If that’s the best performance the Tampa Bay Lightning are going to be able to turn out on this home stand, fans better be prepared for a wealth of disappointment. Tonight, the Hurricanes proved that you don’t need the most talented roster to win in the National Hockey League; all it takes is a little hard work and a good system. The Bolts had their playoff hopes dashed tonight by losing themselves and watching the Capitals and Sabres pick up wins and the Maple Leafs pick up a point. This was the worst possible day the Bolts could have experienced. Let’s get to the game summary and some post-game thoughts.
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In the pre-game blog, it was mentioned that the Bolts needed to get this home stand off on a good start. Well, they did that (sort of…). Only a minute and a half in, Ryan Malone scored his 13th of the season from Pyatt and Connolly. The goal was a great example of how hard work can turn into offense. With a 1-0 lead that early on, the Bolts had the crowd energized and ready to go for a game that never was. The momentum created off that goal was all but destroyed when Tim Wallace took an interference call 2:38 into the first. Jaro Spacek ripped a slapshot from the point a minute into the penalty that beat Tokarski to tie the game at one. It was tough to fault Dustin on the play as it looked as though the puck deflected off Mike Commodore’s skate.
Spacek’s goal really seemed to wake the sleeping giant. They generated some great chances by forechecking hard and clogging the neutral zone. 12 minutes into the first, Jeff Skinner would score his first of two on the night to give the Canes a 2-1 lead. The first period was a goal affair and the action continued. The “energy line” of Hall, Wyman and Thompson ended up scoring (Thompson’s 8th) to tie the game at two heading into the intermission. If the entire team played with as much emphasis on hard work as those three guys, the Bolts would never lose. Guy Boucher never has to worry about sending those guys out on the ice; they give 100% of their effort each and every shift.
The second period was actually fairly quiet in my opinion. The goaltenders both seemed more settled and calm while the skaters did a much better job of eliminating chances by playing team defense. It was tough to find any room out there, and even if skaters found room the goalies were there to make some big saves. With 44 seconds left in the second period, Bryan Allen took an interference penalty. It was at that moment that I thought the Bolts would unleash the killer instinct they so desperately lacked in the game vs. the Capitals. The Bolts weren’t able to convert on the power-play to end the period, but Ward did have to make a huge save off Teddy Purcell at the buzzer.
To start the third period, the Bolts were still on the power-play. Unfortunately, the Canes managed to kill it off. There was some frantic action towards the end of the PP but it was to no avail. The game remained tied at two. That was until about seven minutes into the period when Jeff Skinner was allowed to skate around the Bolts’ net and rip a wrist shot up top over Tokarski to give the Canes a 3-2 lead they wouldn’t relinquish. If you talked to Tokarski, that’s probably a goal he’d say he wants back.
Still, opportunity came knocking for the Lightning when Eric Staal was assessed a tripping penalty with eight minutes to go in the period. The Bolts were held SHOTLESS on the PP. For a team with so much to play for, it was sad to see no desperation. That was an utter embarrassment. For the remainder of the period, the Lightning were unable to generate anything. The Hurricanes did a great job of shutting the Bolts down in all three zones; the ice looked tilted. Jussi Jokinen would all but seal the deal when he scored into an empty net to end the game with a 4-2 score.
* As mentioned, the Thompson line was really good all night long. They are fast, hardworking and skilled. That group does a great job of generating momentum with big hits, timely goals and a work ethic that is unmatched. They deserve a lot of credit for the job they do on a nightly basis. Not many guys can do what they do.
* The Lightning’s big line of St. Louis, Stamkos and Purcell had a really rough night tonight; it was the worst game they’ve played in a long time. The Hurricanes deserve a lot of credit for absolutely shutting them down. The three guys had no room out there and they were taken out physically on every shift. It got to a point where the three of them were trying to be too pretty. If they just went out and put the puck on net, things could have been a lot different. Those guys will get their mojo back; hopefully it’s soon.
* Dustin Tokarski had a bit of a rough start in this one; still, his overall performance was good. To start the game, I thought he looked a little bit shaky and out of position on some plays. As the game progressed, he seemed to settle down and make the positional saves that have made him such a story over his career. As a small goaltender, it’s so important that he remains in position at ALL TIMES. He doesn’t have the size to flop around and make saves; it’s just not possible.
* What does it take to draw a penalty in this league right now? Many people are saying that we are well on our way back to the clutch-and-grab era. Based on what I’ve seen over the past few weeks, it’s hard to disagree. How many times was Stamkos “illegally” tied up, or dumped in the neutral zone? Countless. The NHL is in the process of making this league unbearable to watch. The lack of consistency in officiating is embarrassing and it’s ruining games that could end up costing teams dearly. It’s time for the National Hockey League to take a long look at how games are officiated. The system is so broken right now.
Some Love for Erik Karlsson
This is completely unrelated to the Tampa Bay Lightning, but I thought it would be nice to take a second and give Erik Karlsson some much deserved praise. How the Norris Trophy winner is even being debated right now is beyond me. This guy is running away with the trophy. Not only is he putting up ridiculous point totals, but he’s defensively aware, smart and unbelievable skating. As an objective viewer, he has my vote for the Norris (not that I actually get to vote…). Congratulations to Erik Karlsson on an absolutely fantastic season. If it was up to me, he would already have the trophy in his hand (Paul MacLean would have the Jack Adams too).
Anyways, thanks for reading. Try not to be too discouraged with tonight’s result. There’s six games left on this home stand; five wins is a must.
Follow me on Twitter: @BoltsBuzz
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