Game 23: Tampa Bay Lightning at Minnesota Wild
The Tampa Bay Lightning lost to the Minnesota Wild 3-1.
I think this entire game can be boiled down to one Lightning power play in the second period. If you watched the game, then you know exactly which one I'm talking about. It was around 7 minutes into the second period, when Cal Clutterbuck of the Wild scored a shorthanded goal off of a Lightning turnover.
That in and of itself wasn't so devastating. The Wild merely tied the game at that point. And a 1-1 game isn't hard to win - especially since the Lightning have been spotting opposing teams two goals this season before they decide to do something about winning a game.
The problem was how the Lightning reacted to the shorthanded goal. I wouldn't consider this team to be fragile, necessarily, but they definitely had their 10+ minute moment in this game. Suddenly, they could do nothing right, when they'd been playing very well against one of the best teams in the Western Conference right now. They couldn't mentally regroup on the fly, and that's what lost the game for them.
However, there are some bright spots to be had from this game.
Niklas Backstrom kept the Wild in this game for much of the game - which isn't that surprising, considering that he's one of the more underrated goaltenders in the NHL right now. The two teams were pretty evenly matched up, for the most part. In fact, what might've been played down previously, the Wild lost their previous two games by a score of 5-2, so they had some serious motivation to win this game. So that speaks rather well of the Lightning's effort, actually.
Minnesota had taken a page out of the Lightning's playbook and dominated in regards to blocked shots and faceoffs. The Lightning, on the other hand, outshot the Wild 33-24 on the game. So for a team that's been struggling to get shots on goal this season, that's encouraging.
Also, the Lightning came out ready to play, which is also very encouraging. Instead of waiting until they were down by two or three goals, they started the scoring - as they had the previous game against the Florida Panthers. Two games obviously do not make a pattern, but it's definitely something to be hopeful about.
Yes, they played only 47 minutes of the game. That's second half of the second period didn't do them any favors. But, that's certainly an improvement over the 30 minutes they'd played off and on for much of this early part of the season.
Have they finally turned a corner? Perhaps. If not, then they're definitely well on their way. While it's certainly frustrating to watch a team play well and have nothing to show for it, at least they're now playing well. I don't think anyone could say that about the Lightning even just five games ago.
The next game is Wednesday, 30 November, at the Detroit Red Wings. This will be Steve Yzerman's first time back to Hockeytown since becoming general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Game time is 7:30 pm Eastern. Our game thread will be open at 7 o'clock, so come join us.