If not for the goaltending of Anders Lindback, this Tampa Bay Lightning game would have been much worse. As it was, the Lightning were within striking distance until a series of questionable penalties did them in. The result: a frustrating, mind-boggling 4-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils.
Though not helping things, the penalties weren’t the only thing hurting the Lightning, as they suddenly couldn’t pass the puck. Another thing haunting this team is their inability to score, as they’ve gone from averaging nearly six goals early on to scoring only one or two the past few games. Of course, it doesn’t help when the ever dangerous Steven Stamkos decides to miss a wide open net.
Another baffling statistic would have to be the power play, as the Lightning converted eight of 16 opportunities early this season but now find themselves in an awful 0-for-11 or 12 stretch. To make matters worse, their poor passing with the man advantage led to the Devils’ second goal shorthanded, as Ilya Kovalchuk walked in untouched and fired a shot past Lindback to break the 1-1 deadlock.
It remained at 2-1 Devils, with the Lightning even generating a little offense until midway through the third. That’s when the penalties hit. First, Martin St. Louis was called for tripping, though video replays showed his stick wasn’t near the skates of any Devil player. Then, 15 seconds into that call, Adam Hall went off for high-sticking. This occurred because Hall missed while trying to clear the puck and inadvertently struck Travis Zajac in the face, thus leading to a 5-on-3 opportunity. Of course, those calls infuriated the usually level-headed Guy Boucher, who I’m sure had some choice words with the refs. The result: an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and two lengthy 5-on-3′s for the Devils which just made the score look worse than it should have been.
The Lightning now have only one day to regroup, and possibly rediscover their suddenly missing offense, before squaring off against the always dangerous Boston Bruins at 1 p.m. Saturday. That’s weather permitting though, as there’s been talk about the impending snowstorm causing some travel issues (the Lightning play the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden Sunday night).