Lightning Round: Jon Cooper benched the Lightning’s biggest stars after another loss
Michael Eyssimont made his debut for the Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning couldn’t get revenge after a loss against the Buffalo Sabres over a week ago, losing their second consecutive game against them. After opening the scoring in the first period, the Lightning allowed five goals in a row, including three in the second period, and couldn’t rebound from such a deficit. Alex Killorn scored two goals (the first was initially credited to Nick Perbix) in the third period to close the defeat to two goals [Raw Charge]
In a scene that is becoming all to familiar to fans of the Tampa Bay Lightning, a poor second period led to another defeat. This time it was the Buffalo Sabres who scored three times in the middle frame to beat the Bolts 5-3. Goals from Vinnie Hinostroza, Tyson Jost, and Jack Quinn broke open a tied game. Late goals from Nick Perbix and Alex Killorn made the score closer than it deserved to be as the Lightning dropped their fourth game in a row.
The biggest headline of this game was obviously Jon Cooper benching his biggest stars; Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point in the third period. All three players participated in the opening power play goal in the first period, but that was the only positive thing about their performances in this game. Stamkos was on the ice for three of the Sabres goals, while getting buried at 5-on-5 with poor 16.44 xGF%, the miscommunication between him and Kucherov also led to a goal by Tyson Jost in the second period, when two Lightning forwards interfered with each other in attempts to break up a cross-ice pass and left the puck for Jost in front of goaltender Brian Elliott. Point was a little bit more active than his linemates, recording seven shots on goal in the first period, but was also on the ice for two opponent’s goals.
Pretty stuff from Tyson Jost! 👏 pic.twitter.com/xtovY24Xl1— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) March 4, 2023
After the game Jon Cooper responded to his decision of benching Kucherov, Point and Stamkos, saying that despite those players are making difference for the team in 99.9 percent of the time, he didn’t feel that they could get it done on that night.
Here’s Jon Cooper’s full response on Kucherov, Point and Stamkos not playing in the third period. pic.twitter.com/F42uCOArxG— Chris Krenn (@Chris_Krenn) March 4, 2023
"As coaches, you gotta put your team in the best position to win. 99.9% of the time, those guys give us the best chance to win... It just felt in the third period that they weren't giving us the best chance to win."— Bally Sports Florida & Bally Sports Sun (@BallySportsFL) March 4, 2023
Cooper on benching Kucherov, Stamkos, and Point in the third.🎙 pic.twitter.com/oOtj43OwDP
With another loss last night, the Lightning extended their losing streak to four games and have now seven losses over their last ten games. Even despite such a poor record in recent games, nothing changed dramatically for the Bolts in the standings: they’re still comfortably sitting in the third position in their division with five point gap behind the Toronto Maple Leafs, who also suffered a loss on Saturday night. However, it would be interesting to see how the benched players will respond to Jon Cooper’s strong message sent to them, knowing how much do they hate losing.
Michael Eyssimont made his debut for the Lightning, replacing Pierre-Edouard Bellemare on the fourth line. In his first game in Tampa Bay’s jersey, he played 12:20 TOI at even strength, recording one shot on goal, four hits, earned a power play for the Bolts and served two minutes in the box himself.
How we stack up today in Buffalo! #TBLvsBUF pic.twitter.com/ki7YmORxaf— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) March 4, 2023