This was an incredibly deflating 5-3 defeat for the Lightning. Desperate for points, they dropped a regulation decision to the club with the second-fewest points in the NHL. A loss against a team that was completing a back-to-back and playing its third game in four nights. It also was a game the Lightning led after two periods.
How did this happen?
In speaking with the media on Tuesday morning, associate coach Rick Bowness stated that the Bolts had to get back playing the solid team defense they had exhibited during their 12-2-3 run. Not the type of "D" in the back-to-back losses to Toronto and Washington. And certainly not the kind of defense they played in their earlier loss to Arizona.
Video: Hedman on Bolts performance in 5-3 loss to ARZ
So while the Lightning did a lot of good things in the offensive zone (they put 39 shots on net and had 80 attempts), their team defense again wasn't strong. They gave up too many chances to Arizona. Chances that resulted from Lightning turnovers in the defensive and neutral zones. And chances that came from poor coverage without the puck. The Lightning's formula for success this season has been fairly straightforward. When they defend well, they are tough to beat. When they don't, they struggle.
So while high marks go to Arizona goalie Louis Domingue, who had a terrific performance in holding the Lightning to three goals, Tampa Bay simply didn't play well enough defensively to win. The fact that it came in a game the Lightning really needed is very disappointing.
The Bolts head to Boston with an opportunity to move within three points of the Bruins in the standings. But if they hope to gain ground (and keep an edge on the teams behind them in the standings), they are going to have to play a whole lot tighter defensively.
Video: Namestnikov on Bolts letting game slip away
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Radim Vrbata's GWG in the third.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1. Louis Domingue - Coyotes. 36 saves.
2. Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Coyotes. Goal and assist.
3. Victor Hedman - Lightning. Goal.