Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Someone needs to step up offensively for Lightning (w/video)

DETROIT — Just moments after their disheartening Game 3 playoff loss to the Red Wings on Sunday night, Lightning players sat at their lockers inside Joe Louis Arena.

Quiet. Silent.

Kind of like they were on the ice for the previous 21/2 hours.

No noise. No pressure. No threat.

No chance.

This first-round playoff series has definitely shifted. The Lightning still leads the series, 2-1, so why does it seem that it's in trouble?

Because of Sunday. Because of the offense.

Because of the silence.

It felt as if Tampa Bay could have played all night and never scored a goal.

And this was the fear, wasn't it?

When the Lightning lost Steven Stamkos just before the end of the regular season with blood clots, the feeling was that it just wouldn't be able to pump in enough goals to make a deep playoff run. That a Lightning team minus its team-leading 36-goal scorer simply wouldn't score enough to navigate a long and grueling postseason.

Tampa Bay had a chance to put its skates on Detroit's throat Sunday, and it could not. Why? Because it couldn't achieve the No. 1 objective in the game: score more goals than the other guy.

It couldn't score at all.

"We just couldn't get anything going," said goalie Ben Bishop, who had a great view of nothing.

For the first two games of the series, the Lightning did find just enough offense. But that offense essentially came from one line. Alex Killorn, Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov combined for seven of the team's eight goals as Tampa Bay jumped out to a 2-0 series lead.

Clearly the Red Wings dialed up a plan for Game 3, and that plan was to stop the Killorn-Johnson-Kucherov line. Mission accomplished.

But here's the thing: Don't pin this loss on the top line. Blame it on everyone else. Someone — anyone — has to start scoring. You can't rely on one line if you plan on winning a playoff series, let alone a Stanley Cup.

"You can't count on three guys to score every night and that's how it's going to go," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "That's not how it works."

This isn't just about one game. This is about what we've seen in this series. Imagine where Tampa Bay would be without Killorn, Johnson and Kucherov. Imagine, if you dare, what will happen if Killorn, Johnson and Kucherov are shut down for the rest of the series.

When Stamkos went down, we heard the oldest cliche in sports when a significant player gets hurt: Someone has to step up.

Well. Someone has to step up.

Ryan Callahan? He scored 24 goals a year ago. Anyone seen him on a score sheet lately? Jonathan Drouin? He's a third overall pick. He has skills. Now it's time to produce.

How about Valtteri Filppula? He's a supposed two-way player. Well, he's not a two-way player. He's a one-way player, and that one thing has not been offense.

Vlad Namestnikov scored 14 goals in the regular season. The Lightning could use a tally or two from him now. Brian Boyle? Cedric Paquette? Ondrej Palat?

Someone? Anyone?

All of those players certainly bring other attributes to the ice, whether it's Callahan's dogged checking or Filppula's defense or Boyle's penalty killing or Paquette's grit, but sometimes that's not enough. Sometimes, such as when you're missing a Stamkos, players like that have to provide some offense.

Sure, they do all the little things. Well, time to do some of the big things, like scoring a danged goal every now and then.

"Everybody has to contribute in the playoffs," Callahan said. "It's important, obviously, to get scoring from more than one line."

And we haven't even brought up the abysmal power play, which has been on the fritz all season. It had chances to get Tampa Bay back into the game during the third period Sunday and did nothing. No wonder the Red Wings are taking liberties with Tampa Bay. It has no fear of the Lightning's power play.

The Red Wings were ripe for the taking in Game 3. All the Lightning had to do was come out and score a couple of goals and turn it over to Bishop. The Red Wings would have put on their blinkers, looking for the next exit ramp from this postseason.

But Tampa Bay couldn't do that. Not only couldn't it score, it couldn't even muster enough pressure to gain some momentum. Now it has the Red Wings believing they can win this series.

"We couldn't find enough offense," defenseman Jason Garrison said.

The Red Wings were so desperate coming in that they switched goalies. They turned to Petr Mrazek, who was a sieve down the stretch. Yet, if Mrazek was fragile, the Lightning never found out. He was hardly tested.

"I know they switched goaltenders," Cooper said, "but I don't even know that they needed a goaltender tonight."

Tampa Bay had only 16 shots for the game and just seven in the final two periods. Seven! Can you remember any of them?.

Once Detroit figured out a way to hold down the big line of Killorn, Johnson and Kucherov, the Lightning was cooked.

If someone else doesn't step up, the Lightning will be done.

Detroit’s Joakim Andersson celebrates after the second-period goal of Andreas Athanasiou (72).

Getty Images

Detroit’s Joakim Andersson celebrates after the second-period goal of Andreas Athanasiou (72).

Someone needs to step up offensively for Lightning (w/video) 04/17/16 [Last modified: Monday, April 18, 2016 7:46am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. NFL Week 7: What we learned

    Bucs

    Are the Purple People Eaters back in Minnesota? The Vikings sacked Joe Flacco five times and held the Ravens to 208 total yards in a 24-16 home victory, their third straight win. QB Case Keenum looked ordinary with a 67.7 passer rating after completing 20-of-31 for 188 yards and an interception. Kai Forbath …

    Trainers, top, check Cleveland Browns tackle Joe Thomas after Thomas was hurt in the second half of an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane) OHTD122
  2. Bills' comeback against Bucs a win for the process

    Bucs

    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — It hasn't taken Sean McDermott long to understand how to play to his base. Asked if the Bills had "gotten away with one" Sunday, the first-year coach gushed about his team reflecting the character of the town.

    Under first-year coach Sean McDermott, the Bills are 3-0 at home for the first time in six years. “I love playing here,” he says.
  3. No. 18 UCF closes in on USF, which drops to No. 17

    College

    USF remained ahead of UCF in the Associated Press Top 25 poll released Sunday — just barely.

  4. Tampa's Lance McCullers shows killer instinct in pitching Astros to World Series

    Ml

    HOUSTON — It felt like the beginning on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park, the arrival of a new force on the World Series stage. The Astros are back, for the first time in a dozen years, and they want to stay a while.

    Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers (43) throwing in the fifth inning of the game between the Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, July 12, 2015.
  5. Jones: Where are the difference-makers on the Bucs defense?

    Bucs

    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — They can't tackle. They can't cover. They can't pressure the quarterback, let alone sack him.

    Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) scrambles past Bucs defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (98) during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]