Playing from behind has been the norm for the Tampa Bay Lightning so far this season – they have given up the first score in six consecutive games – and while, for the most part, they have been able to dodge the bullet that trailing early can inflict, tonight they were squarely in the cross-hairs as the Ottawa Senators cruised to an easy 7-1 win over the Bolts at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa.
Not much went right for the Lightning save for the first five minutes of the opening period when they managed some sustained pressure on Ottawa netminder Pascal Leclaire and pinned the Senators in their own end, firing the first four shots on net in the contest.
But once Ottawa turned the play around, the Senators made their first shot on goal count when Alex Kovalev, standing alone in front of the Lightning net, one-timed a feed from Daniel Alfredsson past Tampa Bay goaltender Mike Smith for a 1-0 lead at 4:25 of period one.
Just under five minutes later, the Senators stretched their lead to two goals when forward Milan Michalek collected the first of two shorthanded scores he would get on the night, and first of three overall, as he whacked the puck past Smith on his second try.
The Tampa Bay power play, which had been one of the most consistent elements of the Lightning attack through the first five games, abandoned the Bolts tonight as they went 0-6 with the extra attacker and allowed Ottawa more shorthanded shots on net (7) than the Lightning were able to generate with the man advantage (5)
Once the Lightning trailed by two scores after the first stanza, there was no climbing back into the contest, as the Senators pressed the attack in the second period, scoring three times in just over five minutes while again outshooting the Lightning by a better than two-to-one margin for the second consecutive period.
Early in the period, Tampa Bay had an opportunity to cut the deficit when the Bolts skated with a two-man advantage for over 60 seconds, but they were not able to cash in. Instead, Michalek took a loose puck with him from just outside the Lightning blue line and broke in alone on Smith, dodging to his right and lifting the puck into the Lightning net for his second shorthanded goal of the game.
The Lightning were able to ruin Leclaire’s shutout bid at 14:26 as Ryan Malone made a two-on-one attack pay off when he ripped a cross-ice pass from Marty St. Louis into the Ottawa net to the left of the goaltender. For Malone, it was goal number six on the young season and his fifth in the last three games. St. Louis got the assist, his seventh on the season, tying him for the assist lead in the NHL. Steven Stamkos also received credit for an assist on the score.
When the buzzer sounded to end the second period, all ten men on the ice at the time got involved in a brawl behind the Ottawa net, with Lightning forward Zenon Konopka and Senator defenseman Chris Phillips drawing major penalties for fighting. That was one of three fighting majors that Tampa Bay took, with the other two handed out to Matt Walker and Steve Downie.
But any attempt to light a fire under the Lightning tonight just didn’t ignite as Ottawa eased through the final period, clearing the zone each time the Lightning brought the puck across the blue line.
Late in the final stanza, Michalek picked up his third goal of the game on a power play, giving him an improbable hat trick consisting of one power play and two shorthanded goals.
Tampa Bay finished the night outshot by the Senators, 35 -17. The 17 shots on goal was the first time this season that Tampa Bay had less than 30 shots on net in a game.
But, why not get it all out of your system at one time, and come back fresh again next game. The Lightning will look to regroup, and forget tonight’s game, when they travel on to Pittsburgh to finish their brief road trip Saturday night against the Penguins.
Their first chance to put this one behind them.
Lightning Bolts: Defenseman Andrej Meszaros led the team in shots on goal with four…Paul Ranger had the most ice time tonight for Tampa Bay, 21:21…Mike Smith made 28 stops on 35 shots…The Lightning have allowed three shorthanded goals on the season…Zenon Konoka led the team with five hits.
tampabaylightning.com is the official Web site of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa Bay Lightning and tampabaylightning.com are trademarks of Lightning Hockey L.P. NHL, the NHL Shield, the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup and NHL Conference logos are registered trademarks of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 1999-2013 Lightning Hockey, L.P. and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.