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Lightning squander two-goal lead in 3-2 loss to Flyers

It was going well until it wasn’t.

Philadelphia Flyers v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

For half of the game it looked like the Tampa Bay Lightning had fixed some of what ailed them over the first week of the season and they were well on their way to a comfortable victory. However, they ended up surrendering three unanswered goals to the Philadelphia Flyers in a 3-2 loss. Steven Stamkos scored twice for the Lightning (both on the power play) while Andrei Vasilevskiy made 21 saves on 24 shots.

While the Lightning might be the team with the losing record it was the Flyers that came in with the underdog mentality. Early on that story line seemed to play out as the Lightning managed the puck and pushed Philadelphia back into their own zone with wave after wave.

The top line of Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, and Brandon Hagel looked especially frisky with Point splitting the defense early only to have his backhand attempt stopped by Carter Hart’s pad. Point was denied again on a rocket shot later in the period. Late in the period Kucherov faked a dump in and instead swept a cross-ice pass to Brandon Hagel who’s shot from the wing caught the top of Hart’s glove and pinwheeled over the net.

It was a strong first 20 minutes for the Lightning as they spent most of the first ten minutes and then the last few pushing the Flyers back on their heels. Scoring chances at 5v5 were 11-3 for the Bolts and high-danger chances at 6-1. Even Philly coach John Tortorella was annoyed, telling ESPN’s Emily Kaplan that his team was playing tentative and just watching the Lightning play.

The penalty kill, which has looked lost at times so far this season, played better. With Ian Cole in the box for hooking, the quartet of Erik Cernak, Victor Hedman, Hagel, and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare may have been on the ice longer than Coach Cooper wanted them to be, but they limited the Flyers to pushing the puck the puck around the perimeter and only one shot had to be defended by Vasilevskiy.

If you’re the Flyers and are already on your heels, facing the Lightning shorthanded isn’t ideal. Just a minute into the period a high-sticking penalty (way to put your face on the line Perbix!) led to a power play for the Bolts. It was the new addition to the top unit, Vlad Namestnikov, that made the play. Kucherov centered the puck to Namestnikov who sold shot to the goaltender before flicking a backhand pass to Stamkos. The Captain banged a one-timer off of an off-balance Hart and into the net.

Steven Stamkos (Vlad Namestnikov, Nikita Kucherov) Power Play, 1-0 Lightning

Steven Stamkos (Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman) Power Play, 2-0 Lightning

No, it’s not a glitch in The Matrix. Stamkos did indeed connect again on the power play just under three minutes after his first one. After missing a wide-open net on a shifty feed from Kucherov, Stamkos didn’t miss on his second chance as he put it past a screened Hart for his sixth goal of the season.

With the ice tilted so heavily it seemed that all the Lightning had to do was coast into the break (despite half the period still remaining) with a comfortable lead. Unfortunately when you coast on the ice, bad things happen. The Lightning sagged back on a Flyers entry which allowed Egor Zamula to snap a shot that Vasilevskiy blockered away. Unfortunately it went to an unmarked Scott Laughton who banged it in before Vasy could recover.

Scott Laughton (Egor Zamula, Morgan Frost) 2-1 Lightning

The goal breathed a little confidence into the Flyers and Vasy had to be Vasy to in order to stop Kevin Hayes at point blank range. To paraphrase the immortal Duke Evans, “They don’t think it’s a show. They think it’s a d*mn fight”.

With the Flyers now actively engaged in the match things became entertaining as the teams traded opportunities. This was how Tortorella wanted his team to play. With confident aggressiveness. The Lightning also seemed sparked by the the improved play. Both goaltenders had to be sharp to keep the game at 2-1.

The Lightning, generous hosts that they are, returned the favor the Flyers extended them in the second period as they committed a penalty early into the frame. It appeared that the Bolts were doing much as they did during their first time shorthanded, forcing things to the perimeter, but this time James Van Reimsdyk was able to get right in the face of Vasilevskiy and tip home a shot from Kevin Hayes.

James Van Riemsdyk (Kevin Hayes, Tony DeAngelo) Power Play, 2-2

Turnovers are the great equalizer, or in this case the great difference maker for Philadelphia. Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak had the puck in the Lightning zone, but when Cernak tried to pass it up the middle of the ice, it was picked off and Noah Cates spun a shot past Vasilevskiy to give the Flyers the lead.

Noah Cates (unassisted) 4-3 Flyers

The Lightning put their big guns out for the final three minutes but to no avail despite a few pucks slipping close to the edges of the net. A highly frustrating loss for the Lightning to be sure. They will have a few days off before hitting the ice again on Friday against the Florida Panthers.