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Flames run into an ornery Lightning team and drop a 4-3 decision in Tampa

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick /

TAMPA - The Flames may have the caught the Bolts at a bad time.

A team that won 11 straight to set a franchise record earlier this month had now lost four in a row for the first time in two years and was clearly feeling the heat.

And we don't mean the Florida sunshine.


Video: Condensed Game: Flames @ Lightning


The Lightning - who are second to the league-leading Boston Bruins in the Atlantic Division standings - took out their frustrations with a 4-3 win over the Flames on Saturday at Amalie Arena.

Andrew Mangiapane, Elias Lindholm and Sean Monahan supplied the offence, while David Rittich made 29 saves, as the Flames fell to 2-1-1 on the road trip.

The Lightning opened the scoring with a powerplay goal at 13:52. With time at the left point, Mikhail Sergachev looked off and put a 45-foot wrister toward the net. Tyler Johnson - head up, and stationed between the hash marks - got a piece of it en route, redirecting the shot between the wickets for his 14th of the year.

The Flames appeared to even the score only a few minutes later when Andrew Mangiapane, Matthew Tkachuk and the white-hot Mikael Backlund went to work with a strong, workmanlike shift in enemy territory. But, after punching the pill across the goal line, thanks to a great feed from Tkachuk In tight, the video showed that Backlund clearly kicked at it, swiping it home in illegal fashion.

Shots on goal favoured the Lightning 12-6 after one.

The Flames had nice pushback after falling behind 1-0, with the Milan Lucic-Derek Ryan-Dillon Dube trio doing some cycle work during a prolonged shift late in the stanza.

Dube, in particular, was involved early, as he took a terrific bank pass from Noah Hanifin earlier in the game and rifled a shot off the near post.

Overall, though, the Flames were slow out of the gates in the second period, and soon found themselves down a man when Sean Monahan was flagged for hooking.

That proved costly.

The Bolts opened up a two-goal lead at 7:05 when Ondrej Palat put a lucky one past Rittich. Nikita Kucherov delivered a beautiful seam pass and Palat loaded up at the far circle. Derek Forbort's effort to block the Palat shot had the opposite effect, as he the puck caromed off the shaft of his cue, down toward the ice, before taking a crazy hop back up where eluded the netminder.

The Flames, meanwhile, recorded their first shot of the period shortly thereafter - nearly nine minutes into the middle session.

The Flames had a great chance to get back in the game with their first powerplay of the night, thanks to the dogged work of Dube on the forecheck, but the PP was nothing short of a disaster.

The Bolts had three or four great looks before the fifth - a wicked shot off the stick of Yanni Gourde - beat Rittich to make it a 3-0 game.

Rittich was under siege for the entirety of the Flames powerplay, and even came up with a beautiful breakaway stop off Barclay Goodrow moments earlier.

But the Flames weren't going quietly.

Mangiapane got the visitors on the board with a soft shot through the wickets that Andrei Vasilevskiy most definitely want back.

But a goal's a goal and the Flames were back within two, all the same.


Video: CGY@TBL: Mangiapane beats Vasilevskiy from the circle


Less than a minute later, Lindholm took a pass from Erik Gustafsson at the right circle, lowered his head and bombed a shot through traffic, beating Vasilevskiy through the pads.

It may have gone off a defender en route.


Video: CGY@TBL: Lindholm nets slap shot off defender


With the momentum all in Calgary's favour, Tampa got it right back with a pretty goal off the rush.

Newcomer Blake Coleman made an incredible pass to spring Alex Killorn, allowing the winger to gather speed, split the D, and deke to the backhand, putting the Bolts up 4-2.

All three goals came in a span of only 1:45.

The Lightning had the territorial edge in the third, but special teams can be a great equalizer. Erik Cernak took a bad penalty with 2:56 to play, and the Flames capitalized on the man-advantage. Lindholm made a fabulous play to set up Monahan, and No. 23 made no mistake in tight.

4-3, with plenty of time left.

The Flames battled right the buzzer, but were unable to pot the equalizer.




"They didn't give us much tonight - held us to a low number of shots, especially early on in the game, and they capitalized on their chances. ... They've got some dangerous guys over there, and their goalie played well when he had to in the third. Just not enough tonight. Not nearly enough."


"Overall, we didn't play 60 good minutes to win against one of the best in the league. We had some minutes here and there, but not good enough."


"They pack it in tight and their forwards, they come really hard to the points, they front shots and it's hard to get pucks through. What we were trying to do was generate some motion. ... Was hoping our luck would change after the last game, but we couldn't find a way to bang one home on the 6-on-5."


Video: Mark Giordano gives his take on the loss in Tampa



"They're a good team, but we gave them too many powerplays. When their skill guys get the puck like that and are on the powerplay, they start feeling it and get momentum from that. We've got to learn from that and be better."


"It's tough, especially when it's due to a line change. We gave them the middle of the ice. ... We had a defenceman changing late and the other guy couldn't get into the play, so a couple things happened there. But to give up a winning goal on a line change at this time of year is ... that's hard."


"They played harder than we did today for longer. I thought we were good in spurts, but we needed to be better more often in the hockey game. They skated well - I thought they competed real hard and looked like a team who'd lost their last four and were desperate for a win. I would say that's a fair assessment. They played hard enough to win the game tonight."


"I think the biggest thing is that when you're standing (still), it makes it easy for them, in their structure, to make things happen. When you start moving and are prepared to get pucks in behind - a couple times we were able to get pucks in off bank plays and stuff - we were able to get some attack out of it. But you have to be willing to be coming through with speed, be willing to keep the puck moving ahead and have support; make sure you get some lane changes so you're going through the holes in the wall, as opposed to straight at guys. All those things make a difference getting through the neutral zone."


Video: "They played harder than we did, for longer."



The Lightning were without captain Steven Stamkos for the second straight game, and it's going to a while yet before the sniper returns to action. Just prior to the games, the Bolts that announced that he would miss the next 6-8 weeks with a core muscle injury that will require surgery. Stamkos will miss the remainder of the regular season, and likely the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs as well. In 57 games this year, the 30-year-old has 29 goals and 66 points.



Here are the forward lines, D pairings and goalie to start the game:


Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Elias Lindholm
Matthew Tkachuk - Mikael Backlund - Andrew Mangiapane
Milan Lucic - Derek Ryan - Dillon Dube
Tobias Rieder - Mark Jankowski - Sam Bennett

Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie
Noah Hanifin - Rasmus Andersson
Derek Forbort - Erik Gustafsson

David Rittich



It's the end of the road. A season-long, five-game road trip comes to a close tomorrow when the Flames visit the Florida Panthers (2 p.m. MT; Sportsnet West, Sportsnet 960 THE FAN). The team then returns home to the Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday, Mar. 4 when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first of a five-game homestand (click here for tickets).

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