Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Lightning Again Fall Short

By JC De La Torre

For the Tampa Bay Lightning it equals baby steps back to respectability, for the rest of the NHL - it equals failure. Failure to earn a second point in a game they clearly had ample opportunity to win, failure to snap a long losing streak, and failure to erase the stigma of having the least victories of any team in the NHL. In the end, the Lightning gave a clinic on how to fail, falling in overtime to the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3.

Mike Smith did not play one of his better games last night, managing a very un-Smith-like .875 save percentage. Jeff Carter opened up the scoring for the Flyers on the power play early in the first as his seeing-eye blast some how found a hole and snuck past Smith to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead. The Lightning would answer back with former Flyer Mark Recchi putting in a rebound on the power play to tie it at 1 with 9:10 left in the 1st. With 2:33 left in the first, Scottie Upshall was given a 5 minute major and a game misconduct for viciously boarding Evgeny Artyukhin - giving Tampa Bay a full five minutes of power play time. They failed to take advantage during the final 2:33 of the 1st period and it carried over to the second.

Unfortunately, it would be a scoreless second where both teams failed on the man-advantage. During the period, Tampa Bay goalie Mike Smith violently collided with Vaclav Prospal's shinpad with 5:50 left in the period while making a save on Scott Harnell. Smith was down for a few minutes before continuing. Each teams had their opportunities but could not cash in, which would lead to a third period with Tampa Bay carrying over a power play thanks to a late penalty by Luca Sbisa for tripping Ryan Malone.

It wouldn't help Tampa Bay as a turnover led to Mike Richard's short handed goal, giving the Flyers a 2-1 lead. With the Flyers back on the power play, Jeff Carter would get his second of the game at the 4:36 mark of the 3rd period, another softie that got past Smith. On the ensuing face off, Ossi Vaananen was called for hooking the Lightning's Vaclav Prospal, setting up a power play chance for Tampa Bay. The Bolts would waste little time taking advantage, as at the 4:57, Prospal would pound in a power play goal to draw the Lightning within one at 3-2. It would stay that way until 4:35 left in regulation, when former Flyer Steve Downie deposited a rebound of a Radek Smolenak shot to tie the game at 3. It was the fiesty Downie's first goal as a member of the Lightning.

In the closing seconds of regulation, Ryan Malone broke loose on a breakaway but hit the post on his shot, during the chase, Philadelphia's Scott Hartnell inexplicably threw his glove at the puck. An automatic penalty shot for Malone. Malone skated in, but his attempt trickled wide to the left as Flyers goaltender Martin Biron appeared to get a glancing blow on it to change its trajectory.

Malone's failure would be compounded in overtime, when he was whistled for interefering with Biron while engaged in a scrum with a Flyers defenseman. It appeared the defenseman was pushing Malone into Biron, but he made no effort to avoid contact, thus a penalty. At 2:05 of overtime, Richards would fire a seeing eye blast past Smith, who was late reacting to the laser shot - game over - Lightning lose....again.

Tampa Bay, which hasn't had a victory since November 21st, has lost 5 straight and now is 1-3 in games decided in overtime and lead the NHL with 8 overtime losses (5 by shootout loss). The point in the standings did enable Tampa Bay to break a tie with the Atlanta Thrashers for least points in the league and moved them into 4th place in the Southeast division, 9 points behind division leader Washington.


Rays Party Leader said...

Where is the defense?! Mike Smith is They need to help him to stop the other team from camping out in front of the net. Also Vinny and Marty need to step up even though the rest of the team can't play on NHL level.

JC De La Torre said...

Believe me, I agree with you on the defense - its plane horrible...but overall it wasn't that bad Monday night, Smith was just off his game. Its not all on him, but he wasn't himself for some reason.

I think Marty and Vinny are doing all they can...they need help from the supporting cast - guys like Malone need to cash in on penalty shots and not take idiotic penalties in overtime.