From bad passes to turnovers and even an untimely penalty late, the Tampa Bay Lightning looked nothing like the team that turned in an inspired, playoff-clinching performance just 48 hours ago in Thursday night’s 4-1 loss to the struggling Calgary Flames.
Instead, the Lightning took a step backwards in the race for home ice advantage. That could prove costly, as they close out the regular season against opponents fighting for their playoff lives. Montreal, meanwhile, faces teams that have either already clinched or aren’t even a threat to make the postseason.
Ben Bishop, as solid as he’s been for much of this season, put the Lightning behind the eight ball early by misplaying a couple of pucks outside his goal crease, resulting in two quick goals. He then recovered to make a number of big saves, but his teammates didn’t provide much help. In fact, rookie Ondrej Palat‘s late second period tally was the only time anyone got close enough to challenge Flames netminder Karri Ramo.
Lightning fans and head coach Jon Cooper quickly labeled this game a disappointment, a fitting assessment given what this team’s capable of. I don’t know about anyone else, but these guys have proven they can overcome a whole boatload of adversity and still win. Maybe that’s why their tendency to not really show up against lesser opponents is so incredibly maddening.
Whatever it is, the Lightning had better come ready to play during these final five games. Because, quite frankly, not doing so could make their goal of clinching home ice advantage during the first round nothing more than a pipe dream.
That would be a real shame considering how hard Tampa Bay’s worked up to this point.