Sloppy play leads to Lightning’s first home loss of the season, falling 4-1 to Ducks

Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos’s point streaks come to an end as the Tampa Bay Lightning fail to overcome sloppy play in their loss to Anaheim.

Celebrating Halloween at Amalie Arena was apt this evening, because the Tampa Bay Lightning fell to the Anaheim Ducks 4-1 in a spooky manner. Sloppy passes, sloppy transition, sloppy penalty killing, and sloppy reads were the culprits of Tampa Bay’s first home loss of the season.

Anaheim isn’t a fast team, nor a team that will hurt you in transition (in comparison to other teams in the NHL). What the Ducks will do is grind you until you make a mistake, and that’s what happened tonight. Tampa was off their game this evening, but Anaheim’s forecheck and ability to force the Lightning to the outside in the offensive zone were keys to stymieing the Lightning offense.

The warning signs were apparent in the first period with Tampa Bay missing on a variety of passes to each other and refusing to shoot at certain junctures. Maybe it was the play of John Gibson that caused the Lightning forwards to become hesitant (he is an extremely good goaltender), but their inability to capitalize on their opportunities was a precursor that would haunt them in the second period.

Anaheim didn’t receive their first power play until the second period and once they were on it the Lightning could do little to thwart their attack. Sloppy is the only term that can accurately describe what the penalty kill was tonight. Losing puck battles and failing to clear the puck enabled Anaheim to maintain possession in the offensive zone and capitalize on their power plays.

Rikard Rakell opened the scoring by beating Peter Budaj high on the short side when Budaj was screen by both Corey Perry and Braydon Coburn (who was trying to cover Rakell, but ended up just floating around near him). Anaheim’s second goal was from a one-timer by Brandon Montour. Reason? Sloppy play by the penalty killing unit to effectively clear the puck.

Tyler Johnson had a great chance to chip the puck out of the defensive zone, but instead seemed to whiff on his clearing attempt, which trickled towards Ryan Getzlaf. Getzlaf fended off Alex Killorn’s forecheck to set up Montour for his goal and voila, the Lightning were down 2-0 after controlling play at even strength for the majority of the period.

Luckily, the fourth line for Tampa Bay struck to make the game a one-goal affair with just over two minutes remaining in the second. Gibson robbed JT Brown in front of the net with a ridiculous stick save before Chris Kunitz batted the puck past the sprawled-out goaltender to bring some life to the Lightning. The following shift saw Tampa Bay skate circles around Anaheim for at least a minute and gave the impression that the Bolts were going to come back and tie the game.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Anaheim withstood the Lightning assault and pushed play into Tampa’s zone where the defense lost track of players, enabling Hampus Lindholm to hammer a slap shot from the point. His shot beat Budaj to give the Ducks a 3-1 lead with 0.1 seconds left in the second period—a back-breaker in every sense.

The third period displayed the same sloppy and inconsistent play that marred the game during the previous 40 minutes. It culminated in Rakell being left alone in the high slot where he one-timed a pass from Getzlaf to put Tampa Bay down 4-1 with 11 minutes left in the period. Tampa Bay had power play opportunities, but were unable to solve Anaheim’s aggressive penalty kill.

Usually the Lightning are able to move the puck into a scoring position rather easily and efficiently—that wasn’t the case tonight. Anaheim stayed disciplined in their lanes and forced Tampa to throw the puck around the boards far too often for the power play to be effective.

Jon Cooper tried to jumpstart the offense by pulling Budaj with three minutes remaining, but no matter what Tampa Bay did it was either a Duck blocking a shot or Gibson closing the door.

A game like this was inevitable, but it still leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Hopefully the Lightning coaching staff will take a look at the film and see what exactly Anaheim did to stagnate their offense (aside from the stellar play of John Gibson). The loss stings, but Tampa Bay can and will bounce back. The team is too talented not to.

The Good

Chris Kunitz scores

Yea, that’s about it. Chris Kunitz brought some life back into the Lightning—if only for a few minutes.

The Bad

John Gibson was John Gibson this evening

John Gibson was a highly touted goaltending prospect not too long ago. He was expected to a a legitimate goaltender in the NHL, and tonight (and this season) Gibson has shown it. The only puck that got past him was due to a scramble, that’s it. If he could see it he stopped it. If he could hear it he stopped it.

Gibson was the biggest reason why Anaheim won this game and it isn’t that surprising that he put forth an effort like this one. His previous game against Florida was a nightmare, and good goalies shake off bad losses with exceptional bounce-backs. Tampa was the bounce-back for Gibson this evening.

Just watch the recap of the game and you will see the impressive saves Gibson made all night. He stoned Yanni Gourde and JT Brown in close. He thwarted numerous shots from the Stamkos line and made it all seem effortless.

John Gibson is a damn good goaltender.

Penalty Kill haunts the Lightning

Only two penalties were called against Tampa Bay this evening. An interference call on Ryan Callahan and a too many men infraction—both in the second period.

The Lightning penalty kill had been a solid unit entering this evening’s game, but tonight—against an Anaheim power-play that is in the middle of the league—they were outworked and outmaneuvered by the Ducks’ power play unit. Sloppy clearing attempts, sloppy puck battles, and sloppy positioning enabled the Ducks to convert on both of their man-advantages.

Blame will somehow inadvertently fall on Peter Budaj, but Budaj was solid in this game. The two power-play goals were on the unit not Budaj.

The point streaks come to an end

It was only a matter of time before Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov’s point streaks were stopped. It is always whimsical to believe the Lightning stars will continue to score no matter what, but this evening just wasn’t their night.

They had their chances, but the combined efforts of Gibson and Anaheim’s defense (which did a great job at forcing Tampa Bay to the outside all night) shut down Tampa Bay’s lethal duo.

The Whatever

Passing, where art thou?

Yes, Anaheim played a great road game. Yes, Gibson played phenomenally. The most frustrating and peculiar thing from this evening’s game? The sloppy passing game from Tampa Bay.

Every pass the Lightning made was either a little too far ahead, bounced, or went into an Anaheim defender. It was apparent in the first period and was a recurring issue throughout the game.

Why? The hockey gods deemed it so.

In reality? It was an off night for the Lightning—one that we will hopefully not see often this season.

As annoying as this loss is it shouldn’t discourage anything about the Lightning this season. It was a game that was sloppy and uncharacteristic. Nothing that Jon Cooper and his coaching staff can’t handle.