The Tampa Bay Lightning had to be feeling pretty good about their performance against the Florida Panthers in Sunrise considering the makeshift lineup the Bolts had to go with due to a recent spate of injuries.
One ill-fated swing of the stick from Aaron Ekblad with 21 seconds remaining, however, completely erased any positive vibes for the Lightning.
Before Monday’s game, Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said the his team was coming to the BB&T Center to get back the point it deserved from Saturday’s 5-4 shootout loss to the Panthers.
Instead, they left feeling sucker punched yet again.
Monday’s last-second 1-0 loss to Florida might be the most difficult defeat for the Lightning to swallow so far this season.
So, can the Bolts draw any positives from Monday’s heartbreaker? Will this loss haunt them for the days to come?
We’ll try to sort through the madness in today’s 3 Things.
1. MISLEADING NUMBERS
Looking over the stat sheet, it’s hard to see how the Lightning lost this game.
They sent 39 shots at the Florida net. That’s the most shots the Lightning have produced this season and most since putting up 41 last season against the Toronto Maple Leafs (March 31).
Conversely, the Bolts held the Panthers to only 19 shots, the lowest total for any Lightning opponent in 2015-16.
The plus-20 disparity in shots on goal was the highest since a 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres last season on January 9 (plus-26).
The Lightning had more hits than the Panthers, 27 to 25
The Lightning blocked more shots than the Panthers, 11 to 10
The Bolts won 54 percent of the faceoff draws versus Monday.
The only stat the Panthers won, and unfortunately for the Bolts, the most important stat, was the score.
“It’s a game of bounces in the end,” Cooper said. “When it’s a 0-0 game, they got the one they needed.”
2. SOLID CONTRIBUTIONS
Before Monday’s game, Cooper informed the media Tampa Bay would be without Tyler Johnson, Jonathan Drouin and Cedric Paquette, creating a giant hole in the lineup for the Lightning, who were already without Ondrej Palat for an extended time frame.
Tampa Bay recalled defenseman Matt Taormina on Friday and forwards Jonathan Marchessault and Mike Blunden on Sunday from Syracuse to fill in. All three played against the Panthers and were effective under trying circumstances.
“I think all the guys that came in did a great job with Blunden and (Marchessault) coming straight from Syracuse…” Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. “Taormina played his first game of the year. A lot of guys stepped up and played really well for us. We’re excited about that.”
Marchessault had three shots on goal and added two hits.
Taormina played a little more than nine minutes and was extremely solid defensively despite playing his first NHL game in nearly two years.
And Blunden, despite seeing only five-and-a-half minutes of ice time, nearly led the team for hits with four.
3. NOT FOR LACK OF TRYING
Despite missing four starters, the Lightning played one of their better games of the season on Monday.
If the Bolts continue to put performances like that together, good things will come.
“Although it’s frustrating that we’re not getting the results we want, it is a process,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. “It’s a long year. It’s a quarter of the way done right now. It’s tough, but the more games we play like that, the more games we’re going to win than lose.”
Hedman echoed Stamkos’ sentiment.
“We’re happy with the effort tonight,” he said. “If we keep playing like that, good things will happen.”
The key for the Lightning will be to not let this loss linger into Thursday’s home game against the Metropolitan Division-leading New York Rangers.