On Tuesday morning, the Tampa Bay Lightning were 8-3-0 with 16 points, tops in the Eastern Conference. Against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night, they looked like a completely different team.
Tampa Bay looked lackadaisical at times on defense. New Jersey only took 22 shots but spent a lot of time in the Lightning zone.
They telegraphed passes. Matt Carle had a particularly bad turnover in the second period that led to a shorthanded goal for Adam Henrique.
They were sloppy with the puck, generating nine giveaways to New Jersey’s one.
They forgot to shoot. Tampa Bay took four shots in the first period, eight in the second and four in the third, for a total of 17 shots. Jon Cooper, during an in-game interview with NBC Sports, scolded his team for not generating more shots.
The power play, despite being the source of the Lightning’s only goal on the night, never really got it going. Tampa Bay just didn’t spend much time in New Jersey’s zone.
And perhaps the scariest thing of all for the Lightning was that Ben Bishop allowed just two goals, and they still managed to lose.
And you know what? That’s fine. I’m not worried.
Hockey players are humans, too. Do you go to work every day, working at a 100 percent efficiency level? Are you going to feel happy with your performance every day that you come home?
People have off days. In an 82-game season, even the best teams have some clunkers.
Maybe it’s the beginning of a terrible downward spiral, but I’m not concerned. Most of the mistakes Tampa Bay made revolved around effort, concentration and being too conservative with the puck. These are errors that can be corrected.
Chalk it up to them dealing with a lengthy recovery due to their first back-to-back of the season that took place over the weekend. Chalk it up to them suffering stage fright on national television. Chalk it up to them playing their first out-of-state road game since Oct. 8. Chalk it up to whatever you want. But the Lightning simply had an off night, and they’ll be back.
They’ll be just fine.
- The NHL rescinded Radko Gudas’ game misconduct penalty from Sunday against the Panthers. I know what you’re thinking. Whoop-de-do, that already almost cost the Bolts the game because they had to play more than 30 minutes without him, what do I care if they rescinded his penalty? However, the ruling is significant because there is an NHL rule that states that three game misconduct penalties result in an automatic one-game suspension. But now you can wind Gudas’ clock back to zero. Plus, he gets to save a cool $200.
- Ondrej Palat blocked a cannon of a shot in the third period from New Jersey defenseman Eric Gelinas and limped off in agony. It looked like he may have taken the puck directly to his left foot. However, Palat returned to the ice later in the period in his regular line rotation.
- Defensemen Keith Aulie and Mark Barberio, as usual, were the scratches for the Lightning. Here’s a fun game: Which number is higher by the end of the season? The combined total of healthy scratches between Keith Aulie and Mark Barberio or the point total of Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby? Here’s the score right now: Healthy Scratches: 20. Crosby: 20.
- Jaromir Jagr’s game-winning goal in the second period was the 119th of his career, breaking a tie with Phil Esposito for second-most all-time. Gordie Howe holds the record with 121.
- Mark your calendars: The Bolts’ Friday night game against Carolina kicks off at 7 p.m. ET and is the beginning of the Bolts’ second back-to-back of the season. They host St. Louis on Saturday. Both games will be televised on Sun Sports.
What does everybody else think?