The Tampa Bay Lightning imploded, according to coach Jon Cooper and that was one of the many contributing factors in the Lightning’s 5-2 defeat to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday night.
The Lightning now trails in the series 2-1 and faces a must-win game on Sunday Night at home to get back in the series.
The Lightning continued to take stupid penalties throughout the game. Pat Maroon was called for delay of game after flipping the puck over the boards on a clearing attempt with less than four minutes gone in the period.
The Leafs were quick to capitalize as Morgan Rielly scored his first goal of the series to give the leafs the 1-0 lead.
The Leafs would never trail in this game.
Later, Ryan McDonagh was called for a delay of game penalty and spent time in the penalty box.
The Lightning made it close in the last 30 minutes of the game, cutting the deficit to 3-2, but the Leafs would get two empty-net goals by Iyla Mikheyev to close out the game.
The Lightning looked again like they were skating in quicksand as they stood around the first 30 minutes of the game and watched Toronto’s offense work their magic.
Ross Colton talked about the slow start in game one and game three. “It’s pretty upsetting. I thought we came out flat. We can’t wait for them to go up a couple of goals to flip the switch.”
In the first three games in this series, the Lightning has not matched the intensity of the Leafs at the start of the game. The Bolts did a much better job in game two, and they were able to come away with a 5-1 win.
But in games one and three, the slow starts contributed to 5-0 and 5-2 losses.
The Lightning continues to play undisciplined hockey, which has been a characteristic of this team all season.
Jon Cooper called the team out after the game three loss. “Fifteen penalties in eight periods of hockey. It’s not a winning formula.” And if the Bolts continue to play undisciplined hockey, the season will end sooner rather than later.
The captain, Steven Stamkos, talked about the string of penalties. “We were in the box a lot. That kills the flow of the game. It kills the momentum. Guys are grinding, working extremely hard there. You can’t take five penalties in the first half of the game.”
It is surprising the Bolts are in this position. The roster has the most playoff experience of any team in the playoffs, yet they have not played disciplined hockey, which is crucial to winning another Stanley Cup.
So how does the Lightning swing the momentum in the series?
Match the intensity of Toronto from the start.
Match the quick start of Toronto. The Bolts have not started games one and three quickly and have not matched the Leaf’s intensity. This has to change starting with game four Sunday night.
Play with discipline.
The Lightning has to quit taking stupid penalties and not give Toronto the man advantage. We saw what the Lightning can do when they play five on five for a period or two.
The Lightning stayed out of the penalty box in game two and was the more aggressive team in all phases of the game. That part of the game has to carry over to Sunday night to give the team a chance to get back in the series.
Imagine getting bounced from the playoffs by Toronto because you can’t play a disciplined game, and guys are sitting in the penalty box because of taking stupid penalties.
That’s where we are at.
It’s up to the Lightning to make the changes needed to get them back in the series.