The hollow feeling was familiar. Once again, the Tampa Bay Lightning had let an opportunity slip away.
Once again, the game went into overtime. Once again, Tyler Johnson – the hero of the upset of the Chicago Blackhawks – was called for a penalty. Once again, the opponent quickly scored to win a 2-1 game. It was, in other words, just like the team’s loss on Jan. 17 to Anaheim.
This time, the loss was to the Florida Panthers, who got a goal 1:49 into overtime from former Bolt Jonathan Marchessault for the win.
“Obviously, we’re extremely frustrated right now,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “Let’s be honest, that was a long road trip. It was so long we sat through two presidents. But for us to point, we pointed in four of the six games, it’s just a little bit frustrating because you sit here and say, ‘It could have been an unreal trip, but it turns into a mediocre trip just because we got six points out of it.’
“Ultimately, we defended extremely well for most of the game. It’s tough when you’re only scoring one a game. Some of the Grade-A’s we have, we’re not finding a way to bury them. We’ve got to bear down and put these in the back of the net. When you get to overtime and take penalties, you’re pretty much almost giving the game away, and we’ve done that twice now and it’s hurt us.”
The Bolts gave up a shorthanded goal to Jussi Jokinen, another former member of the Lightning. Nikita Kucherov tied the game at one on a power play goal, his 19th goal of the year, but the Lightning couldn’t score again.
Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 35 of 37 shots in the loss.
“I haven’t been in this spot before,” Cooper said, “but, ultimately, I’m sure every team that hasn’t made the playoffs at the end of the year looks back and says, ‘We left points here, we left points here, we left points here.’ That’s ultimately how it adds up. Now in saying that, we’ve played fairly well here. We’ve just got to find a way to push ourselves over and get the two points that we feel a lot of these games we’ve deserved. But there’s no moral victories here. We ended up losing. We can’t sit here and pat ourselves on the back and say ‘good effort.’ We need to find a way to win games. But going into the break, pick up three out of four points and hopefully a little bit of momentum for Boston in a few days.”
The Lightning is now 2-17-5 this year when scoring two goals or fewer.
The Bolts have the weekend off for the all-star game (except for Victor Hedman and Kucherov, who are playing) before returning to play Tuesday night against Boston.
Earlier Thursday, the Lightning traded Nikita Nesterov to Montreal for defenseman Jonathan Racine and a sixth-round draft pick.