In many ways, this was a frustrating loss for the Lightning. St. Louis’ winning goal was awarded after the NHL Offices overturned a “no-goal” call on the ice. There were also several potential penalty calls not made on the Blues during the course of the game, including a couple during two separate Lightning power plays. But ultimately, the Lightning lost this game because of a couple of critical mistakes that led the Blues’ goals. And playing from behind is not normally a formula for success, especially against a structured team like the Blues.
For the fifth consecutive game, the Lightning allowed the first goal. It occurred in the opening minute of the second period. The Lightning had some good opportunities to grab the lead in the first, a frame in which they outshot the Blues, 12-4. But goaltender Brian Elliott was solid in stopping all of those shots and, although he allowed some rebounds, the Lightning were unable to generate second and third chance opportunities.
Then the Blues scored the all-important first goal. With the puck in the Blues defensive zone, both Lightning defensemen moved forward as the puck was turned over just inside the St. Louis blue line. Both Robby Fabbri and Troy Brouwer blew out of the zone and got behind the Lightning defense. Paul Stastny passed the puck up to Fabbri, who had a clean breakaway from the neutral zone. He beat Ben Bishop with a high shot on the glove side.
In the first meeting between the clubs on October 27, the Lightning were shut out, 2-0. Perhaps because they were feeling urgency to tie up the game, they continued to gamble on their offensive zone pinches as the second period progressed. As a result, the Blues generated numerous scoring chances on counters. But the Lightning got out of the second period still only down by one goal.
The Lightning played better in the third, both in terms of their rush coverage and their ability to retrieve and hold onto pucks in the offensive zone. That puck possession advantage led to more shots on Elliott and some good scoring chances. The best look came from Braydon Coburn, but Elliott robbed him with an arm save.
With just over two minutes left, Matt Carle jumped in the air at the offensive blue line so he could glove down a St. Louis clearing attempt. He could have retreated to center ice and safely retrieved the puck. But down by a goal late in the game, he was trying to make a play to stay on the attack. The puck glanced off his glove, however, and led to a Patrik Berglund breakaway. Bishop stopped the initial shot, then Berlund knocked the rebound in with his skate blade. It was ruled “No Goal” on the ice, but overturned on review. Two years ago, the league loosened the standard for disallowing kicked-in goals. While it certainly looked as though Berglund directed the puck in with his skate – and intended to do so – the NHL Office felt he did not use “a distinct kicking motion”. That call proved to be even more significant when Nikita Kucherov scored a sixth-attacker goal on a rebound with just under a minute to go. Kucherov had one more chance off the rush in the closing seconds, but his shot from the side of the net went wide.
Pending the outcome of some games on Monday, it’s possible that the Lightning will be on the wrong side of the playoff cut line by the time they take the ice on Tuesday against San Jose. That’s how close the standings are. The Lightning understand they must try to get back in the win column as soon as possible.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Elliott’s third period saves, preserving the St. Louis lead.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Brian Elliott – Blues. 37 saves.
2.Alex Steen – Blues. Key player in all situations.
3.Victor Hedman – Lightning. Assist.