The game is a lot more difficult when you constantly put yourself behind the eight ball. The Tampa Bay Lightning is learning this the hard way.
The Bolts fell behind in a game for the eleventh time in sixteen games this season. For the eighth time this year, they were unable to overcome the deficit, losing to the Boston Bruins 4-2.
The troubling trend of falling behind in games is something the Lightning’s high-powered offense can sometimes overcome on its own. But depending on that to happen every game is naïve and Tampa Bay knows it.
It’s not like they weren’t in the game against Boston. In fact, the game was probably Tampa Bay’s most entertaining of the season in terms of up-and-down-the-ice action.
The fact of the matter is simply that they need to start scoring first because the energy needed to keep completing comebacks has been sapped.
Things started terribly for the Bolts once again when Boston took the lead hardly a minute into the game after a turnover by defenseman Victor Hedman led to a goal by Boston forward Nathan Horton (5).
His teammate, defenseman Dougie Hamilton, had stopped a defensive zone clear by Hedman before firing on net to create Horton’s rebound chance.
Despite the quick goal, it felt like the Lightning had increased their aggressiveness from previous games. They knew they needed to play an all-out, attacking style to keep with Boston.
Then the Bruins scored again.
Just 03:50 into the game, Tampa Bay was down 2-0. Hedman set up the second goal as well, trying to clear the zone but actually setting up center Patrice Bergeron (3) for a one-timer that he blew by goaltender Anders Lindback.
Following an ineffective power play, things were looking bleak for the Lightning. The Bruins are big and physical, and they came to play.
However, a little hard work helped the Lightning cut the lead in half at 08:13.
Defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron found forward Teddy Purcell in the slot, who avoided Boston defenders long enough to feed driving center Steven Stamkos (11), who shot a deadly accurate wrist shot that goaltender Tuukka Rask never had a chance to stop.
It was one of only two Stamkos shots had in the game.
“Anytime you see Stamkos coming down the middle,” Purcell told Sun Sports during second intermission, “you give him the puck.”
Purcell was the Bolts best player in the game, saving a goal in the third period with his hustle defense and tallying two assists in the game.
The Bolts managed to tie it in the second during a long sequence of action-packed, fast-paced play that provided a good amount of the aforementioned entertaining hockey.
They drew even when Purcell and Stamkos started a nice rush down the ice, setting up center Cory Conacher (6), who buried a shot after being left wide open on the left-wing.
The Lightning amped up its aggressiveness in the second, nearly taking the lead on forward Martin St. Louis’ breakaway halfway through.
However, Boston recovered quickly, taking the puck right back up the ice and scoring courtesy of forward Brad Marchand (9) to take the lead back.
The goal, coming just minutes before second intermission, turned out to be a back-breaker for the Lightning.
They failed to capitalize on a roughing penalty by Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara that carried over from the second into the third and nor much later, he made them pay.
Chara set up Horton (6) for his second goal of the game by firing the puck towards the net for a deflection early in the third.
The goal gave the Bruins a 4-2 lead and they never looked back as the Lightning failed to threaten until pulling Lindback with under two minutes to go.
Coming off a stretch of eight games in 16 days — arguably the most accommodating the schedule will be to the Bolts all year — Tampa Bay now heads out on a stretch of nine games in fifteen days, including two back-to-backs in the next two weeks.
Coach Guy Boucher says the shortened schedule makes it hard on every team to get in a rhythm.
“You can’t create habits because you can’t practice,” he said.
Simple as that. But they aren’t facing anything that any other team isn’t. The Lightning has to start scoring first and giving itself leads to work with in games.
Tampa Bay’s difficult stretch will start Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes in the first of a back-to-back that will take place this weekend. The puck drops at 7 p.m. ET in Carolina in a key divisional match-up.
The two teams now sit tied atop the Southeast Division with 17 points.
After a quick turnaround, the Bolts have to be in Pittsburgh to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins Sunday night.
The Bruins, on the other hand, will play just one game this weekend. They face off against the Florida Panthers in Sunrise, starting Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. ET.