Lightning Clawed By Coyotes, 3-2
Halpern, Meszaros Score in Losing Effort
The Tampa Bay Lightning held the lead, then battled back to tie the game, but ultimately came up short by the score of 3-2 to the Phoenix Coyotes tonight at the Jobing.com Arena.
The Lightning started fast, collecting several good scoring chances early in the contest, especially with less than four minutes gone in the opening period when Vincent Lecavalier
stole the puck in the Phoenix zone and Vaclav Prospal collected the pass and rang a shot off the post.
Tampa Bay got on the scoreboard at 8:32 as Jeff Halpern won a face-off and Andrej Meszaros collected the puck and shot from just outside the right faceoff circle. The puck hit the crossbar, bounced off Phoenix goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov’s back and skipped across the goal line. The goal was the first of the season for Meszaros and broke a scoring drought that dated back to February of ’08.
The Coyotes came back to tie the game 1-1 at 12:12 as Olli Jokinen backhanded a shot past Lightning netminder Mike Smith
Meszaros was sent off for hooking, just 31 seconds after the puck dropped to start period two. 15 seconds after he took his seat in the penalty box, Peter Mueller converted on the power play opportunity when he swept a loose puck that had gotten behind Smith into the Lightning net.
Tampa Bay picked up momentum as the second period wore on, and when the Bolts had an extra man opportunity Halpern took a pass from Prospal and scored from the slot to tie the game at 14:43. The goal was Halpern’s second of the season and Mark Recchi also earned an assist on the score.
The contest remained tied until 8:09 of the final period when Phoenix forward Kyle Turris redirected a shot from the high slot which bounced between Smith’s pads. Tampa Bay was never able to close the gap and the game ended with Phoenix winning, 3-2. The win ended six-game losing streak to the Lightning and was the Coyotes' first home win against Tampa Bay since December, 2000.
Smith, starting his 11th consecutive game in the net for the Lightning, made 24 saves on 27 shots and Jeff Halpern lead both teams with five shots on goal; better by three than any other Tampa Bay shooter.
Tampa Bay, coming off a four day break, evens their current road trip at 1-1 with three west coast games yet to come.
“It looked good,” interim coach Rick Tocchet said, “then Phoenix started getting their legs and we just stopped skating.”
Tampa Bay won’t get much chance to dwell on the loss, since they get an opportunity to start skating, and get back on the winning track, Friday night in Anaheim against the Ducks.
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