For all the good things an extremely young Tampa Bay Lightning team has accomplished so far this season, their 3-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins Friday afternoon proves they’re not quite able to beat the Eastern Conference‘s elite.
A delay of game penalty to rookie defenseman Mark Barberio in the third period resulted in the Penguins second goal, and dimmed hopes of the Lightning mounting another third period comeback. This marked the second time an ill-timed mistake cost them at least one point against a foe that thrives on making opponents pay for those type of things, something they do routinely.
Yes, the Lightning got beat by more than one goal and couldn’t bury the puck themselves, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t play well. It actually was quite the opposite, as this team held the slight edge in scoring chances, faceoff wins, takeaways and power play chances, yet couldn’t get any bounces to go their way. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, got everything, evidenced by their power play tally deflecting off Victor Hedman and past Ben Bishop.
This is a game Lightning fans, and likely players, would like to do over. With different results though. They hung tight throughout, but couldn’t get any breaks in their favor. Just gut-wrenching if I do say so myself.
Losing Steven Stamkos to a broken tibia nearly three weeks ago might have impacted the final outcome as well. He’s the league’s best goal scorer, on an MVP pace before going down Nov. 11. In this particular game, one that featured a single score for over 30 minutes, his ability to score from all over might have swung momentum the Lightning’s way. And fans probably wouldn’t have to sit through a first intermission interview with NHL golden boy Sidney Crosby.
Can the Lightning beat elite teams, such as the Penguins and Boston Bruins? Take away the inexperienced errors, and it’s very likely.