances are the score would have been a lot uglier than 3-1. The Blues just seemed to have chance after chance throughout most of the game. Even when the Lightning made a good play or cleared the puck, it seemed there was a St. Louis player right there to bring it back into zone and keep the pressure on.

Still, it speaks volumes to the Lightning’s talent that even on a night where they didn’t have their best game they still came up with solid chances that forced Jordan Binnington to make some difficult saves. Alex Killorn in particular had a couple of chances that seemed to be destined to go in the back of the net.

I mean, c’mon, how does he even make the stop on Killorn’s backhand here, not to mention stopping the initial shot from Anthony Cirelli. Patrick Maroon also had a couple of chances that Binnington held strong on.

Nights like this are the difference between record-setting seasons and merely good seasons. Last season, even if the Lightning were having a ho-hum game, those pucks found their way into the back of the net. This season, they’re just not going in. Could the Lightning play better, of course, but they’re also not getting any of the breaks either.

It’s not just the goals either. Some of the plays they were running successfully last season aren’t working - the little touch passes out of the zone or the drop passes in the offensive zone just seem to be out of reach or off an opponent’s stick. Asking them to abandon that type of play is like asking an elephant to tap dance. Theoretically they could do it, but it’s not the best use of their skills.

That’s not to say they should just lay back and wait for the bounces to go their way. Luck tends to find the team that works the hardest. The first goal by the Blues was a good example. Colton Parayko’s pass/shot probably shouldn’t have even made it Vasilevskiy. The goalie could have covered it. David Perron had about a 3-inch slot to put the puck between Vasy’s skate and the post. All of those things had to happen for the puck to go in, but at the same time the Blues made all of the right plays. Parayko’s decision to get it on net was correct. Perron put himself in the right spot for the rebound.

Hopefully, they find the right mix of hard work, skill and lucky bounces to start stringing some wins together before the season gets away from them.

The Lightning:

Before the games started, the Lightning made a roster move as they recalled Cory Conacher from the Syracuse Crunch. With a couple of forwards reportedly banged up, it was a precautionary move. With an injury to Nikita Kucherov happening in the Blues game, Conacher might stick around a little longer. He could also serve as motivation. [Raw Charge]

Conacher could just be up to serve as the 13th forward and hang out in the press box while Verhaeghe continues to get his shot. But Conacher can be ready to step in and replace him whenever the coaches feel Verhaeghe needs to take a seat. At a minimum, Conacher will provide some competitive pressure on Verhaeghe to up his game.

Conacher didn’t make it into the game, a game the Lightning lost 3-1 to the defending champion St. Louis Blues. Anthony Cirelli had the lone goal as the Bolts dropped their second game in a row. [Raw Charge]

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.

The big news from the game was that Nikita Kucherov suffered an injury in the second period when he was caught unawares on a hit by Brayden Schenn. He was slow to get up and went straight to the locker room after the hit. Nor did he return for the third period. According to a report from Bryan Burns, Coach Cooper acknowledged it was an upper body injury, but not concussion related. [Twitter]

A nice moment before the game as St. Louis native Patrick Maroon received a video tribute and his Stanley Cup ring from the Blues. [Tampa Bay Lightning]

Erik Cernak is in just his second year with the Bolts. Could big things be in the future for him? Coach Cooper seems to think so. [Tampa Bay Times]

“He’s had big responsibilities playing with (Ryan) McDonagh and the assignments he’s taken, but he’s been able to handle it. That’s a sign of somebody that probably has a big future in this league.”

What is better than having the annual Dad’s Trip? How about adding Bolt along with the proud fathers?

The Game:

Have we reached peak Gritty yet? Probably not. [Vice]

A very nice honor for the late Jim Gregory as the NHL names the GM of the Year award after him. [Bardown]

Congratulations to Morgan Frost on his first NHL goal. Nice shot. [Broad Street Hockey]

A list of things you probably shouldn’t do in a hockey game. [Russian Machine Never Breaks]

If today is your birthday…

Happy Birthday! You share it with former Lightning goaltender Eddie Pasquale. While Pasquale only appeared in 3 games with the Bolts in the 2018-19 season, he was a steady presence for a Syracuse Crunch that went to the playoffs in each of the seasons he played for the team. He is currently with Barys Nur-Sultan in the KHL where he has posted a 1.89 GAA and .934 SV% in 19 games.