After going two-plus games and over 156 minutes without lighting the lamp, the Bolts finally broke through Thursday night versus Colorado, Alex Killorn backhanding a rebound produced by Victor Hedman’s slap shot from the right circle past Semyon Varlamov to end a maddening goal drought.
Unfortunately, nobody else joined Killorn on the score sheet.
The Lightning lost again Thursday, 2-1 to the Avalanche, the Bolts third defeat in a row, continuing a recent trend of futility against the Central Division. In 2014-15, the Lightning went 6-5-3 against the Central, their worst record against any division.
The Bolts are 1-3-2 against the Central so far in 2015-16.
Tampa Bay opens a slate of games against more familiar opponents, starting Saturday versus the Boston Bruins at Amalie Arena.
The following are 3 Things we learned from the Colorado defeat as the Lightning try to get back in the win column in their final home game before another four-game road trip.
1. ANOTHER WASTED EFFORT
The Tampa Bay Lightning have given up four regulation-time goals, including one empty-netter, over the last three games.
The Lightning are just 0-2-1 over their last three, though.
The Bolts have gotten three-straight quality performances from their goaltenders. Kristers Gudlevskis made his first NHL appearance in two seasons and shut out the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks over 60 minutes but lost 17 seconds into overtime.
Ben Bishop was beaten only by a ridiculously-skilled tip off the stick of Scott Gomez in St. Louis on Tuesday. Two days later, Bishop continued to shine, making a highlight-reel stop 17 seconds into the game on a three-on-one break for Colorado. Bishop kept the Lightning in the game, stopping 24-of-26 shots, his fifth start this season allowing two or less goals.
The recent efforts of Gudlevskis and Bishop have all been for naught, however, save for the one point the Bolts collected in Chicago.
“It happens,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said following the Colorado loss. “You have to understand too, there’s a team trying to prevent you from scoring and there’s a goaltender in there that’s a NHL-caliber goaltender.”
More goals will undoubtedly come for the Lightning. The Bolts offensive attack is too high-powered not to break out of its slump soon.
“Look at the group we have in here. We’re not worried,” Ryan Callahan said.
The Lightning, however, can’t keep wasting their goalies’ best efforts.
2. NEAR-UNPRECEDENTED SCORING DROUGHT
Tampa Bay was shut out just once during the regular season in 2014-15 and not until game No. 76.
Ten games into 2015-16, the Lightning had already been blanked twice.
“There are ups and downs in the season, and it’s too bad that a goal drought like this is happening early on,” Alex Killorn said. “But we’ve been through this before, and guys will get over it for sure.”
With only one goal on Thursday, the Lightning have scored just once in three games.
You have to go all the way back to the 2001-02 season to find the last time the Bolts have scored just one goal in three consecutive games.
Following the Colorado game, Lightning forward Ondrej Palat was clearly unhappy with the Bolts’ inability to put pucks in the net, his answers to reporters’ questions short and tinged with frustration.
“We’re trying to make the plays,” he said. “We’re trying to pass the puck to each other. It’s just bouncing all over our sticks.”
Part of that irritation stems from the fact the Lightning are used to routinely putting crooked numbers up on the scoreboard. Last season, the Bolts led the league in goals with 259.
“We’re so used to scoring goals, you kind of scratch your head a little bit when you go through a stretch like this,” Cooper said. “But, they’re doing everything I’ve asked. They’re working their tails off. It’s only natural to be frustrated. If they weren’t frustrated, I’d probably have a little bit of an issue.”
3. NO PANIC
Despite the scoring woes, the consensus around the Lightning locker room is this too shall pass.
There’s a reason the Lightning led the league in scoring a year ago, and it’s not because they got lucky. The Bolts have proven goal scorers up and down the lineup on all four lines who are capable of putting up goals in bunches in the NHL.
The current goal drought is merely an anomaly.
“If we were like the NFL with a 16-game season, I would be worried,” Cooper said. “But it’s an 82-game season.
“I’m not worried.”
Another reason not to panic? The Lightning have been setting themselves up with good scoring opportunities. Their play of late has been respectable and certainly deserving of more than just the one point they’ve collected from the last three games.
The goals, for whatever reason, just aren’t coming.
“I thought out of the last three games, (Thursday) was our best game chances-wise,” Callahan said. “We had a lot of opportunities, a bunch of two-on-ones, a couple posts, a couple breakaways. But you know, it’s just puck luck right now.”