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Mishkin's Musings: Bolts struggle against tough St. Louis team

by Dave Mishkin / Tampa Bay Lightning

Extra Shift: Blues 6 Lightning 3

In the contest between these teams nine days ago in St. Louis, the Lightning, despite losing in overtime, played one of their best games of the year. Versus a big, heavy, physical team, the Lightning were able to dictate play for most of the night. They held the Blues to only a handful of scoring chances. They won a majority of puck battles. They used their speed to create numerous dangerous looks on Brian Elliott, who singlehandedly kept his team within a goal and was the main reason why the Blues ended up stealing a win. In short, they played the kind of game necessary to have success against the St. Louis Blues.

For most of this game, however, the Lightning weren’t able to replicate any of those things. First of all, give credit to the Blues, who probably weren’t happy with their game last week and wanted to put forth a better performance (they did). But from the Lightning’s perspective, they generously aided the St. Louis cause. They were loose defensively, both off the rush and in the d-zone. They lost the vast majority of puck battles. They yielded numerous scoring chances. Instead of making safe, simple plays up ice, they were guilty of high-risk, low percentage plays – plays that allowed the structured Blues to pick off pucks and counter.

The first period was the Lightning’s worst. They yielded 17 shots (they had allowed 18 total shots to the Blues in the game last week) and two goals. Ben Bishop was under siege throughout the period – without some spectacular Bishop saves, the Bolts might have been down by five or six goals.

The Bolts came out with pushback to start the second and began generating a few chances. Steven Stamkos rang a shot off the crossbar early in the period. Then, during a Lightning power play, Tyler Johnson received a cross-ice pass from Nikita Kucherov and snapped a shot past Elliott. But then the Lightning unraveled just under six minutes left in the period. Following a Stamkos turnover in the d-zone, the Blues regained the two-goal lead. Within the next three minutes and eight seconds, two Lightning d-zone breakdowns resulted in additional St. Louis scores. Brett Connolly got one back for the Lightning with 2:32 left in the second, so it was 5-2 heading into the third.

The Lightning’s best period was the third. Stamkos netted his 29th of the season when he redirected a centering feed from Alex Killorn at 6:31. There were some other opportunities to score – but the Lightning squandered a power play right after the Stamkos goal and later, Kucherov put a one-timer off the post. They never got any closer.

Simply put, the Lightning didn’t have it tonight. And they didn’t have it against a talented, motivated opponent that dominated play for a majority of the night. The Bolts will need to be better when they begin their Western U.S. road trip on Sunday in San Jose against another big, strong, heavy skilled team.

Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):

Alex Steen’s second period goal, which gave the Blues a 3-1 lead.

Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):

1.Alex Steen – Blues. Goal and two assists.

2.David Backes – Blues. Goal and assist.

3.T.J. Oshie – Blues. Goal and assist.

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