Love at first sight with a two-goal lead, lost to the Devils 5-3
The Tampa Bay Lightning lost 5-3 to the New Jersey Devils on Saturday afternoon, where their three-game winning streak and eight-game streak with at least one point were shattered. Jan Rutta, Pat Maroon and Victor Hedman scored for Tampa Bay. Yegor Sharangovich scored twice, Dawson Mercer, Jimmy Vesey and Tomas Tatar scored for New Jersey. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 22 of 26 shots while MacKenzie Blackwood stopped 31 of 34.
There’s not much else to say that the Lightning blew this game up completely. Entering the third period with a two-goal lead and limiting most of New Jersey’s offensive pressure forward. the final, the team prepared for what should have been their fourth consecutive victory. Instead, they missed defensive covers, failed to clear the pucks, and their world goalie scored two raw goals he would normally stop.
The first 20 minutes described a different story, however. You would think that the 2-1 score indicated a tight period. Instead, the Lightning dominated first frame and fell victim to a poor defensive streak that saw Sharangovich beat Vasilevskiy with a quick snapshot of the lunge. Overall, at 5v5, Tampa Bay controlled 16-7 shot attempts (69%), 7-5 scoring chances, 3-1 high danger changes, and expected goals 70%.
Long periods of time passed when Tampa Bay simply refused to let New Jersey play hockey. Control and management of the puck was fully visible on every offensive possession as the Devils collapsed into a shell in an attempt to repel the Lightning’s onslaught.
New Jersey’s passivity was fully visible on the game’s opening goal as Rutta, who hasn’t scored at all in the 2020-2021 season, scored his second of the year on a wrist shot since the top of the right face-off circle.
New Jersey managed to tie the game on one of their few offensive possessions after the Lightning lost a puck battle on the ground and ignored Sharangovich.
The Lightning returned to dominating the pace after the Devils matched them, and managed to take a penalty late in the period (the third power play of the period). Jon Cooper sent the second unit first and they wasted little time rewarding his faith as Maroon scored his third of the season.
Good puck movement and good positioning from defensemen in front of the net leads to good things, and that’s exactly what the Lightning needed to regain the lead.
The midfielder saw the Devils come out with a more aggressive pace that pushed the Lightning off several times during the period. New Jersey ended up controlling 18-14 shot attempts (56%), high danger odds 4-1 and expected goals 64%. Fortunately, for Tampa Bay, they have Vasilevskiy in the net to keep things going when the Lightning isn’t dictating the game as usual.
Tampa Bay also scored a crucial insurance goal as Hedman scored his third of the season to extend the Lightning’s lead.
The line of Cooper’s children of Taylor Raddysh, Boris Katchouk and Ross Colton has really found its place in the last few matches. Dominant possession and chances to score when on the ice. Their finishing talent has yet to catch up with them, but having a line that already sets the pace as it is is still a very positive sign to move forward. That goal doesn’t come without the setback before Colton and Raddysh combined with Katchouk reading the game and feeding Hedman on the weak side.
The remainder of the period saw New Jersey revert to their aggressive style of play. They managed to get two power plays, but the Lightning managed to push them back with some powerful shots on goal; underlined by a shorthanded breakaway from Mathieu Joseph that Blackwood had to thwart.
The third period saw the Lightning crumble. There isn’t much else to say, honestly. Four goals against in a single period is inexcusable under any circumstance, but honestly Vasilevskiy wasn’t the sharpest on Mercer’s or Sharangovich (second) goal. Tampa Bay did little to help on those goals, but normally the Big Cat makes those saves.
Nonetheless, it was a game Tampa Bay didn’t have to lose, but they found a way to throw it away.