Tampa Bay Lightning Game 29: versus the Washington Capitals

The Tampa Bay Lightning lost to the Washington Capitals 3-0.

This game was a lot closer than the score suggests - at least for the first two periods. Vincent Lecavalier was by far the best player on the ice for the Lightning. Mike Smith and Ryan Malone came in tied at a close second. They had some jump and were taking it to the Caps. Things were looking promising for a solid finish in the third.

And then they came out flat and lifeless. It was like an entirely different team that played the third period. The Caps were up by three goals at that point - and, to their credit, they didn't allow any goals after that - so the game was still potentially winnable. The Lightning have come back from worse than a three-goal deficit to at least make it to overtime. But something happened during the second period intermission to take the wind out of their sails, and I can't even begin to guess what that might be.

The coaches themselves threw in the towel with seven minutes left in the game by benching their top two lines. No matter how poorly they might be playing, you don't bench your top lines if you think you might have a chance to get back into the game. So it was obvious that the coaches decided that the game was essentially over at that point. Not exactly much of a confidence booster right there.

Bad penalties were a story of the game. The Caps have a great power play, and to give them the opportunities to use it was sloppy thinking. Luckily, they only converted on one of the five opportunities that the Lightning provided for them. Still, having your top guys in the box when you need them on the ice isn't a good way to try to win a game.

Jeff Halpern and Paul Szczechura had an outstanding night in the faceoff circle. Halpern was 6-1 (86%) and Szczechura was 8-2 (80%). They helped pick up the poor faceoff night for Steven Stamkos, who was 4-7 (36%) and Lecavalier, who was 6-10 (38%). That's been pretty typical of Stamkos's faceoff performance lately, tho that has not been so typical of Lecavalier who's usually wins around 50-55% on average.

No matter what the Lightning did, they were unable to solve Semyon Varlamov. He was the true difference maker in this game. Had the Lightning not come up against such a hot goaltender, the final score might've been far different.

The next game is Wednesday, 9 December, versus the Edmonton Oilers. Start time is 7:30 pm Eastern.