Make no mistake about it Lightning fans…It’s time to panic. Tampa Bay (39-23-11) was soundly beaten at home by the Islanders, 5-2 Tuesday night for their third straight loss. The Bolts have won only two games in their last eleven tries. They have now fallen seven points behind the Washington Capitals in the battle for Southeast Division supremacy.
Nate Thompson scored a little over a minute into the game, but the Lightning then gave up four straight goals. The Bolts allowed two more shorthanded goals in the game, making it four shorties given up in the last three contests. Tampa Bay continues to lead the league in this dubious category, giving up a total of 15 goals while on the power play.
The Lightning’s vaunted power play was an impotent one for six, with Dominic Moore getting the only power play goal.
Superstar Steven Stamkos has three goals in nineteen games and was non-existent last night as he didn’t register a single shot on goal. Simon Gagne had one shot and was a -3 for the night.
Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson, facing his former club for the first time since a January trade sent him from the Isles to the Bolts, gave up four goals on just 27 shots.
This team is limping badly into the playoffs and will be an easy first round and out team unless it fixes things immediately.
Game 74: Lightning 3 – Hurricanes 4 “Collapse Continues”
Tampa Bay (39-24-11) lost again Friday night: This time to the desperate Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 at the St. Pete Times Forum. This time they played without passion for 53 minutes. They have lost four straight and have won only twice in their last 12 games. They continue to give the puck away. They are a team that has lost their way. They are a team that is collapsing down the stretch. They are a team… in trouble.
Superstar Steven Stamkos played almost 20 minutes and managed only a single shot on goal and had four penalty minutes. That makes a total of one shot on goal in the last two games. He has totally disappeared offensively and it is hurting the Bolts badly when he is on the ice. In the last 14 games, Stammer has three goals and is a -10!
For 53 minutes, the Bolts played the most uninspiring hockey I’ve seen in a long time. Their second period ineptness said it all: Shots on goal for the Lightning…3.
While things seem bleak at the moment, if you asked me prior to the season if I would be satisfied if the Lightning had 89 points on March 25, I absolutely would have said, “Yes!” So, the Bolts late season disappointment is born of their early season success. What bothers me is the team’s lack of aggression early in games. Being first to the puck and transitioning from defense to offense quickly were staples of their early season play.
Game 75: Lightning 4 – Hurricanes 2 “A Complete Effort”
Simon Gagne scored a pair of goals to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning (40-24-11) over the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2 and snap the Bolts four game skid. Gagne has scored 16 goals this season and six have been scored in his five games against the Hurricanes. The loss dealt a death blow to the ‘Canes playoff hopes and cut the Lightning’s magic number in half..
The win gives the Bolts their third win of the month and their first since March 14th. With just seven games remaining, Tampa Bay’s playoff magic number is down to four points, either through Bolt wins or Hurricane losses.
Martin St. Louis tallied his 27th goal of the season and had an assist for Tampa Bay. Dominic Moore also scored and Vincent Lecavalier had two helpers.
Goaltender Mike Smith played a solid game, stopping 33 of the 35 Carolina shots. Smith was brilliant in the last half of the third period with the Lightning protecting a one goal lead. The game looked eerily familiar, but ended differently as Gagne scored into an empty net to give the Bolts a much needed victory.
Where They Stand
With seven games remaining, the Lightning (40-24-7) is fifth in the Eastern Conference with 91 points. They are five points back of the fourth place Pittsburgh Penguins and four points up on the sixth place Montreal Canadiens. If the playoffs started today, the Bolts would face the Pens with Pittsburgh having the home ice advantage.
Philadelphia, Washington and Pittsburgh have already clinched playoff births. For the Lightning to clinch, they need a combination of four points earned by them or lost by Carolina.
They are the only team of the top eight in the Eastern Conference with a negative goal differential (-5). They have a solid record of 22-11-5 at the St. Pete Times Forum and an above .500 record (18-13-6) on the road. They play three of the last seven games at home against Ottawa, Pittsburgh and Florida while traveling to Minnesota, Chicago, Buffalo and Carolina.
By the Numbers
Superstar Steven Stamkos is now in second place in the goal scoring race (43), one behind the Ducks Corey Perry.
Defenseman Brett Clark is 20th in the league with 142 blocked shots.
Tampa Bay’s power play is the best in the Eastern Conference and 6th in the NHL, scoring 21.2% of the time. The penalty kill has fallen to 82.8%, 9th in the Eastern Conference and 14th in the NHL.
The Bolts are getting over 32 shots per game, 5th in the NHL while giving up 28 shots per game, 4th best in the league.
A disturbing statistic trending downward is that the Bolts are winning only 84.8% of their games when leading after two periods, while most playoff positioned teams in the Eastern Conference are near 90%. Despite the league changing rules to encourage wide open offensive games, the NHL is still a game that is all but over after two periods.
Who is the Lightning’s best faceoff man with at least 600 attempts? If you guessed Adam Hall, you’re right. Hall wins 55.2% of the time, followed by Nate Thompson (54.6%), Dominic Moore (53.4%) and Vincent Lecavalier (50.3%). Vinny has taken almost 200 more draws than the next Lightning player.
Superstar Steven Stamkos has left the building. The young phenom is struggling badly. In his last 20 games, dating back to a February 12 contest against the Carolina Hurricanes, he has been…well…awful. In that span, Stammer has just 3 goals, 10 assists, 18 penalty minutes, is a -11 and is 0-3 in shootouts. The Lightning sniper is averaging less than three shots per game and has had seven games with one or less shots.
The Lightning signed undrafted free agent goaltender Pat Nagle to a two-year entry-level contract. Nagle, 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, played in 37 games with the Ferris State (MI) Bulldogs this season, posting an 18-14-5 record with a 2.02 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage. He ranked fifth in NCAA Division-1 in GAA, tied for ninth for shutouts with three and tied for 10th in save percentage. Nagle also set school records for GAA and was tied for second in save percentage.
Forward Steve Downie returned to the lineup on Friday night against the Hurricanes.
Ryan Malone is cleared to play and is working on conditioning. Look for him back in the lineup on Thursday night versus the Penguins.
Defenseman Randy Jones is still out with an ankle injury. A return date has not been set, but Jones is believed to be ahead of schedule for his return.
Mattias Ritola missed Friday’s game with a lower body injury.
Three Stars of the Week
Vincent Lecavalier – Three goals and three assists.
Simon Gagne – Four goals.
Martin St. Louis –. A goal and four assists.
The Upcoming Week
*Statistics courtesy of NHL.com.
About the Author: WB Philp is a published hockey writer who has a built in disdain for Barry Melrose. He covered the Detroit sports teams for many years until he came to his senses and moved to the Sunshine State. He is a true puckhead on a mission from God (Gordie Howe) to make hockey relevant in the south. He lives in Hockey Bay USA and covers the Lightning full time. Did I mention he hates Barry Melrose?