Heading into the game against the Ottawa Senators, fans knew it was going to be a challenge to get the win. The Sens boast some great young players with a lot of skill up front. That said, I’m not sure people expected what we saw tonight. It was the Craig Anderson show as he singlehandedly stole this game from the Tampa Bay Lightning in heartbreaking fashion. Here’s my game re-cap.
The First Period
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a Canadian building that quiet to start a game. The Scotiabank Place was seemingly without excitement, taking away any “home ice advantage” that the Sens may have had to start the game. As a result, neither team came out with a lot of jump to start the game. For the first 7 minutes or so, the game was a slow, dreary chess match in which nobody got any real good opportunities. If I had to give one team the advantage over that stretch, I’d go with the Lightning. The Sens’ defensemen, even Erik Karlsson, were not able to match the speed that the Lightning were utilizing through the neutral zone. However, the quality chances just weren’t there.
As noted, the beginning of the period was relatively quiet. It wasn’t until Konopka took a penalty on Stamkos that things started to heat up. Konopka could have been called for three or four infractions on that one shift and I guess the refs finally had enough. As you would come to expect, the Lightning failed to generate anything on the PP. To me, having Clark on the man advantage makes absolutely no sense. He doesn’t generate offensive pressure and he is a giveaway machine. I would rather see a forward out on the point.
After watching the Lightning fail to convert on the first man advantage of the game, you just knew that the Senators were going to make them pay. It didn’t take long for Jason Spezza to put the puck past Roloson on a sloppy defensive play. Our good buddy, Brett Clark, got caught watching the bouncing puck as it made its way into the net. You can’t really fault Roloson on that one.
Ovearll, it wasn’t a pretty period for either team. The Bolts managed 11 shots on net compared to the Sens 7, but that really doesn’t tell the story. The goaltenders were both solid yet unspectacular and the guys up front just looked off. On the Lightning side of the puck, one player impressed me all period long. That player would be Matt Gilroy. He was making smart plays in both zones. His ability to jump up in the rush at the RIGHT time (cough…MA Bergeron), was very noticeable as he was probably the pioneer of three or four good chances for the Bolts. Not only that, he was making smart, safe plays in the defensive end.
Bolts Player of the Period: Matt Gilroy
The Second Period
The Lightning began the second period with about a minute of power-play time. Again, as you would expect, the Lightning failed to convert. That said, unlike last time, this failed PP didn’t seem to faze the Bolts one bit. They dominated the play early in the second period with a lot of offensive pressure and some great chances. The problem with the great chances was that not a lot of them found their way to the actual net. St. Louis probably had the most notable opportunities (a short break-away and a tic-tac-toe play) but he failed to convert.
Momentum is a funny thing, and the Lightning had a ton of it for the first half of the period. It looked like the ice was tilted on a 45 degree angle down to the Sens zone. The puck simply didn’t leave the offensive zone for the Bolts. Of course, in this NHL, the refs will do everything to make even things out and create the utmost sense of parity in the league. Thompson went off for tripping on what could be considered a “questionable” call. Now, what I’m about to say may shock some people, but Roloson made a couple really nice saves to help on the kill. Overall, fans should be really happy with his performance. He gave the team a chance to win; that’s all we can really ask for from the guy. The funny thing about the kill was that you could argue that the Bolts carried the play.
Unfortunately for the Lightning, despite all the momentum they carried, the Senators got one really good shift that resulted in the goal that made it 2-0. It was a beautiful deflection off the stick of Kyle Turris for his first as a Senator and first of the year. To me, that was the heart breaking moment of the night. The second period was really the Lightning’s period, yet, the Sens got that one past Roloson. Again, you can’t really fault the goaltender on that one.
It was at the end of the second period that I really began to look at Craig Anderson as the “Lightning Killer” he has established himself as over the course of his career. On the broadcast, Chief mentioned that he has a 1.45 GAA against us. That’s absolutely sick.
Despite failing to score a goal, I’m going to give the player of the period honors to Steven Stamkos. For the majority of the period he was buzzing in the offensive end, using his speed, creating turnovers and setting up chances.
Bolts Player of the Period: Steven Stamkos
The Third Period
One nice thing about the end of the second period was that, as a fan, I never really felt like the Bolts were out of the game. For the most part, the team dominated the play for the first 40 minutes and had much better chances. Two defensive mishaps resulted in goals that really don’t indicate the flow of play. Of course, hockey isn’t a game about flow of play; it’s about how many goals a team puts up on the board. Through two, the Lightning had two less than the Sens.
The third period started with a one great chance for either team. Marty St. Louis had Anderson beat but put the puck right off the junction between the post and cross bar. St. Louis looked skyward as that shot should have been in. Immediately after, with the Lightning still dumbfounded, Greening skated down the ice for Ottawa and wired a slap shot right past Roloson. Luckily, his good pal the crossbar was there to save the day. The game remained 2-0.
When the Lightning were able to kill off Stamkos’ slashing penalty, you got the feeling that maybe, just maybe, they weren’t out of this game yet. The penalty killers stayed together, and stopped some great Ottawa chances.
It was only a few seconds later that the Tampa Bay Lightning put a dirty one past Craig Anderson. It was Stamkos’ 28th of the season. 60 isn’t an unreasonable target when you start looking at his numbers and how dominant he’s become. Stamkos is the ultimate definition of a star, and it just goes to show you how flawed the all-star voting system is. Stammer is the best player in the league. With that goal, Stammer now has 8 goals in his last 5 games.
The goal Stamkos scored to make it 2-1 was the result of the Lightning’s SUPERB transition game. It’s something I haven’t really taken note of lately, but it was definitely there against Ottawa. The Bolts were able to create turnovers at either blue line and just move the puck so quickly. That’s no easy feat to accomplish. It shows heart, desire and just a great want to win.
A few minutes later, opportunity called for the Lightning. It was like the hockey gods had forgiven the Bolts for the game against the Leafs. Greening took a penalty and the Lightning were back on the PP. As Chief said, there couldn’t have been a better time to snap out of the slump.
If you didn’t watch the game, note the tense I just used. Indeed it could have been the perfect time to break out of the slump, but it wasn’t. The Bolts once again failed to score on the power-play. Think about this for a second, even if the Bolts were able to get one more PPG every 2 games, they would win a lot more. Just one tonight would have resulted in a much different looking game. Guy Boucher needs to realize that this is a special teams league. It’s great to be solid at even strength, but that’s not how games are won and lost. The coaching staff needs to put a MUCH bigger emphasis on the PP/PK during practice if this team truly wants to improve.
At that point, I actually still felt as though the Lightning could win the game. They had a couple of great shifts in the offensive zone leading up to Tyrell hitting the crossbar. Then a weak goal got by Roloson. Up until that point in the game, I was really happy with Roloson’s performance, but that was simply unacceptable. I get that it was a good shot, but he had time to get set and make the save. Even a fan like me could tell that pass was coming to Smith.
The game came to an end with a 4-1 score in favor of the Ottawa Senators. When people take a look at that score, they will think this was a very different game than it was. The Bolts owned this game in every single way possible. Had it not been for Craig Anderson, this was a blowout for the Bolts. You know, I get the feeling that had Roloson not let in the long Smith shot that we may have come back; but, I digress.
Bolts Player of the Period: Steven Stamkos
Overall, fans have to be really happy with the effort and urgency put forward by the Lightning in this one. Prior to the Toronto game, the last time the Bolts allowed 7 goals was against the San Jose Sharks. In their next game they had a solid effort, and then they went on a three game winning streak. History tends to repeat itself, so I’m calling for a win against the Habs.
I’ll be back with my game re-cap for that game tomorrow. Now, 3-2-0 on this key stretch of 6, a win is almost a must to save the season. Playing in Montreal is always exciting for this group, so it should be a great tilt.
Thanks for reading and have a good night.
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