The Tampa Bay Lightning started off slow and finished slow in their 7-4 loss to the Winnipeg Jets. Just six minutes into the game, Tampa Bay was down two goals, and while they managed to tie things up by the end of the period, they failed to take the lead at any point and a break down in special teams led to two goals against in the third and proved to be the difference.
Ryan McDonagh, Alex Killorn, Victor Hedman, and Ross Colton scored for the Lightning while Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 26 of 31. On the other side of the ice, Connor Hellebuyck rebounded from some rough starts to pick up the win with 20 saves on 24 shots. Paul Stastny scored twice while Adam Lowry, Mark Scheifele, Pierre Luc-Dubois, Kyle Connor, and Josh Morrissey scored. Two of those goals were scored into empty nets.
To recap the first period in it’s entirety would take roughly a week and a half. So let’s just say the 3-3 score after the first 20 minutes was the result of some poor defensive coverage by both sides. After all, you wouldn’t expect the two teams to hit the expected goal total (6 goals) for the entire game after just 18 minutes of play when two Vezina-winning goaltenders were in net. Yet, there we were as Andrei Vasilevskiy and Connor Hellebuyck were both hung out to dry by the skaters in front of them, albeit in different ways.
For Vasilevskiy, who faced 12 shots, he spent most of the period watching his teammates skating around helter-skelter in their own zone chasing the puck. Winnipeg repeatedly backed the defense off the blue line with their speed and found space to move the puck around. With the Lightning players out of position, the puck found open Jets who knocked them in past Vasy.
“We’re not talking in the defensive zone, we’re not communicating,” said Pat Maroon after the game “we have to find a way to grind our way out of this mess.”
Mark Scheifele (Logan Stanley, Nate Schmidt) 1-0 Jets
Adam Lowry (Brenden Dillon, Nikolaj Ehlers) 2-0 Jets
Paul Stastny (Neil Pionk, Mark Scheifele) 2-1 Jets
Meanwhile, Hellebuyck had to be slightly miffed to see his teammates turn the puck over in the neutral zone and get caught up ice as the Lightning countered with odd-skater rushes. The first two Lightning goals were pretty much carbon copies of each other as a defenseman stepped up to pick off a pass and then moved the puck quickly to a forward to set up a two-on-one.
On the third goal, Winnipeg was caught in a line change and Victor Hedman was allowed to walk down the middle of the ice and pick his spot. With how hot he’s been lately, that’s a bad way to defend him.
Ryan McDonagh (Mathieu Joseph) 2-1 Jets
Alex Killorn (Corey Perry, Steven Stamkos) 3-2 Jets
Victor Hedman (Nikita Kucherov, Anthony Cirelli) 3-3
If the first period was played with the chaotic energy of my five-year-old nephew after two pieces of chocolate cake, the second had the lethargic pace of me after a shot of NyQuill. Both teams obviously adjusted to the speed of the opposing forwards and the Lightning were much tighter in coverage in their own zone.
Winnipeg had the better run of play for most of the period, as they held the Lightning to just 8 total shot attempts, with only four shots making it on net. The best opportunity for Tampa Bay came on a bullrush by Anthony Cirelli as he forced his way to the front of the net for a shot on Hellebuyck. A rebound came out for him, but he couldn’t corral it in time for a shot at an open net. It was an odd period where the Lightning didn’t have a lot of chances, but the ones they did get were quality.
The Jets did manage 18 shot attempts throughout the period and forced Vasilevskiy to make 11 saves, but not many at 5v5 were considered high quality. A couple of late penalties by the Lightning saw Winnipeg almost take the lead, but Vasy robbed Kyle Connor with a sliding pad stop on a one timer.
His ability to move from one post to the other quickly and under control is unrivaled in the league. A lot of goaltenders can get from one side to the other fast, but it’s often by flinging themselves wildly across the crease and taking themselves out of the play. Vasy got over there in time to stop a shot off of a quick release and would have still been in position to stop a rebound attempt had the puck come back to a dangerous area.
Early in the third period it was a battle of special teams. The Lightning power play was up first and while they had a couple of looks (a one-timer from Steven Stamkos was stopped and a chance by Brayden Point went wide) Winnipeg kept them off the board. A few minutes later, with Victor Hedman in the box for hooking, Pierre-Luc Dubois was able to put home a rebound shot to restore the Jets’ lead, 4-3. A visibly upset Vasilevskiy smashed his stick on the net cage following the goal.
Pierre-Luc Dubois (Kyle Connor, Josh Morrissey) Power Play, 4-3 Jets
His new stick was of no use a few minutes later when, on the power play, the Lightning turned the puck over and Kyle Connor beat Vasilevsky with a nifty move down low. The play broke down when Nikita Kucherov fell to the ice as Hedman was passing it back to him. The two goals less than two minutes apart really changed the flow of the game. The Lightning really had to chase the game at this point and just couldn’t get it together.
Kyle Connor (unassisted) Short Handed, 5-3 Jets
Coach Cooper went aggressive with six minutes left after Anthony Cirelli and Neal Pionk went to the box with matching minors. The Lightning head coach pulled Vasilevskiy for the five-on-four advantage that led to some nice passes in the offensive zone and a shot by Stamkos that was stopped. Winnipeg was able to force the puck out and Josh Morrissey ended up with an open look at an empty net to make it 6-3.
Josh Morrissey (Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler) Empty Net, 6-3 Jets
(Empty Net goals get no highlights)
The Lightning’s fourth line did get one back a few minutes later as Ross Colton redirected a shot from Jan Rutta. Hey, 6-4 with just under three minutes to go makes things interesting.
Ross Colton (Jan Rutta, Taylor Raddysh) 6-4 Jets
Well, at least until Winnipeg scores into another empty net. Coach Cooper loves hitting on 16 at a blackjack table I bet.
Paul Stastny (Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele) Empty Net, 7-3 Jets
It was just a really flat, discombobulated performance for the Lightning. Sometimes you can get away with that (especially if your goaltender is playing lights out) but most of the time in the NHL the other team will make you pay.
Zach Bogosian played 13:20 in his return to the line-up.
Hopefully it’s out of their system and they actually come out ready to play on Thursday against the Calgary Flames.