In the most controversial finale of a Lightning game this season, Tampa Bay dropped a shootout decision tonight to the visiting Colorado Avalanche, 2-1, at the St. Pete Times Forum.
The game ended with neither team putting the puck into either net in the shootout, but Colorado forward Milan Hejduk was awarded a goal after the officials determined that Lightning goaltender Mike Smith has thrown his stick in an attempt to stop the puck. Both Smith and interim coach Rick Tocchet protested vehemently.
Martin St. Louis followed with the third Tampa Bay shootout attempt, but Avalanche netminder Andrew Raycroft stopped his shot, as he had the previous tries by Jussi Jokinen and Vincent Lecavalier.
“It was one of those things where I couldn’t hold on to the stick any longer,” Smith said after the game. “The save was made and then the stick went to the ice.”
Earlier in the day, Tocchet challenged the on-ice leadership of the Lightning to step up and give a full effort tonight, and for the most part he got the effort he was seeking.
The Avalanche got on the board first, at 3:46 of the opening period, when Colorado forward Paul Stastny put the puck past Smith. Stastny’s goal gave him one in each of Colorado’s last three games.
That was all the scoring there would be in the first period, and although the Lightning went to the locker room trailing by one goal, the stanza was a good one for the Lightning. They outshot Colorado, 13 to 7, out chanced them 5-3, and outhit them, 11-5. Tampa Bay had one power play opportunity in the period and, although they didn’t score, they controlled the puck and generated some good chances.
Tampa Bay got the last eight shots in the period, including two by Martin St. Louis and one by Andrej Meszaros which rang off the post.
Tampa Bay picked up where they left off at the beginning of period two, forcing the attack into the Avalanche zone. The Lightning continued to build on the shot advantage they started at the close of the first period, eventually outshooting the Avalanche with 15 of 17 shots over one stretch.
Just after the 7 minute mark, Ryan Malone, playing in his first game back after sitting out five games with an injury, attempted a wraparound which Raycroft barely was able to stop. Tampa Bay kept the puck in the Avalanche zone and Jeff Halpern, playing in his first game of the season after recovering from a serious knee injury, jumped on a rebound of a shot by Marek Malik and buried the puck in the Colorado net at 7:35. Andrej Meszaros also earned an assist on the goal, which tied the game at one goal apiece.
When Lightning defenseman Lukas Krajicek called for a high-stick at 10:01, the momentum shifted again, this time in the direction of the Avalanche. Mike Smith needed to make one acrobatic save after another to send the game into period three with the contest still even.
The third period was basically a stand-off, with neither team able to get the go-ahead goal.
Tampa Bay came alive in the five-minute overtime period. Lecavalier blasted two shots from the same spot, at the top of the faceoff circle to Raycroft’s left, but they went just wide. With 1:41 remaining in overtime, Mezsaros rocketed a shot from the blueline which Raycroft found through a maze of skates and sticks.
The best chance to grab the win came at 1:09 when Martin St. Louis picked up a rebound behind Raycroft but his backhand shot at the empty net hit the post.
Then came the shootout, Hejduk’s awarded goal, and one point for the Lightning.
“We need wins so when something like this happens, you better be 100 percent sure,” Tocchet said about the shootout goal. “We never got that.”
What they did get was a good team effort, penalty killers that disposed of five Colorado power play attempts without a score, and one more point for the season.
And a controversial loss to take on the road with them.
1 - 0 COL