The Tampa Bay Lightning have certainly found its flair for the dramatic in its last two games, but Saturday’s 2-1 shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings resembled more of a Greek tragedy.
For the second straight game, Ryan Malone netted the game-tying goal in the third period, but Anze Kopitar scored in the shootout to prevent the Bolts from earning their second straight come-from-behind victory.
“It’s obviously tough when you get that kind of adrenaline. But I think we handled it pretty well, we just couldn’t get it done in the shootout,” Lightning forward Paul Szczechura said.
Before the scoring started, the Lightning felt confident that the hot play of Antero Niittymaki would keep Tampa Bay’s two game win streak alive. The Kings, on the other hand, could only hope for a solid performance in net after Jonathan Quick allowed three goals in the second period of Friday’s shutout loss to the Atlanta Thrashers.
Both goaltenders certainly delivered, with Quick stopping 28 of 29 shots, and Niittymaki recording 29 saves on 30 shots against.
Niittymaki and Quick dueled through two scoreless periods, with Los Angeles holding an 18-17 shot advantage heading into the third period despite the 0-0 score.
The Kings’ Drew Doughty finally broke the scoreless deadlock with his fourth goal of the season just minutes before the halfway point while holding a 4-on-3 advantage. Ryan Smyth and NHL point leader Anze Kopitar recorded an assist on the goal.
The Lightning countered when Malone scored the equalizer with eight minutes remaining with his 12th goal of the season. The Lightning winger has totaled five points in his last three games, while Steven Stamkos recorded his seventh assist.
As the game headed into overtime, the Bolts’ streak of being the Eastern Conference’s only team without a regulation loss at home remained intact. The Lightning also recorded a point in their fifth consecutive game.
Paul Szczechura appeared to net the game winner with approximately two minutes left in the extra session, but the goal was negated due to goaltender interference, despite the video replay showing the Lightning forward being cross checked into the Kings goaltender.
“Our guy got pushed into the goalie. I don’t know what transpired between when the ref pointed that it was in and the guy in the penalty box,” Lightning head coach Rick Tocchet said. “There’s nothing you can do. This happens all the time where a goal is called back. We had a couple of chances, but it’s tough when you think you win but it just doesn’t happen that way.”
It was Kopitar’s initial netter and Quick’s save on third Lightning shooter Alex Tanguay that earned the Kings their fourth point on their current road trip.
“The shootout is always a lottery, but after losing the first two, I think this was a good win for us,” Kopitar said. “I’m really happy with the effort we put in. We played the whole 65 minutes and that’s what it took tonight.”
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