TAMPA, Fla. – It could be argued the Lightning were this close to picking up seven points, and perhaps eight, during their four-game trip against Central and Pacific Division opponents.
It was a trip that concluded with a 5-4 loss in Vegas on Saturday night and with the Lightning settling for five points. After winning in Dallas and Denver, the Bolts lost a 1-0 shootout to the Coyotes after not getting to Tempe until about 3 a.m. following their win over the Avalanche. That set up an opportunity to pick up at least one point in all four games. Alas, the Golden Knights had other ideas.
“We had five of six points, and (Saturday night) we could have had points, and we didn’t get any,” said coach Jon Cooper.
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Cooper felt his team deserved a better fate in Vegas. That was especially the case in the first period, upon the conclusion of which the Lightning trailed 4-2. They were on wrong side of lady luck on the Golden Knights’ fourth goal as the Bolts challenged that Jonathan Marchessault’s stick was above the crossbar when he deflected the puck past Andrei Vasilevskiy.
More important, Cooper was not pleased with his team’s energy level in the third period, which they entered trailing 4-3 and produced only five shots on goal.
“It was an unfortunate first and a disappointing third,” he said. “Regardless if we were at the end of a long road trip or not, there is one period left to play and we’re headed home. I didn’t like the way it turned out. We didn’t push the way we normally do. That was the disappointing part.”
No doubt, though, there was also plenty of outstanding play on the trip. Far more often than not the Lightning out-chanced the opposition, especially in Tempe where they attempted 82 shots. Many of the 47 that got through to goalie and former Tampa Bay minor leaguer Conor Ingram were of the 10-bell variety. (Tip of the helmet as well to Brian Elliott’s big third-period saves against the Coyotes to keep the game scoreless.)
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“It was a long road trip, and it is always hard to play the last game,” said Vladimir Namestnikov, who had goal at Colorado and a goal and an assist against Vegas. “It will be good to go home now.”
The Lightning, who are third in the Atlantic Division and three points behind the second-place Maple Leafs with two games in hand, return to Amalie Arena to play Anaheim on Tuesday night and Buffalo on Thursday evening.
The Ducks enter Monday’s Presidents’ Day matinee in Sunrise at the bottom of the NHL standings with 40 points. The Sabres are battling for an Eastern Conference playoff spot. They have 60 points and are three points out of a wild card spot with three teams to climb over. There are in pretty good shape, though, as Don Granato’s team has four or five games in hand on the clubs ahead of them.
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