Lightning Fall In Minnesota 4-2
Vrbata, Malone Score In Effort
The Tampa Bay Lightning dropped a close decision to the Minnesota Wild today at the Excel Energy Center in St. Paul, 4-2.
The Lightning entered the third period ahead 2-1, but were unable to make the slim lead stand up through the final twenty minutes of hockey.
The matinee figured to be close, considering that both teams had engaged in multiple one-goal decisions this season; 14 for Tampa Bay and 13 for the Wild. In their previous match up this season, on October 18th in Tampa, the teams had skated to 0-0 deadlock in regulation, which was won by the Wild in a shootout. The goalies were the stars then, and again today, as Mike Smith
for the Lightning and Niklas Backstrom for Minnesota, made one great save after another, especially in the fast-paced opening period.
The Lightning took two quick penalties 2:27 seconds into the game when Steven Stamkos
was called for boarding and a bench minor for unsportsmanlike conduct was tacked on. The Bolts were able to neutralize the 5 on 3 Wild advantage.
Minnesota opened the scoring at 12:07 when veteran Owen Nolan got his 3rd goal of the season off a snap shot that slipped beneath Smith’s arm and into the Lightning net.
Tampa Bay came back to tie the score with only 40 seconds remaining before the first intermission when Radim Vrbata converted a man advantage opportunity for his 3rd goal of the season, a deflection of a shot from the top of the right circle from Steven Stamkos
. Paul Ranger also picked up an assist on the power play goal.
Tampa Bay had the best scoring opportunities in the second period; most notably newcomer Steve Downie
, making his debut for the Lightning after being called up from Norfolk, blocked a shot from Minnesota’s Eric Reitz, gathered the loose puck and broke in alone on Backstrom at the 10:40 mark of the second. His backhand attempt was smothered by the Wild netminder.
Less than a minute later, Tampa Bay took a 2-1 lead when Ryan Malone
pulled the puck out of a scramble in front of Backstrom and fired it into the back of the net. Captain Vincent Lecavalier
earned an assist by crashing the net in pursuit of the loose puck prior to the score. For Malone, the goal was number six on the season and his third in the last three games.
The Lightning didn’t set out to just protect their lead as the third period got underway, but sought to stretch it as they skated and forechecked aggressively. The Wild, however, were able to get the tying goal at 2:02 when center James Sheppard redirected a shot from just inside the blueline that weaved through a traffic jam in front and found the twine.
Tampa Bay fell behind 3-2 at 6:10 as Mikko Koivu rolled the puck past Smith, who was fully extended on the ice in an attempt to knock the puck safely away.
The Lightning had several opportunities to bounce back and tie the score. At 14:55, Minnesota defenseman Nick Schultz was whistled for a high stick on Steven Stamkos
and simultaneously, Koivu was sent off for unsportsmanlike conduct and a ten minute misconduct.
During the 5 on 3 advantage, the Lightning ripped six shots on Backstrom, including a great scoring chance by Stamkos from low in the right faceoff circle. Backstrom came up big and made save after save.
With 22.9 seconds remaining the Wild put the game out of reach when Eric Belanger sent the puck into the empty Lightning net, which Smith had just vacated in favor of the extra attacker.
ended the game with 29 saves while Backstrom had 35 for the Wild. Lecavalier fired six shots on the Minnesota net to lead the Lightning in that category.
Tampa Bay (6-9-7) will look to get back on the winning side of the scoreboard as they move on to Colorado to battle the Avalanche Saturday night.
|Three star selections