Earlier this season, the Tampa Bay Lightning had a knack for scoring goals when needed most. That’s simply not happening now, as evidenced in Tuesday night’s 6-5 shootout loss to the Washington Capitals.
An early 3-0 lead evaporated during the Lightning’s most atrocious second period effort in awhile, both by the defense and some referees that really need their eyes checked (yes, I went there!) Then, with victory seconds away, the team allowed Alexander Ovechkin to get wide open for a one-time. What happened next shouldn’t even be considered a surprise because the Bolts used that same play in an attempt to tie games many times during past seasons.
Granted, this isn’t the same Lightning team. Injuries to key veterans Steven Stamkos (broken tibia), Victor Hedman (upper body) and Ryan Malone (fractured foot) among others have made the power play nearly invisible, though they did break a recent 4-for-51 streak by scoring twice on the man advantage Tuesday. Unfortunately, the usually reliable penalty kill failed miserably then, allowing three tallies by a team, or should I say one player– Ovechkin– who doesn’t need any help finding the back of the net as it is.
For Lightning fans, this game was even more heartbreaking than their overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets Saturday night because they dominated play, yet couldn’t hang on or provide that knockout punch when given the opportunity. I’d be neglecting reality by not mentioning how much they miss Stamkos, especially given the teams recent string of games (all losses).
That being said, the veterans of this team need to step up and shoulder some of the load. Outside of captain Martin St. Louis (possibly) and the two goaltenders that’s just not occurring on a consistent basis, however. Something which must change before the Lightning find themselves too far out of the playoff race to make a comeback.
Can the Lightning find a way to win close games, whether they be defensive battles or offensive shootouts, minus key pieces of their lineup going forward? While unknown, doing so proves Tampa Bay is a team to be reckoned with, even through the most challenging times.