A year ago, the Tampa Bay Lightning began to turn their season around by going on a seven-game winning streak in the month of January. Now flash forward to the present day. Following a second period barrage by the Philadelphia Flyers, it’s looking like the Lightning are going to need a much bigger streak to save a season that is quickly going nowhere.
The Lightning (19-18-4) actually scored a rare opening goal in the opening period, only to see the Flyers (21-15-5) counter with a four-goal blitz in the second period en route to a 4-2 loss at the Wells Fargo Center. The loss was the third in a row for the Lightning, who have now allowed 16 goals in their current losing skid, while the Flyers ended a five-game losing streak. Tampa Bay allowed a season-high 44 shots on goal while falling five points behind Philadelphia for the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. While the Lightning had 26 shots of their own, legitimate scoring chances were few and far between. Turnovers and lost battles for the puck also plagued the Lightning throughout this game.
Tampa Bay got off to a nice start when they scored the game’s opening goal for only the 15th time this season just 5:34 into the opening period when Nikita Nesterov hit Vladdy Namestnikov with a breakout pass that led to a 2-on-1 with Nikita Kucherov. Kucherov buried a perfect pass from Namestnikov past Flyers goalie Michal Neuvirth to put the Bolts up 1-0 with his 16th goal of the season. Despite taking the lead, Philadelphia dominated the opening period, outshooting the Lightning 14-7 and controlling the puck in Tampa Bay’s zone for long stretches. Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who was making his eight consecutive start and had struggled in his previous two games, had a stellar opening period and kept Philly off the scoreboard.
Unfortunately for Vasilevksiy and the Lightning, the team’s defensive woes began to rear their head once again in the second period, as a fanned shot attempt by Andrej Sustr led to Jakub Voracek and Travis Konecny getting a 2-on-1. Voracek sent a pass over to Konecny, whose shot beat Vasilevskiy up high and off the camera in the net. After a video review, the officials confirmed the goal was good and the game was tied 1-1 at the 1:15 mark. Philadelphia continued to control play, and it would pay off at the 8:42 mark when they went up for good thanks to a goal by Sean Couturier, his seventh of the year. Voracek outworked Tyler Johnson for the puck in the corner and got it back to Ivan Provorov at the point. Provorov’s shot was stopped by Vasilevskiy, but Couturier was left along to pounce on the rebound as Nesterov lost track of him. Only 1:09 later, Philly extended their lead to 3-1 after Vasilevskiy made a huge stop on a Nick Schultz breakaway. Schultz got the puck back and dished it to Claude Giroux, who promptly fed it over to Michael Raffl. Raffl’s one-timer from above the high slot area beat Vasilevskiy for his eight goal.
Tampa Bay would get one back with 3:16 remaining in the second period just after a power play chance expired. Jonathan Drouin got the puck back to Nesterov, who took a shot from the point that Neuvirth stopped. Alex Killorn was there to jump on the rebound, but his initial shot went off the post. However, he stayed with and stuffed his second shot into the back of the net for his 13th goal of the season, narrowing the gap to 3-2.
That momentum would be short-lived, as former Lightning defenseman Radko Gudas found a way to torch his former team, taking the puck and wrapping around the net before putting the puck in off the skate of Anton Stralman and into the net, restoring the Flyers’ two-goal lead only 57 seconds after Killorn had given the Lightning some hope.
The Bolts had a few decent looks at the net in the third period, highlighted by Adam Erne’s breakaway chance that was denied by Neuvirth on a strong bid for what would’ve been his first career NHL goal. Unfortunately for the Lightning, the injury bug would continue to bite as JT Brown left the game with about four minutes left following what appeared to be an elbow to the head from the Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds. It will be something the Department of Player Safety will probably take a look at, but it’ll remain to be seen if anything comes from it.
Tampa Bay will look to turn things around tomorrow afternoon as they finish up their weekend back-to-back set with a visit to Pittsburgh to take on the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins. Puck drops at 5 pm.
MY THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1st Star: Michael Raffl – Had a game-high six shots on goal and scored what would be the eventual game-winner in the second period that gave the Flyers a 3-1 lead.
2nd Star: Sean Couturier – Scored the go-ahead goal in the second period while winning 67 percent of his faceoffs.
3rd Star: Jakub Voracek – Tallied a pair of assists and was a plus-2 with three shots on goal in 17:58 of ice time.