The Tampa Bay Lightning will look back on Thursday's game against the Nashville Predators and wonder how they lost.
The Lightning generated 43 shots toward the Nashville net and only surrendered 24 on their own goal.
The Bolts pretty much controlled play from the start of the second period on.
And scoring chances came pretty much nonstop in the third.
Nashville, however, was opportunistic on their limited looks, scoring twice in the opening period to take a 2-0 lead into the first intermission and holding firm under the Bolts' barrage of shots to escape AMALIE Arena with a 4-1 victory.
Thursday's game was billed as a showdown between the top two teams in the NHL, at least at this point of the season, and the action on the ice lived up to the hype.
There was a lot the Lightning liked about their play.
The scoreboard? Not so much.
"You look overall, it was a good hockey game," Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman said following the defeat. "They got the goals. We didn't."
Video: Cooper | Postgame NSH 4, TBL 1
1. THE BACKBREAKER
As the first period drew to a close, Nashville, already up 1-0, tacked on another goal right before the buzzer sounded in demoralizing fashion.
Ryan Johansen had control of the puck along the left boards with less than 10 seconds remaining, and, with no repercussions for a bad turnover in the middle of the ice, threw a behind-the-back, no-look pass onto the back post, where Roman Josi had eluded his containment and was able to redirect a shot into the open net with 6.4 seconds on the clock.
A one-goal deficit wouldn't have been too much for the Lightning to overcome, especially with the way they played after the first intermission.
A two-goal deficit proved to be too deep a hole to climb out of.
"Unfortunately, that goal at the end of the first period hurt us," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper lamented. "To give that one up, that was just a breakdown in coverage. After that, there was nothing else we could have done other than put a puck in the back of the net."
The Lightning didn't play a bad period of hockey in the first period. Aside from the goals, you could argue they were even with the Predators.
Nashville, though, took advantage of its limited opportunities. Kyle Turris got a ridiculous tip on a puck from the slot -- I'm not even sure he know the puck was coming -- to send Mattias Ekholm's shot from the left point past Andrei Vasilevskiy.
And then the real kick in the rear end came at the end of the first, just a momentary lapse in coverage that allowed Josi to get free on the back post and an unbelievable play by Johansen to set him up and suddenly the Lightning were down by two goals when it felt like they probably should have been tied heading into the first intermission.
"You don't want to give that away when there's only five, six seconds left," Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman said. "It's always tough. You look at that period, and I thought we played some good hockey. That one hurt though."
Video: NSH@TBL: Koekkoek beats Rinne from the circle
2. OH SO CLOSE
Mathieu Joseph didn't register a point in Thursday's 4-1 loss to Nashville.
But he was responsible for the Lightning's only goal, despite not picking up an assist.
And, truth be told, he probably should have netted his first career NHL goal.
He was the best player on the ice for the Lightning and earned Second Star honors as a result.
"Too bad tonight, I thought he was going to get his first [goal] tonight," Cooper said. "He had some exceptional chances. It's too bad because he doesn't get a point on a goal tonight, but he should have. He's the reason that anything happened was his relentless effort on that play, so I thought he had a really strong game."
Joseph showed off his speed in outracing Rocco Grimaldi to a puck lifted into the offensive zone and to initially grab possession. Grimaldi was able to pry the puck away from Joseph, but Joseph never gave up on the play, chasing Grimaldi down behind the net and eventually forcing a turnover. Joseph continued to battle Grimaldi for possession and got some support from Anthony Cirelli, who was able to take the puck away from Grimaldi along the right wall and slip a pass to Alex Killorn. With most of the Predators on the wall nearest Joseph and Cirelli, Killorn spotted a wide-open Slater Koekkoek in the left circle, who had time to pick his spot and fired a shot over the left shoulder of Pekka Rinne at 14:21 of the second to get the Lightning back in the game.
Koekkoek scored his first goal of the season and fifth of his career.
Joseph's will come soon too if he continues pursuing the puck like he did on the Bolts' lone goal.
Video: Slater Koekkoek on the loss to the Predators
3. MISSED OPPORTUNITIES
Sparked by Koekkoek's goal, the AMALIE Arena crowd came to life, creating a raucous environment as the Lightning pursued the game-tying goal.
The Bolts too were jolted after getting on the board. Steven Stamkos nearly leveled the score on the shift following Koekkoek's goal but saw his attempt trickle just wide of the far post.
The Lightning were the aggressor for the remainder of the game after getting within a goal. They kept the puck in the offensive zone for near two minutes at times and sent wave after wave of pressure on Pekka Rinne. Ryan McDonagh had a really good look at an open rebound off a shot from Brayden Point with a little less than seven minutes remaining in the game but was unable to convert. J.T. Miller had another glorious rebound chance go hopping over his stick.
The Lightning just couldn't find a way to break through the force field surrounding the Predators' net whether it was Rinne making the save or the Predators doing just enough to disrupt a scoring opportunity or just plain bad puck luck for the Bolts.
"I thought we were for the most part dominating play," Koekkoek said. "Just look at the shots."
The Lightning nearly doubled up the Predators on the shot counter.
But it didn't matter how many pucks the Bolts sent at Rinne it seemed. A win just wasn't in the cards for the Lightning Thursday night.
"You talk about how many shifts we were pinned in our own end, you can't count too many," McDonagh said. "They made us pay for the looks that we gave them and the breakdowns we had. We obviously want to finish a little better tonight with the looks that we had. They have an All-Star caliber goalie that played at an All-Star level tonight. You have to give a lot of credit to him and that D corps."