The Tampa Bay Lightning hung around with another contender before losing due to special teams.
Boil it down like that, and this 5-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins sounds a lot like the season opener against the Boston Bruins. The Lightning played good at 5v5, they even improved on their power play — but this time, the penalty kill failed them, as Matt Niskanen buried a one-timer with less than a minute left to give the Pens a 5-4 win in Tampa Bay and spoil a solid effort from the Bolts.
As you can see in the Fenwick chart below, the Lightning jumped on the Pens early and controlled the puck throughout the first period before Pittsburgh got going in the middle frame. But even as the game wore on and Pittsburgh started to outshoot and outpossess the Lightning, the Bolts traded blows with one of the Eastern Conference’s elite teams.
The Achilles heel for the Lightning in this game wasn’t just the penalty kill, however. The real problem was an inability to contain the best hockey player in the world — Sidney Crosby. His hat trick powered this win for the Pens and despite having last change at home Jon Cooper couldn’t find a 5-man unit that could shut the Dupuis-Crosby-Kunitz line down. Crosby was +8/-2 in even strength scoring chances, and he was on the ice for another 5 chances while on the man advantage. Dupuis was +9/-1 at evens and Kunitz +7/-1. So while Evgeni Malkin was, for the most part, bottled up (+3/-4), the Lightning had no answer for Crosby, which is kind of the point of Pittsburgh rolling Crosby-Malkin as their 1-2 centers. Even teams with good defensive plans and players can’t match up against both guys all night long.
Only one Lightning player finished with a positive scoring chance differential, (Ryan Malone, +3/-2) and Radko Gudas was worst at +4/-8. While Gudas and Carle have been a good pairing so far, and there is something to build on there, for now Gudas is struggling just a bit with the extra ice time and responsibility of playing top-4 minutes against the NHL’s elites. Fortunately, very few other teams have the elite forward talent that Pittsburgh boasts.
Following is the scoring chance and zone event data we tracked for this game that is, we believe, exclusive to Bolt Statistics:
Individual player totals have yet to be tabulated.
Individual player totals are still being tabulated.
The game log is not yet finalized.