NHL Game Day: 1-18-14 Sharks at Lightning

Lightning waste what could've been a special day.

SJ-5
TB-4

Ben Bishop allowed 5 goals on 32 shots for the loss. I thought he might want the last goal back, although it was apparently slightly deflected. Still, it was a long lazy point shot that he saw all the way in, and it highlighted the weakness in Bishop's game. That's why it's so imperative for the Lightning to block point shots for their netminder: he struggles on shots from distance. It was a rare game where I thought Bishop pulled a Lindback: he wasn't the reason they lost but he wasn't good enough to be a reason they won, either.

First Period
9:46 SJ Nieto (4), (Marleau, Wingels)
11:56 TB St Louis (22), (Johnson, Purcell)(PP)
12:52 SJ Marleau (21), (Nieto, Wingels)
15:44 TB St Louis (23), (Cote, Bishop)
19:30 TB St Louis (24), (Brown, Barberio)

Second Period
2:07 TB St Louis (25), (Purcell, Johnson)(PP)
12:48 SJ Pavelski (23), (Kennedy, Demers)
13:09 SJ Pavelski (24), (Boyle, Marleau)(PP)
19:00 SJ Pavelski (25), (Irwin, Thornton)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Martin St. Louis was the game's first star. I think the Lightning, like their fans, got caught up in the moment with Marty matching Chris Kontos' record for goals in a game. Hopefully they gained a valuable lesson from it: San Jose didn't panic falling behind and simplified their game. They kept playing hard, used face-offs to leverage some more possession, and got pucks to the net. And, once they got the lead with 1 minute to go in the Third Period, they completely changed up their style to protect it. The Lightning got, maybe, 3 chances the rest of the way including a glorious opportunity by Martin St. Louis walking out of the corner that he shot wide. When he missed that chance, I had a sick feeling that was going to be the game. I wasn't wrong.

If you're looking for moral victories, the Lightning certainly showed how much they've improved since they got blown out in San Jose on that disastrous West Coast swing after the Stamkos injury. There is no column in the standings for moral victories, though, and today's loss guaranteed the team won't get 12 points out of this 5th 10 game segment of the season. They're fortunate they had 4 insurance points stored up, so they're still in good shape with 1 more game to go until segment #6, but mark my words: this is the most important 10-12 game stretch of the regular season coming up for the Lightning. They have another 7 or so games until Stamkos is likely to return and another 4-5 games of adjustment once he does. If they continue to leave points on the ice like they've done over the last 4-5 games, they will make things a lot harder for themselves in March and April. Now is the time to focus and nail down points, more than ever.

Mark Barberio had an assist and was +1 with 1 hot and 1 blocked shot in 17:04. Bookmark it: that was Barberio's best game in a Lightning jersey. He did well getting the puck up and out of his zone quickly and there were moments he seemed to be everywhere in the offensive half of the ice, including assisting on Marty's third goal. It's no coincidence his ice time shot up to over 17 minutes today. It was deserved.

J.P. Cote had an assist, 7 penalty minutes, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 6:47. He assisted on Marty's second goal on a bank pass/clear hard up the boards to spring a breakaway and he fought Andrew Desjardins after Desjardins boarded Alex Killorn in the Third Period. So, I'd call it a productive 6:47.

J.T. Brown had an assist and 2 shots, 2 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 12:28. Dirty secret: I'm kind of certain that Marty's 3rd goal should've gone to J.T.

Richard Panik had 2 shots and 1 hit in 11:22. He had a good shift in the Second Period with the Lightning pressing to gain a 3 goal lead, but as the game kept tightening up his ice time kept getting trimmed back. With Sustr being sent to Syracuse, Panik looks like he'll be the last mid-season graduation from prospect status on the site, and that could happen as early as Thursday against Ottawa.

Nikita Kucherov was -1 with 4 shots and 2 blocked shots in 16:20. He has become one of Cooper's go-to's in tight games where he needs a goal, and deservedly so.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.