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Burns: 3 Things from a loss to Calgary

Lightning beat writer Bryan Burns recaps the Bolts 5-1 loss to Calgary

by Bryan Burns / TampaBayLightning.com

Over the course of an 82-game season, not all contests are going to go according to plan.

Such was the case for the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday night in their final game before a week-long break.

The Lightning were overrun by the Calgary Flames 5-1, the Flames scoring four-consecutive goals after Brayden Point leveled the score 1-1 just 31 seconds into the second period.

"It was just one of those games," Bolts head coach Jon Cooper explained in his post-game comments.

More concerning for the Bolts, however, is an injury sustained by All-Star defenseman Victor Hedman, who left the game midway through the second with a lower-body injury and didn't return.

The Lightning head into the extended break in pretty good shape still. They own a NHL-best 31-10-3 record. They're 12 points clear of their nearest rivals in the Atlantic Division, Boston and Toronto. They're eight points ahead of Washington atop the Eastern Conference race.

The uncertainty surrounding Hedman puts a damper on a spectacular start to the season, however.

We'll break down all of Thursday night's action in Three Things we learned from a blowout loss to Calgary.

Video: CGY@TBL: Hedman leaves game with lower-body injury

1. THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

The 2017-18 campaign for the Tampa Bay Lightning has been relatively adversity free.

That might have changed on Thursday.

Midway through the second period, Bolts defenseman Victor Hedman took a knee-on-knee hit from the Flames' Garnet Hathaway and was in immediate discomfort. Hedman immediately left the ice and needed assistance heading down the tunnel into the locker room.

As the second period came to a conclusion, the team announced Hedman had sustained a lower-body injury and would not return.

If you were making a list of players the Lightning could ill-afford to lose, you'd be hard-pressed not to put Hedman in your top two. He's certainly the most indispensable member of the Bolts' blueline.

He leads the team for time on ice and ranks sixth in the NHL. He's the leading scorer among the Lightning defensemen and ranks third among NHL blueliners. He's one of the rare, coveted defenseman in the League who can shut down another team's best scorers while generating offense on his own.

In short, he can take over a game.

"He's arguably the best, or top three, or whatever you want to call it, defenseman in the league," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said following the game. "He's a huge part of this team, a huge part of this locker room and it's unfortunate to see him go down like that. You can't replace a guy like that, but we'll have to wait and see what happens."

At least for now, it looks like the Lightning will have to learn how to win without him.

For how long is unknown.

"It's a lower-body injury. He's going to get tested tomorrow, so I guess we'll see the extent of what's wrong."

If there's a silver lining, Hedman also missed a month-long stretch of the season in 2014-15, and the Lightning were able to persevere in his absence.

Hopefully, history doesn't repeat itself and Hedman is able to return in a relatively short amount of time.
"Often how Heddy goes is how we go," Cooper said. "We have some elite players on this team, but on the back end, he's kind of our rock back there. He plays nearly half the game in all situations. He can help dictate a lot of the play of how we're doing things. It's not like we haven't lost him before. I guess the big worry would be if it's long term, but, again, it's hard to say…If he's out for a bit, it would probably have a little impact on our team."

 Video: TBL Recap: Point nets lone goal in 5-1 loss to Flames

2. ENERGY DROPS AFTER HEDMAN EXITS
When Hedman exited the game, the Lightning were still tied 1-1 with the Flames.

Soon after, however, Calgary scored a pair of goals late in the second period, sending a Lightning team that had played a pretty decent game up to that point into the second intermission with a 3-1 deficit.

Calgary added to its lead a little over two minutes into the third period, and at that point, there was little doubt about the result.

Certainly, Calgary's play had a bit to do with the 5-1 loss, the Lightning's largest margin of defeat this season.

But even more so, Tampa Bay lost a lot of its energy and its compete once it saw one of its leaders struggling to make his way to the locker room and learned he wouldn't be returning.

"It's one of those games where I think sometimes you deserve a little better fate and it doesn't work out," Stamkos said. "I don't know if we kind of lost a little life when Heddy went down there, guys are obviously thinking about him. It sucked a little momentum because guys are worried about what's going on with Heddy. I don't know if that was a factor, but I thought it was just one of those nights where maybe the score didn't dictate the actual play. It happens."

3. A MUCH-NEEDED BREAK

On Thursday, the Lightning completed a stretch of nine games in 15 days with five of those games coming on the road.

During that extended road trip through Canada bookended by stops in the Midwest, the Bolts had to deal with bitterly cold temperatures and resulting weather delays that kept them from reaching their next stop until well into the early morning.

They missed a number of scheduled practices because of the late arrivals, which could help explain why the Bolts have given up 17 goals over the last four games.

The Lightning wanted to go into their week-long break on a positive with a victory Thursday night over Calgary. But more than anything, they just wanted to go into their week-long break. They need a rest from the grind of an 82-game regular season.

"I think it's coming at a good time half way through the season," Bolts defenseman Anton Stralman said. "Most guys have something they're fighting and it's always good to get a couple days to both physically and mentally get away from it a little bit."

The schedule gets tougher for the Lightning before it gets better. When they return, they have one last home game in January versus Vegas and then play the next eight on the road, with a small break in between for the All-Star Game. 

"You hope you can get into the break and win that last game before the break," Cooper said. "Unfortunately, we didn't but we played some pretty good hockey down the stretch…You've just got to weather through this next stage of our schedule, but they've done a really good job…Let's take a breath, take a mental break and come back ready to go."

 

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