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Lightning fall to the surging Flyers 4-1, lock in second seed

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It’s Columbus or Toronto, folks.

Philadelphia Flyers v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images

It’s official, Tampa Bay is now the second seed entering the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It was a rather unimpressive game as they lost to the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 Saturday night, and lost Victor Hedman in the process. They now await the winner of the Columbus-Toronto play-in series to find out who their opponent will be.

1st Period

For a period that saw the Lightning open with so much control and speed, it quickly turned upside down. For the opening six and a half minutes Tampa Bay dictated everything. They forced Philadelphia back, were aggressive in the neutral zone, and made great plays with their sticks. Nikita Kucherov looked phenomenal during this stretch with two great chances.

Beautiful play by Anthony Cirelli to feed Kucherov here. Unfortunately, Philadelphia’s defense managed to disrupt Kucherov just enough to push this shot a tiny bit too high.

Barely a minute later Kucherov made a great poke check in the defensive zone to spring himself for a breakaway, but was once again denied by Carter Hart.

Unfortunately, that was about all of the positives for Tampa Bay in the opening frame.

  1. With the good comes the bad. Kucherov made a terrible decision to fling a pass toward the middle of the defensive zone that ended up bouncing off Ondrej Palat’s shoulder. It ping-ponged around the top of the zone before Shayne Gostisbehere recovered and fired it on net, and Nicolas Aubel-Kube tipped it past Andrei Vasilevskiy to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead.

From this point on it was all Philadelphia. The Flyers put their foot on the gas and made the Lightning look slow, disorganized, and like a clearly inferior team. To make matters even worse for Tampa Bay, this happened.

Victor Hedman hit a rut in the ice and bent his right ankle in an awkward manner. He finished his shift, but went to the locker room after talking to the trainers on the bench for a short period of time.

But wait, there’s more!

Philadelphia’s pressure continued to mount and it eventually cost Tampa Bay. Mikhail Sergachev tried to connect with Alex Killorn on an outlet pass, but Killorn was too slow to catch it. During that time, Tampa was in a line change and Philadelphia took advantage of it by quickly going on the counter attack. Kevin Shattenkirk tried to be aggressive at the blue line and was unable to dislodge the puck. Sean Couturier recovered the puck and made a deft pass over Sergachev to Aube-Kubel to make it 2-0.

The remainder of the period saw the Flyers continuing to dictate the pace. The only bright spot for Tampa Bay came on the penalty kill when Killorn had a shorthanded breakaway.

2nd Period

Philadelphia started the second the way they ended the first, with control and pace. It lasted until Aubel-Kube was called for cross checking at 4:57. This power-play finally provided a little bit of a spark for Tampa Bay as Tyler Johnson struck gold.

This goal gave the Lightning some life and they started to push the pace a bit as the period progressed. Unfortunately, they were unable to generate anything of note on Hart. As the period progressed Philadelphia slowly began to reassert themselves and eventually it paid off, again.

Holy breakdown Tampa Bay. The Flyers repeatedly rim the puck around the zone to establish some form of pressure and the Lightning are caught puck watching as Joel Farabee connect on a one-timer to make it 3-1.

Between lost puck battles, poor positioning, poor skating, and just overall disorganization, Tampa Bay looked like a team that had little business to be sharing the ice with Philadelphia after 40 minutes.

3rd Period

The statistics will show score effects took over as the period progressed (80%+ possession, 90%+ xGF), but overall it wasn’t until the final eight minutes of the period that Tampa Bay began to dictate the pace more effectively. Unfortunately, Philadelphia’s defense and Carter Hart were up to the challenge as every shot the Lightning took was contested. Hart was stellar in net for the Flyers and it wouldn’t be a stretch to say he might have been in the heads of the Lightning.

The final two minutes saw Tampa Bay pull Vasilevskiy for the extra attacker. A flurry of activity eventually saw Philadelphia convert on the empty net chance and solidified Tampa Bay’s seeding in the playoff tournament.

Conclusion

There were spurts where Tampa Bay looked like the team we expected them to be, but they cratered after the opening goal for Philadelphia. A slightly better second and a third period that saw the desperation level fail to hit any kind of extreme until far too late doesn’t sugar coat this loss.

In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter since the game was only for seeding, but the Lightning have struggled with momentum swings in all three round robin games. They lucked out in a shootout against Washington. Tyler Johnson bailed them out against Boston. Only Vasilevskiy looked locked in for this game since none of the goals could be pinned on him.

Still would have liked a better overall showing from the Lightning, but the tune ups are done; as are the excuses. Whether it’s Columbus or Toronto in the first round the Lightning are going to have their hands full.