Game 40: Tampa Bay Lightning at Montreal Canadiens

The Tampa Bay Lightning lost to the Montreal Canadiens 3-1.

Frankly, they should be lucky that they didn't lose 5-1. The Canadiens had two goals waved off during this game. And, surprisingly, the fans didn't boo the refs at every break in play. Since they won the game, I suppose we won't have to worry about riots in the streets, either.

Regardless of the help from the on-ice officials, the Lightning were not able to win. They played great in the first period, carrying on from how they played the previous game in Toronto against the Maple Leafs. However, they went all Hyde on us in the second and third periods.

And that's what baffles fans the most. The Lightning play like they should for part of a game, and then their evil twins take over and shoot them in the foot. The inconsistency from one period to the next is the most frustrating thing of all. If the team was consistently mediocre, fans could be resigned about the fate of the season. But the fact that they show how they can play for chunks of time is simply a tease.

It doesn't help that when the offense gets going, the defensemen often forget to play defense because they want to jump into the play as well. And in more defensive games, the opposite happens. When the team hunkers down, the offense also gets defensive and stops shooting. Somehow, they've forgotten their traditional roles within the game.

Such was the case in the second and third periods. The defensemen gave up on playing defense. Instead, they were far more interested in jumping into the play and trying to create more offense - but were instead making themselves a defensive liability and allowing Montreal more offensive opportunities.

There were far too many turnovers, typically made by the defensemen. Out of the 14 turnovers recorded by the official scorers (seriously? 14?!), nine of those were made by defensemen. Mostly due to sloppy passing, but also by trying to force the offensive play along.

It wasn't all the defensemen's fault. This loss was a team effort. Mathieu Garon didn't exactly have his strongest game, but then he wasn't horrific, either. And the forwards looked fairly disorganized for the last two periods as well.

In the end, the Lightning didn't play their own game for the last two periods, allowing Montreal to dictate things, and it ended predictably. This game ended as the others did on this Canadian road trip with a loss, resulting in the Lightning getting zero points in the past three games. It's probably safe to say that, at this point, it's probably a good thing that realignment has been put off for another season.

There were bright spots in this game; not all of it was doom and gloom. Brett Connolly returned from Canada World Juniors and was in the lineup, though newly acquired defenseman Brendan Mikkelson, while apparently in Montreal, did not play. Also, Vincent Lecavalier scored his 15th goal of the season. And, there were only three penalties in the game - two of those by the Lightning - so discipline was never a factor.

The next game is Tuesday, 10 January, against the Vancouver Canucks. Game time is 7:30 pm ET. If you're not attending the game, please stop by and say hi to us on the Raw Charge game thread, which opens at 7 o'clock.

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