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Burns: 3 things from a home loss to Anaheim

Poor special teams, a late 2nd period goal and a rusty Peter Budaj doom the Bolts

by Bryan Burns / TampaBayLightning.com

Obviously, the Tampa Bay Lightning weren't going to win all 41 games at AMALIE Arena this season.

Still, that first loss at home, especially after starting the year 6-0-0 and playing edge-of-your-seat hockey for all six, is hard to stomach.

Anaheim came into AMALIE Arena on Saturday and dominated the Lightning. Where bigger, physical teams that clog up the neutral zone like St. Louis and Detroit failed to slow down the Bolts' attack, the Ducks succeeded. Anaheim neutralized Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, ending their dual season-opening 11-game scoring streaks in the process, and shut down the Lightning's vaunted power play to hand the Bolts just their second regulation loss in 12 games.

Where did it all go wrong? And why weren't the Lightning able to maintain the momentum they'd generated this season at AMALIE Arena?

In Three Things, we'll break down the disappointing 4-1 loss and look at how the Bolts can prevent can get back in the win column.

1. LOSING THE SPECIAL TEAMS BATTLE

Tampa Bay's special teams helped them win nine of 11 games coming into Saturday's contest.

Against Anaheim, however, both the power play and penalty kill units let them down.

Anaheim scored on its only two power plays, both coming in the second period. Rickard Rakell used the screen of Corey Perry to snipe a shot from the right dot past Lightning goaltender Peter Budaj for the game's opening goal at 10:13 of the middle frame.

About seven minutes later, Brandon Montour netted a shot from the left circle, again though a bit of a screen, to put the Ducks up 2-0.

Two power plays

Two goals for the Ducks

And a deficit that would prove to be insurmountable for the Bolts.

Meanwhile, a Lightning power play that had scored goals in 10 of 11 games and led the league for power-play markers coming into Saturday's contest couldn't get uncorked. The Lightning had plenty of zone time on their handful of power plays, but weren't able to string together enough good passes to make it count. Too often the final pass that could have resulted in a Grade A scoring chance was too far in front or slightly behind or tipped away by a Ducks penalty killer.

"They scored two power-play goals; our power play didn't get any tonight," Stamkos said. "That's a big reason (for the loss)."

2. THE DEFLATING GOAL

Despite going down 2-0, the Lightning got new life when Chris Kunitz pushed a rebound past Anaheim goalie John Gibson less than a minute after the Ducks' second goal to re-energize AMALIE Arena and get the Bolts back in the game.

Video: ANA@TBL: Kunitz pots rebound past sprawled goaltender

But nearly as quickly as the Lightning cut the deficit, Anaheim pushed it back to two with one of the more deflating goals the Bolts have surrendered all season. Hampus Lindholm's shot from the slot beat Bolts goalie Peter Budaj and crossed the goal line with 0.1 seconds remaining in the period to send a jubilant Anaheim team into the locker room with plenty of momentum.

"We go on a rush with 12 seconds left. We turn the puck over," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "If you told me with 12 seconds and us going up ice it was going to be in our net 11-and-a-half seconds later, I would have laughed at you. But sure enough, it was in the back of our net, 3-1, and that was it. Game over."

Any chance the Lightning had of getting back in the game was summarily squashed by Lindholm's last-second heave toward the net. Had Tampa Bay come out for the third period down only a goal, chances are the game would have had a different outcome.

"We go in 2-1, who knows how we come out in the third," Cooper said. "To actually have a little bit of life, to go down 3-1, it's a deflator."

And it was a goal the Lightning never recovered from.

3. TOUGH-LUCK BUDAJ

Peter Budaj again had a solid effort in goal, playing just his second game in 23 days since the start of the regular season.

Unlike his first outing in New Jersey when his defense hung him out to dry a bit and he was torched for three goals in the opening period before settling down and allowing his team to come away with a point, Budaj was sharp from the start against Anaheim.

Video: ANA@TBL: Budaj denies Getzlaf's breakaway chance

His defense did a better job protecting him too, blocking shots, stepping in passing lanes and tipping as many pucks away from Budaj as possible.

Anaheim, though, benefitted from a pair of power-play markers, using screens on both to prevent Budaj from picking up either.

And then there was the third goal that completely sucked the life out of the Bolts.

"The life of a backup goalie is a tough one," Cooper said. "Peter's a pro at it. By no means is that game on him. They scored two power-play goals and then a bomb from the point to make it 3-1 and no chance, bad coverage on the fourth one, and that's it. I'm just disappointed in the performance we put in front of him."

Budaj fell to 0-1-1 on the season, but he shouldn't shoulder the blame for the two losses.

In fact, the Lightning should feel confident they have a capable backup goaltender who can help them win games.

Now they just have to figure out a way to play better in front of him so he can actually start stacking up some of those wins.

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