On this night, the Lightning were facing a desperate Minnesota team. The Wild had lost four in a row, were on a 1-5-1 skid, were coming off a lopsided loss in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, and had fallen into last place in the Central Division. The Wild were also beginning a make-or-break stretch in their schedule - 11 of their next 12 games would be played at home.
Not surprisingly, the Wild produced a motivated, committed game. They defended hard, played with tight structure, blocked shots, and were hungry for loose pucks. For most of the night, even when the Lightning possessed the puck for long stretches in the offensive zone, they had trouble getting pucks through to Alex Stalock. Thirty-one of their fifty-one shot attempts were either blocked or missed the net.
The Lightning also had a tough night with their team defense (which has been a strong aspect to their game in recent weeks). On Zach Parise's first period power play goal, the Lightning had both of their defensemen go behind the net, creating a two-on-zero chance for Minnesota in front. In the second period, Nikita Kucherov tied the game at one. But after his goal at 7:42, the Lightning struggled for the rest of the period. They lost puck battles, committed turnovers, and were loose in their coverage. Two separate defensive zone turnovers led to Minnesota goals. Another breakdown led an additional Wild tally, but the Lightning got that goal overturned with a successful offside challenge. Still, enough damage had been done - the two-goal deficit the Lightning faced entering the third proved to be too much to overcome.
The Lightning now have one game left in this busy stretch of 13 games over 21 days. They'll look to finish strongly on Friday in Winnipeg before beginning their well-deserved bye week.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
- Ryan Suter - Wild. GWG.
- Nikita Kucherov - Lightning. Two goals.
- Alex Stalock - Wild. 18 saves.