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Burns: 3 things from a dismal performance in New York

Lightning beat writer Bryan Burns recaps the Bolts 6-1 loss to the Rangers

by Bryan Burns /

What started out as a promising road trip for the Tampa Bay Lightning with wins in their first two games has quickly turned into a nightmare.

After a tough but excusable loss in Montreal when the Lightning let a 1-0 lead in the third period slip away against a hot team, the Bolts dropped both ends of a back-to-back set in the NY/NJ metro area, falling 3-1 to the Devils on Saturday before getting pounded by the Rangers 6-1 on Sunday.

Tampa Bay will try to salvage the trip when it concludes the six-game roadie Tuesday against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center.

A number of things Sunday led to the Bolts worst regular season loss since a 5-0 defeat at the hands of the Boston Bruins on October 19, 2013.

We'll touch on the most glaring in our 3 Things from Sunday's loss to the Rangers.  

Video: Cooper on loss to New York Rangers1. ODD-MAN OUT

The number of odd-man rushes the Lightning gave up in the 6-1 loss to New York was puzzling and troublesome.

By one account, that number reached 11 in the second period alone.

"That's why it was 6-1," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "It was breakaway after breakaway after 2-on-1. Not even the best goalies in the world are going to bail you out of that."

So what led to the plethora of odd-man rushes?
"It's just no defensive awareness," Lightning blueliner Anton Stralman said. "We know we played a team that likes to put pucks in areas and skate onto it and play fast defensively. We just let them do that. We didn't look over our shoulder, we just kind of let them go past us and when we turned pucks over, they hurt us a lot."

The Lightning shifted their defensive pairings against the Rangers. Stralman, who has paired for nearly every game of his Tampa Bay career with Victor Hedman, played with Jason Garrison. Hedman started the game with Andrej Sustr.

Through most of the first period, the Lightning hadn't put the same pair of defensemen on the ice at all really.

Could that have been the issue?
"No, I don't think so," Stralman answered. "I think the structure, we're just not following what we're supposed to do. It's tough to win games when you get away from your team structure and you're not doing what you're supposed to do. It's hard to play when everybody's kind of on their own page. It's tough to win games like that."

The Bolts better get on the same page, and quickly, or more results like what happened Sunday at Madison Square Garden could follow.

Video: Bishop on loss to Rangers2. BANG, BANG, BANG

If you only watched the first period of Sunday's game against the Rangers and went to sleep, you'd probably wake up the next morning feeling pretty good about the Lightning's chances to pull out a win.

The 6-1 loss came that unexpectedly, the Bolts looking solid after the first 20 minute and then completely falling apart. Sure, they still couldn't net a goal in the first period, now eight times in nine games the Bolts have failed to do so. But they created chances and dictated play for stretches, more so than the Rangers.

In the second period, however, the wheels fell off.

Rick Nash benefitted from a timely bounce on a loose puck to spring a breakaway and shoot past Ben Bishop for the game's first goal 4:45 into the second period.

Michael Grabner netted his first of three goals a little less than two minutes later.

Before that goal could even be announced over the PA system, the Rangers had another in the back of the net.

Three goals in a span of 2:19, and all the hard work the Bolts put in during the first period had been erased.

Effectively, the game was over at that point.

"To be honest, I felt pretty good about our first," Cooper said. "We killed off a couple penalties, and we had some chances. They had some chances, but I think you leave that period thinking, 'That game is easily up for grabs.' And then it was just the odd-man rushes and stuff we're prepared for too. And then it just got to a point where the harder they tried, the worse it got. Anytime you're going down and it's 4-on-1 with a bunch of skilled players and the puck ends up in your net five seconds later, you know it's not a good night."

The Rangers tacked one more goal on late in the second when J.T. Miller scored his third of the season to go up 4-0.

After that, the third period just became an exercise in trying to avoid getting anybody hurt.


The start to the 2016-17 season sure feels a lot like the one the Lightning went through in 2015-16.

Both seasons started brightly, the Bolts winning three games to start each.

Both hit major speedbumps as the calendar turned from October to November.

Tampa Bay dropped its third-straight game in regulation when it fell to the Rangers in Madison Square Garden on Sunday.

The last time the Lightning lost three regulation games in a row?

October 27-31, when the Bolts fell 2-0 in St. Louis before dropping a pair of home games 2-1 to Colorado and 3-1 to Boston.

As a result, the Lightning lingered around the basement of the Atlantic Division through much of the month of November and into December until they finally hit their stride and began playing like the playoff team Bolts' fans had come to expect.

Let's hope this year's team doesn't take so long to turn things around.

Bolts goaltender Ben Bishop, for one, isn't ready to concede 2016-17 is a repeat of 2015-16.

"That's a long time ago," Bishop said. "We've played a lot of hockey between now and then. I don't really, to be honest, remember last year. We're just going to focus on now. It's a tough little streak here, and it's just about turning the page. We're not going to sit here and feel sorry for ourselves. We don't expect other people to feel sorry for ourselves, so it's just about turning the page here and getting ready for Brooklyn."

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