The Tampa Bay Lightning have had better nights in Nashville. On Tuesday a sluggish-looking Lightning squad was embarrassed on the ice by the Predators as they were played in just about every aspect of the game in a 7-2 loss. Curtis McElhinney had a start he would like to forget as he stopped just 15 shots from the efficient home team. Yanni Gourde and Brayden Point provided the only dull shimmers of excitement with their goals.
David Savard made his debut in a Lightning uniform and the good news is that his tenure with the Bolts can only improve from here. Mitchell Stephens returned from his injury and skated on the fourth line with Ross Colton (who was finally held off of the scoreboard).
On Saturday we wondered what the score would have been if Andrei Vasilevskiy hadn’t been in net for the first period against the Nashville Predators. On Tuesday we found out, and it wasn’t pretty. Once again the Lightning were their own worst enemy as turnovers and poor defensive coverage led to three first period goals for Nashville.
Curtis McElhinney was in net for all three and, but you could hardly fault him for the score. Nashville had seven shots on net in the period and they all seemed to come from dangerous areas. Meanwhile on the other side of the ice Juuse Saros faced eight shots and, with the exception of a shorthanded Mathieu Joseph breakaway, they weren’t especially dangerous.
Colton Sissons kicked off the scoring just over six minutes into the game as he was able to skate into the Lightning zone unencumbered. He used Erik Cernak as a screen and wristed a shot over McElhinney’s shoulder. Could that have been stopped? Maybe, but for a goalie who had just spent the last two weeks on the bench, it was a tough shot.
The next goal, just two minutes later, wasn’t getting stopped by any goalie. A turnover in the neutral zone led to an odd-man rush. David Savard opted to take the pass away by laying out in in the middle of the ice. Roman Josi obliged and wired a shot off the bar and in. There wasn’t much room for the puck to go in, but it did.
McElhinney’s night didn’t get any better when he was whistled for tripping after his stick got caught up with a Predator skating behind him in the the crease. The Lightning killed off the penalty rather easily, but a missed play by one of their top players would lead to the third goal.
Part of the Lightning’s strength is knowing when to pinch in the offensive zone and making the play. When it works it puts a ton of pressure on the opposition as they have to account for more players than they are used to. When it doesn’t work, well, bad things happen.
Victor Hedman tried to pinch in and keep a puck that was rolling along the glass in the Nashville zone. His gloved swipe at the puck missed and it led to a Nashville two-on-one. Ryan Johansen fed the puck to Viktor Arvidsson and the forward didn’t miss. Thee goals to none in favor of Nashville.
The second period started with the Lightning finishing up a power play. Despite being 1-for-17 during recent play (and the one scorer, Steven Stamkos, on the sidelines) the Lightning looked good with the man advantage. Hedman found some space when Sissons fell down coming out to front his shot. Granted, Alex Killorn helped nudge Sissons to the ice and it maaaay have been interference, but it worked and Hedman was able to step up and put a shot on net. Brayden Point tipped it past Saros and the Lightning were back in the game.
Their play was pretty solid for the beginning of the period, but it was Nashville getting the all-important next goal. They through the puck in front of McElhinney and Savard knocked it down in front of the goalie. It took McElhinney a second too long to locate it and slap his big ol’ catching mitt on top of the puck. In that second, Rocco Grimaldi snapped it into the net.
It was a better period in terms of over all play, especially short handed, but overall there was a very “blah” feeling to the game. There wasn’t much spark in their skating and they seemed to just be going through the motions on the ice. Nashville seemed content to sag back in the defensive zone and disrupt passes and block shots (10 blocks in the second period along).
The first eight minutes of the third period was a master class in playing with the lead. That is to say, nothing really happened for almost half of the period. If the Lightning dumped the puck in, Nashville was the first to the puck, worked along the boards and out of the zone. If Tampa Bay tried to carry the puck in, they surrounded the puck carrier and forced a turnover or a bad pass. They were the mud and the Lightning were the tires spinning away but going nowhere.
You would think that after taking three icings in a row, the Predators would be in a bit of a trouble. Nope. It was Roman Josi hitting Arvidsson with a long pass down the middle of the ice and Arvidsson buried the breakaway. Five to one, baby.
No matter the score, the Goude line seems to always keep grinding away. Erik Cernak took a big hit to keep the puck in the zone. Gourde skated away with the puck and swatted it on net. He collected his own loose change and batted home the rebound to make it 5-2. The only Lightning fans mildly excited about that goal were the ones that bet the over.
Any thoughts of a comeback were squashed when Tanner Jeannot scored his first NHL goal on a loose puck in the crease. Yes, there was a Lightning turnover that led to the goal. Why ever do you ask?
At this point Coach Cooper probably wished he could play the last five minutes at 2x speed, but unfortunately time doesn’t work that way. The Lightning had to slog their way through the last five minutes of the night. Surely enough, the Predators kicked the extra point as Mikael Granlund buried the feed from Rem Pitlick on yet another two-on-one.
Add another game to the “Burn the Tape” file.
Brayden Point (Victor Hedman, Mikhail Sergachev) Power Play 3-1 Nashville
Yanni Gourde (Erik Cernak) 5-2 Nashville
Colton Sissons (Rem Pitlick, Roman Josi) 1-0 Nashville
Roman Josi (Rocco Grimaldi)
Viktor Arvidsson (Ryan Johansen, Ben Harpur) 3-0 Nashville
Rocco Grimaldi (Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson) 4-1 Nashville
Victor Arvidsson (Roman Josi) 5-1 Nashville
Tanner Jeannot (Yakov Trenin) 6-2 Nashville
Mikael Granlund (Rem Pitlick, Nick Cousins) 7-2 Nashville