The troubling trend of slow starts and low effort continues in an ugly loss to the Bruins.

Coming off of a 2-0 shutout win over the Buffalo Sabres, the Tampa Bay Lightning made their way over to Massachusetts to take on the Boston Bruins. Andrei Vasilevskiy was tasked with taking on the Bruins on the second game of the back-to-back set of games on the road. The Sabres win kept the Lightning from their first three-game losing streak of the season. Historically, Tampa Bay has not found much success in Boston. That continued Wednesday night as the Lightning attempted to mount a three-goal comeback, but ultimately fell to the Bruins 3-2.

The one roster change of the night was J.T. Brown drawing back into the line-up after missing three games with an undisclosed injury. He replaced Slater Koekkoek with Jon Cooper opting to go back to playing twelve forwards and six defensemen.

The lines to start the game are as follows.

Vladislav NamestnikovSteven Stamkos – Nikita Kucherov
Ondrej PalatBrayden PointYanni Gourde
Alex KillornCedric Paquette – J.T. Brown
Chris KunitzTyler JohnsonRyan Callahan

Victor Hedman – Dan Girardi
Mikhail SergachevAnton Stralman
Braydon Coburn – Andrej Sustr

Andrei Vasilevskiy in net

First Period

The first period did not start so great. The Lightning spent most of the period in their own zone desperately trying to play defense against a formidable Bruins roster. They had trouble retrieving pucks and when they did, they had trouble making it through the neutral zone to enter the zone. It took until almost six minutes into the game before the Lightning picked up their first shot on goal coming from Steven Stamkos.

The Bruins appeared to open the scoring 7:27 into the period on a Charlie McAvoy right point shot. The referee down low immediately waved off the goal for goaltender interference as Brad Marchand had encroached on the blue paint and hampered Vasilevskiy from coming out to the top of the crease to position himself for the save. The Bruins challenged the ruling and the referees went to their tiny tablets to determine if goaltender interference had occurred.

They decided that no interference had taken place and awarded the goal to the Bruins to put them up 1-0.

You’d think that the Lightning would respond to the goal and come out with some more energy and effort. Instead, the Bruins continued to steamroll the Lightning with many sequences of the Lightning being hemmed into their own zone. The Bruins were stronger on the puck, faster retrieving pucks along the wall, and getting clean shots on Vasilevskiy.

The Bruins capitalized once again with just under three minutes left on a two-on-two rush. Braydon Coburn made a bit of an odd decision to cross over to the right side coming through the neutral zone to challenge Danton Heinen carrying the puck. Andrej Sustr was left in the middle of the ice and reacted late to Riley Nash entering the zone on the right wing side. The pass made it over to Nash and he snapped the puck home past Vasilevskiy on the glove side. 2-0 Bruins.

With the Bruins up 2-0 in goals and 19-5 in shots on goal, the Boston arena management will likely need to repaint the visitor’s locker room after Jon Cooper is done peeling the paint in the first intermission.

Second Period

With such a horrible first period, Cooper hit the blender button on the forward lines and mixed things up to start the second period. The lines continued to change throughout the period.

It didn’t take long for things to heat up though. Cedric Paquette came down behind the net and hit Torey Krug from behind into the boards. The referee immediately raised his arm for the penalty. Frank Vatrano unhappy with the hit made a bee line for Paquette and stuck out his foot to trip Paquette. Vatrano got up and immediately made a run at Paquette to try and fight him. A melee ensued, but the linesmen intervened quickly. Paquette got a minor for boarding and a minor for roughing, while Vatrano was given a minor for roughing and a minor for tripping to keep the game at even strength.

The fiestiness continued as Sergachev jawed with Marchand. Sergachev gave him a tap to the skates. Marchand responded in kind. Sergachev gave him a little shove to the chest and Marchand dropped like a bag of potatoes to the ice. The referees were not impressed by his show and gave Marchand an embellishing penalty to go with Sergachev’s minor for interference.

The Lightning did not look good during the four-on-four that followed. A tired group was caught on the ice with the Bruins being harder and faster on the pucks. Ryan Spooner came out of the corner with the puck and backhanded a pass across the ice to a waiting Krug for a one-timer that beat Vasilevskiy trying to come across. 3-0 Bruins.

The reconstituted fourth line of Kunitz, Paquette, and Callahan put in a great shift to hem in the Bruins and finally break through on the scoreboard. Andrej Sustr retrieved a puck off of a Braydon Coburn missed shot and snapped a wrister at the net from the right point. With Kunitz and Callahan, plus a couple Bruins in front of the net, Sustr’s shot found it’s way between Rask’s body and left arm to break the shutout. 3-1 Bruins lead. Coburn and Kunitz got the assists on the goal. Oh, and it’s Sustr’s birthday, too.

Tyler Johnson came very close to scoring a goal as he made a power move to the net to get beyond McAvoy. His shot though hit the far post and came straight across and stayed out. The referee signaled a goal and Johnson raised his arms in celebration. He was then cross checked hard in the back causing yet another dust up behind the net where the referees declined to call a penalty. Upon review, the on-ice call was reversed and was ruled no goal.

The rest of the second period did not go much better. Braydon Coburn got kneed by David Backes (which also went uncalled) and appeared to be in pain on the bench afterwards. He did not play the last four minutes of the period, but would return to the ice in the third period.

The second period ended with the Lightning generating a couple more shots than the first period, but still allowed 13 shots on goal to the Bruins. The Bruins still led in shots on goal 32-12 after two periods of play.

Third Period

The line blender continued into the beginning of the second period and it didn’t take long for the Lightning to get an advantage. Kucherov cleared the puck out of the zone and Brandon Carlo checked him into the boards to get called for interference giving the Lightning a power play opportunity 45 seconds into the period.

Needing something to get back into the game, the power play unit came through in a big way. After a rough start to the power play, there was a partial change that saw Kucherov and Stamkos staying out while the rest changed for the second unit. Sergachev at the center point passed the puck over to Kucherov who had his stick high in the air and ready for a one-timer. Rask skidded to his left on his knees to make the stop and Kucherov slap passed the puck across to Stamkos who was waiting to one-time it into the back of the yawning cage. 3-2 Bruins. Assists on the goal to Kucherov and Sergachev.

The Stamkos goal seemed to perk the Lightning up a bit and put the Bruins on their heels. By the half-way mark of the third period, the Lightning had put five shots on goal matching their first period total and just two short of their second period total.

As the period started to wind down, the Lightning finally turned on the jets with a lot of effort, but it still wasn’t leading to shots on net. With a minute and a half to go, Vasilevskiy headed to the bench for the extra attacker. The Bruins iced the puck with 1:03 to go in the period and Cooper called a timeout to give a talk to his players.

The Lightning lost the faceoff but quickly were able to get the puck under their control. They managed to get a shot off before the Bruins iced it again to force another big faceoff with 14.1 seconds. The Lightning won the faceoff to Kucherov for a quick shot, but it was deflected out of play. The next faceoff was lost by the Lightning. A scramble for the puck ensued with the Bruins coming away with it and icing the puck once again. 2.5 seconds to go. The Lightning were able to combine for a faceoff win, but Palat couldn’t get the puck cleanly to Stamkos and the game ended without another shot on goal.

Bruins win 3-2.

Conclusions

Simply a sloppy game by the Lightning. Only the Bruins slacking off in the third period and Vasilevskiy coming up with some key saves even gave the Lightning an opportunity to get back into the game. In the end, the effort was way too little, way too late. This theme has continued over four games now and is a worrying trend. Cooper tried to find some chemistry by mixing up the lines, but it did little to spark anything for the team.

The Lightning will now head home to Tampa. Cooper is likely to ride the team hard in practice over the next couple days before the San Jose Sharks game on Saturday night. I expect there will be plenty of shake ups in the lines. I also would not be surprised to see a call-up to try to spark something on the third line.

Cory Conacher has been the Crunch’s best forward all season and scored a goal in the one game he played during his two-game call-up at the beginning of this road trip. Matthew Peca has also picked up his play recently and has gotten a couple goals over the past few games for the Crunch. Adam Erne could have been a possibility, but he was injured in tonight’s game against the Toronto Marlies and his status is unknown. Michael Bournival is also a guy with a ton of speed and energy that could potentially spark something in the bottom six.

Lightning do need to figure out their problems and their effort level. They’ve lost their hunger that they had to start the season and it’s time to get it back and figure out how to hang on to it throughout the season.


Article first appeared on www.draysbay.com