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Lackluster effort from Lightning leads to uninspired loss

The Tampa Bay Lightning lost to the Washington Capitals, 5-1, on Friday night. Not only that, but they finished the game with only three healthy defensemen as Cal Foote, Erik Cernak, and Mikhail Sergachev ended the game in the locker room. Nick Perbix scored the lone goal for the Lightning while Andrei Vasilevskiy made 19 saves on 24 shots. Sonny Milano scored his first two goals as a member of the Capitals while Conor Sheary and Aliaksei Protas also scored. Darcy Kuemper had a few stellar saves among the 28 he made on the night.

First Period:

Andrei Vasilevskiy was pretty strong in the first period, so that was nice. He made saves on Alex Ovechkin and on a weird bouncing puck off of Evgeny Kuznetsov’s stick. There was one puck that did get by him courtesy of Anthony Mantha. Lars Eller really made the play as he spun a no-look pass tape-to-tape to Mantha.

Anthony Mantha (Lars Eller) 1-0 Capitals

The Lightning did generate a few chances, most notably a breakaway by Nikita Kucherov, but Darcy Kuemper flashed back to his Stanley Cup form and stopped him not once, but twice.

Steven Stamkos had a nice look early in the game as well, but his wrister from the slot clanked off of the post. He had another strong shot blocked on the Lightning’s lone power play. The Bolts had excellent zone time with the man advantage and seemed a little more engaged in tracking down loose pucks. They managed three shot attempts, but the Caps blocked two of them.

That was a theme that dominated the first period as Washington blocked 10 of the Lightning’s shot attempts over the opening 20 minutes. The Caps also had the better of the play in close as turnovers by the Bolts led to 5 high-danger chances for the home team. Coach Cooper has to feel like he’s stuck in a hockey version of Groundhog Day as he watches his team make  the same mistakes game after game.

Second Period

The middle frame was an unmitigated disaster in pretty much every aspect of the game. Let’s start with the power play. They had a five-minute power play compliments of an absolutely suspendable head shot from Nicholas Aube-Kubel. Cal Foote did not return after this hit.

The power play started rather well as Steven Stamkos had a chance off of a nice pass by Brayden Point, followed by Point almost putting home a deflection off of a tip from the high slot. After that first shift things fell apart. Turnovers, bad passes, odd-man rushes for the short-handed team, basically all of the stuff we’ve seen over the first month of the season reared their heads.

They did not give up a shorthanded goal, though. Rather, it was Sonny Milano, who served the penalty for Aube-Kubel, who scored on a breakaway right after the penalty expired.

Sonny Milano (John Carlson) 2-0 Capitals

The Lightning sleptwalked through the rest of the period. They were constantly behind on loose pucks, passes went to empty ice instead of teammates, and board battles were won by Washington players. It was really just a matter of time until the Caps would extend their lead.

Sure enough, Aliaksei Protas was able to retrieve a rebound and fire it through Vasilevskiy for the 3-goal lead.

Aliaksei Protas (Nick Jensen, Martin Fehervary) 3-0 Capitals

Vasilevskiy has not been up to his usual standards, his ability to make unreal saves ususally covers up a lot of mistakes the Lightning make, but his teammates hung him out to dry all night long. They just aren’t controlling the front of the net.

Third Period

Well, if we’re going to pull any positives out of this game it’s that the Lightning held a top-10 power play off of the scoreboard. They went 6-for-6 on the penalty kill. Unfortunately, much like the Milano goal, they let one in just after the power play expired. This time it was Conor Sheary who was all alone down the middle of the ice.

Conor Sheary (Anthony Mantha, Sonny Milano) 4-0 Caps

On the flip side, the Lightning’s power play didn’t generate any offense, as they went 0-for-3, but they didn’t give up any shorthanded goals. Baby steps. There final opportunity with the extra skater did lead to some good chances that Darcy Kuemper denied.

While it expired without a goal, it did lead to the longest sustained period of offense for the Lightning and they did break up the shutout. It was Nick Perbix with the goal.

Nick Perbix (Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Ian Cole) 4-1 Caps

The Lightning would be shorthanded one more time on the night and while they didn’t allow a goal, that success came at the expense of two defenders. First it was Erik Cernak that blocked a shot off of his ankle. Then, a few moments later, Mikhail Sergachev blocked a shot with his elbow. Both shots were complements of Alex Ovechkin.

Even when the Lightning gave an effort it backfired on them. Stamkos busted his way back to break up a back-door pass from Sonny Milano, but the puck hit The Captain and went past Vasilevskiy. Maybe putting a puck into the net, even if it was his own, will get Stammer back on a scoring spree.

Sonny Milano (Evgeny Kuznetsov, Alex Ovechkin) 5-1 Capitals

The two teams will meet again in Tampa on Sunday.

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