Although the Lightning picked up the two points in a 4-3 overtime win over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night, the bigger story was the Lightning’s mental defensive lapses that continue to crop up game after game.
MVP Nikita Kucherov was benched halfway through the second period and only played 1:06 in the third period after his turnover turned a 3-2 lightning lead into a 3-3 tie. Kucherov did not see the ice in the overtime period.
Kucherov who blocked a shot in a Saturday loss to Washington and limped off the ice and was a game time decision on Tuesday night.
Kucherov made a dynamic play splitting two Ottawa defenders to put the Lightning up 1-0 in the first period. Then in the second period, Kucherov got a little sloppy with the puck in the offensive zone and tried to fore the puck between two Ottawa defenders.
The puck was taken away from Kucherov and a breakaway ensued, and just like that the game was tied at 3-3.
That was the last we would see of Kucherov outside of just over one minute in the period.
Cooper has been vocal this season, that the defensive lapses and sloppy puck management have to stop. Awareness on the ice has to be better from everyone, but especially someone of Kucherov’s hockey acumen.
The message was sent that it dosen’t how many scoring titles you have, how many trophies you have in your trophy room, you are going to play defense and take care of the puck. If you don’t you won’t be on the ice.
Cooper commenting after the game had this to say about the Kucherov benching ”As a coach, you make decisions on what was best for us to win tonight, He’s a huge part of our team. It could be anyone. As a group, we wanted to put ourselves in the position to win this game.”
Kucherov was not available for comment after the game.
The Lightning continued their roster shakeup today sending Matthieu Joseph to Syracuse. Joseph was a spark for the Lightning last season with his speed and the way he played the game, but has gotten off to a slow start this season.
Cooper said he is hoping that at Syracuse, Joseph can get back to the doing the things that impacted his game and that playing 20 minutes a night will help him with his game and confidence.
The Tampa Bay Lightning welcome the Dallas Stars to Amalie Arena tonight and it will be a reunion of sorts as the Stars have former Lightning assistant coach Rick Bowness behind the bench.
Bowness was named interim coach after the firing of head coach Jim Montgomery for unprofessional conduct earlier this month.
The Stars can be a difficult team to play against and Cooper said that puck management will be highly important for the Lightning.
Ben Bishop is back in town with the Stars but will see the game from the bench tonight as the Stars will start Anton Khudobin in goal. Andrei Vasilevskiy gets the start for the Lightning.
The Lightning have improved the power play over the last month of the season and offensively they are in the top five in the league.
It’s the penalty kill and the goals allowed that are killing this team. The lightning still rank 27th defensThe benching of Kucherov should send a message that everyone is going to contribute defensively and do their part.
Stamkos, Point, Kucherov, Gourde, Cirelli, are all going to play defense. If not, they may find themselves watching the game on the bench next to Jon Cooper.