Friday, November 28, 2008

Matinee No Better for Bolts

By JC De La Torre

The Tampa Bay Lightning had a rare midday matinee performance against the Minnesota Wild. Unfortunately for the Bolts, it ended pretty much the same way most of the games in November have, in a 4-2 defeat. Perhaps no team in the NHL will be more happy to see the month of November come to a close as the Lightning, who finish up the month at Colorado tomorrow night. Tampa Bay is now 3-6-4 in November.

The Lightning were competitive from the drop of the puck for a change. The first typically is the worst for Tampa Bay but in this one they were only outshot 11-8, controlling play most of the period. Tampa Bay killed off a 5-on-3 man advantage early in the first period after questionable call on Steven Stamkos for boarding. and an additional penalty to the Lightning bench for "Abuse of an Official". Tampa Bay went right on the power play with a call the Wild's Antti Miettinen for tripping. The Lightning got several chances but failed to cash in, the last as the power play expired, Vaclav Prospal clanked one off the goalposts. Minnesota would open up the scoring at the 12:07 mark of the first when a shot by Owen Nolan deflected of Lightning goalie Mike Smith and into the net. In the closing seconds of the period, the Lightning back on the power play, Radim Vrbata would redirect a Steven Stamkos slap shot into the net to tie the game with 0:40 left in the first.

The second period has been the Bolts strongest all season and today was no different, Tampa Bay controlled play in the second, outshooting the Wild 10-8 and cashing in on Ryan Malone's 3rd goal in as many games. his 6th of the season. After two, Tampa Bay led 2-1.

The Lightning played extremely well in the 3rd period, outshooting Minnesota 19-14, but the bounces just seemed to not go their way. Wild Center James Sheppard, who game into the game with 5 career goals in 98 NHL games tapped in a Marc-Andre Bergeron slapper to tie the game at 2. Then at the 6:10 mark of the Third, Bergeron would set up Mikko Koivu on the eventual game winner on his backhand, giving the Wild a 3-2 lead. Tampa Bay did get a golden opportunity to tie the game when Nick Schultz got called for highsticking with 3:55 left in the game. A frustrated Mikko Koivu got called for unsportsmanlike conduct and the Lightning had a full two man advantage. Tampa Bay peppered Wild Goaltender Niklas Backstrom with six shots, mostly from long range but could not find the back of the net. Eric Belanger would score the empty netter sealing the win for Minnesota.

Tampa Bay falls to 6-9-7 on the season and has lost eight of their last nine (including shoot out losses). The Lightning remain with 19pts, good for 3rd place in the Southeast division and 8 points behind the Washington Capitals.

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