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Burns: 3 Things we learned from a loss to Calgary

Lightning beat writer Bryan Burns recaps the Bolts' 3-2 loss to the Calgary Flames

by Bryan Burns /

The Tampa Bay Lightning were playing their fourth game in the last six days when they hosted the Calgary Flames at AMALIE Arena on Thursday.

Predictably, the Bolts looked lethargic in a 3-2 loss to Calgary, their point streak snapped at seven games.

The Lightning jumped out to a 1-0 advantage behind a first-period goal from Vladislav Namestnikov, the Russian forward's third-straight game scoring. But the Bolts didn't get much on net after going up, and Calgary seized control, netting a pair of goals 1:24 apart in the second period to build a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

"It seemed like we just stopped skating like we can," Lightning rookie Brayden Point said. "Before the goal, we were putting a lot of pressure on them and once we put one in the back of the net, I think we took our foot off the gas a little bit."

Thursday's game was the final in a stretch of eight-consecutive games against Western Conference opponents, Tampa Bay going 5-1-2 over that span.

So what led to that lone defeat?

We'll look at all the missteps in 3 Things we learned from a loss to Calgary.

Video: Cooper on Bolts' 3-2 loss to Flames


Quite simply, the Lightning didn't put enough pucks on Brian Elliott's net.

The veteran netminder was shaky throughout the contest. Shots from distance were corralled by Elliott, but not before giving up a brief, juicy rebound out front. At times, he seemed to have difficulty tracking the puck, making a late reaction save to keep the puck out of the net.

But with the Flames goalie showing signs of weakness, the Lightning were unable to take advantage. Through the first two periods, the Bolts registered just 12 shots on goal.

"We just didn't shoot pucks, that was it," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "We had 22 shot attempts after two periods. You should have that after ten minutes, 15 minutes in a game. There wasn't that urgency to score. It was an easy night for their goaltender tonight."

Granted, Calgary did an outstanding job getting in the way of shooting lanes and clogging the neutral zone to disrupt the Bolts' attack. But the onus is on the Lightning to find different ways to get pucks through with the initial game plan is thwarted.

"In (previous) games, we've been finding our way to get to the net," Cooper said. "We've been shooting pucks. To have 22 shot attempts after two periods in games that we're getting 70-plus, it's hard to win. We couldn't get our way through the neutral zone because we weren't executing."

 Video: Killorn on Bolts coming up short

True, the Lightning came into Thursday's game a bit fatigued playing their fourth game in six days.

But because of where the Bolts sit in the Eastern Conference standings, they don't have the luxury of taking a night off to regroup.

The Lightning need every point they can collect to get back into a playoff position. The effort against the Flames wasn't going to get it done.

"A lot of things why we've had success here in the last month or so, we didn't do tonight," Cooper said. "82 game season, that's going to happen, but the problem is we've already used up our gimmes. We don't have anymore. That's what makes this one tough because this game was right for the taking. Even if we weren't at our best tonight, it was still right for the taking, and we couldn't do it."

Despite not playing their best, the outcome was still up in the air late after Nikita Kucherov was able to convert a late power play with 1:13 to go to get the Lightning within one. The Lightning peppered Elliott over the final minute-plus with the extra attacker and produced a couple quality scoring chances to nearly draw even.

Had the Bolts played with the same purpose over the first 59 minutes as they did in the final 60 seconds, they likely would have left AMALIE Arena with a third-straight win.

"I'm pinning that game on us," Cooper said. "If I thought there was a game we weren't going to have the energy for, I thought it would be the Edmonton game. I did not think tonight was going to be the (Calgary) game. So that was a little unfortunate."

Video: Namestnikov on Bolts' lack of shots

Andrei Vasilevskiy can't catch a break lately.

The Lightning backup goaltender has played pretty darn well of late but hasn't gotten the results to show for it. On Thursday, he kept the Bolts within striking distance after Calgary scored a pair of goals to take the lead that no goaltender in the world could have saved.

His teammates in front of him, however, couldn't get him the goal support he needed to end his losing skid, which stands at five now following the loss to Calgary.

Vasilevskiy is 0-2-3 over his last five games.

"It's a tough league to win in," Lightning forward Alex Killorn said. "I feel bad. We want to win games for him, so, hopefully, we can do that next time he's in net."

What makes Vasilevskiy's losing skid particularly difficult to digest is he's arguably played as well as starter Ben Bishop over the last four weeks or so. Vasilevskiy's 37-save performance in Minnesota on February 10 was maybe the best performance by a Bolts' goalie this month.

But Bishop is 5-0-0 since February 1, the veteran goalie getting the goal support he needs to have success, and Vasilevskiy is looking for his first victory since January 24.

Eventually, the slump will end for Vasilevskiy. But right now, he probably feels like he'll never get another win in the league again.

"You've got to feel for him," Cooper said. "Couple breakdowns on their goals and some good tips, and they're in. You've got to feel for him that we can't give him some more support. Ultimately, in the end, you give up goals as a team. It's not the goaltender. It's the team that gives them up. You give up three, game's in the balance, there's the magic number. We gave up three and couldn't do it."

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