The Tampa Bay Lightning dropped their first game of the season, losing to Ottawa 3-2 in a shootout. The Lightning were unable to make a 1-0 lead and an outstanding performance from goaltender Ben Bishop hold up in the third period as the Senators scored two goals in quick succession, 1:16 apart. Still, the Lightning salvaged a point with Brett Connolly’s game-tying goal before ultimately falling in the shootout. Here are some Lightning observations from Saturday’s game.
1. Tampa Bay’s early-season schedule is more difficult than first expected
Ottawa proved to be a formidable opponent and seems to have upgraded from the team that finished fifth in the Atlantic Division and out of the playoffs a year ago. Up next on Monday for the Lightning is 3-0 Montreal, which defeated Toronto on Opening Night and recorded back-to-back shootout victories over Washington and Philadelphia. A day later, the Lightning face an undefeated New Jersey squad that has scored 11 goals in two games to lead the NHL. The Devils beat Florida 5-1 on Saturday, the same Florida team the Lightning needed an overtime winner from Victor Hedman to defeat. Beating either Montreal or New Jersey is going to be a difficult yet necessary challenge should the Lightning fancy themselves one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
2. Valtteri Filppula could be poised for a big season
Through two games, Tampa Bay’s best player, arguably, has been Valtteri Filppula. The Finnish center had two assists in the Bolts’ opener against Florida and added another Saturday versus Ottawa. All three of Filppula’s points have come on the power play, which has been outstanding for the Lightning, scoring on four-of-ten opportunities, fifth best in the league. Last season, Filppula didn’t record his third assist until the ninth game of the season. Saturday, Filppula wore the alternate captain’s ‘A’, and it certainly appears he’ll play a major role in the Lightning’s fortunes this season.
3. The Lightning are prone to defensive lapses
Tampa Bay seemed to have a pretty good handle on Ottawa, holding a one-goal lead and blanking the Senators through two periods. But for about a five-minute stretch of the third period, the Lightning looked lost defensively and paid the price. On Ottawa’s go-ahead goal, Mark Stone was unmarked in front of the net and, after receiving the puck from Kyle Turris, had ample time to finish past Bishop. “That was way too easy,” head coach Jon Cooper said following the game. “You can’t give NHL guys those chances. Can’t give mini mites those chances, let alone NHL guys…It was a fundamental breakdown.” Cooper felt the mistakes were more mental than physical and were problems that can be corrected. “Our guys know better, and we’ll deal with it,” he said.