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)

Tampa Bay Lightning lost Game 4 even before overtime goal

Maintaining focus: The Lightning’s Sean Bergenheim keeps his eye on the puck despite the Penguins’ Matt Niskanen.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Maintaining focus: The Lightning’s Sean Bergenheim keeps his eye on the puck despite the Penguins’ Matt Niskanen.

TAMPA —When the end finally came, when the Lightning had been defeated, when the Pittsburgh Penguins had seized an NHL series by the neck, there was a moment that seemed to be owned by the numbness of it all.

It had lost. Finally and, perhaps, fatally.

It had lost after scuffling from yet another two-goal deficit, after getting off the canvas to give itself another chance.

It had lost when goaltender Dwayne Roloson, so brilliant for most of the night, failed to stop a fairly harmless looking shot by James Neal that went past his right foot and into the net.

After all of the shifts, after all of the sweat, after all of the coming back, it lost in one swift, stunning split second.

For the Lightning, it was that dagger-thrust of a final shot that will leave its scars. It was that shot that will be debated and discussed, that play that will be repeated on highlight shows for weeks to come.

That play, however, was only the final blow.

For the Lightning, the real cause of death came earlier when, for some mystifying reason, the team was not hungry enough, desperate enough or energized enough to claim a game that it needed to claim as its own.

Today, that should be the question asked of the Lightning. How could it come out so bland? So pedestrian?

For the first period and a half of this game, it might as well have been playing the Panthers in Game 78 at the end of a six-game road swing. Put it this way: This time, no one is going to ask if the team was over-amped at the start.

For a very long time, it was outshot 2-1 and it was outhit 2-1. It was hardly the look of a team with its back against the ropes.

And now, it is in trouble. The pulse-is-getting-weak trouble. The heartbeat-is-growing-faint trouble. The lights-are-growing-dim trouble.

You cannot overstate how huge this defeat was for the Lighting. After this, there are going to be lines in the confetti stores in Pittsburgh.

Of course, going down 3-1 to anyone in an NHL playoff series is always a ticket to trouble. After all, only 8.7 percent of the teams have ever dug themselves out of such a hole. But going down 3-1 to Pittsburgh, a veteran team with an acrobat for a goaltender and guard dogs for defensemen, seemed like a particularly bad plan.

Win in Pittsburgh? Possible.

Win again in Tampa Bay? Also possible?

Win a second straight in Pittsburgh. Still possible.

Win all three in a row?

Unlikely.

This one is going to sting for a while.

For one thing, the Lightning spent so much time working its way out of yet another two-goal deficit. Even after its lead-footed beginning, the Lightning came from behind.

In the end, if this is the end, that may be the lasting memory of Guy Boucher's first team. Give it this: It fights to the end. Time after time, you think you have measured the sum of it, and time after time, it proves to be more than you thought. It may yet lose this playoff series to the Penguins, but for the life of it, it will not go easily.

It has some disadvantages, okay?

The Penguins are a rebuilt team without Sidney Crosby of Evgeni Malkin, but they are rebuilt for playoff success with a roster chocked with veterans.

Remember, the Lightning had nine players — 10, counting call-up Mattias Ritola — who had never played in an NHL playoff game. The Penguins dressed out a dozen players on Wednesday who have 40 games each — a half-season's worth. That has to play some part of what we are seeing in the way the Lightning has failed to defend its home ice.

Perhaps, too, it has something to do with the lingering struggles of Steven Stamkos, who found himself in front of the Penguins net with five minutes to play. The puck was on his stick — a pass from Marty St. Louis — and the net looked like a freeway tunnel.

And Stamkos missed … well, he missed everything. He may have missed gravity.

I know, I know.

Stamkos is still a kid, and no, you shouldn't expect him to carry a team this time of year. If he is a star, however, then shouldn't he show up somewhere along the way?

That's the thing here. You get the feeling you are watching an older, wiser team take advantage of the places where the Lightning is not ready. They have won three games, two of them by a single heartbeat.

Is the Lightning resilient enough to win three straight games and join the 8.7 percent?

Not unless it grows up in a hurry.

Tampa Bay Lightning lost Game 4 even before overtime goal 04/20/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 23, 2011 6:13pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Longest home run at Trop and Erasmo Ramirez's pitching doom Rays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kevin Kiermaier returned. The problem was, so did Erasmo Ramirez.

    Seattle Mariners first baseman Yonder Alonso (10) scores on the double by Seattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  2. Rays journal: Kevin Kiermaier returns, Mallex Smith sent to Triple A

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It didn't take CF Kevin Kiermaier long to make his presence felt during his return Friday to the Rays lineup. Kiermaier pretended to have Mariners DH Nelson Cruz's first-inning line drive lined up even as the ball went past him to his right and to the wall.

    Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) flies out in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  3. Rays vs. Mariners, 6:10 p.m. Saturday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Mariners

    6:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    This is a 2017 photo of Jake Odorizzi of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team. This image reflects the 2017 active roster as of Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 when this image was taken. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  4. Bucs journal: Starting defense disappointed holding Jags to 1 rushing yard

    Bucs

    JACKSONVILLE — The Bucs' starting defense held the Jaguars to a total of 1 rushing yard on seven carries in the first half of Thursday's 12-8 preseason win.

    And its members were disappointed.

    Jacksonville Jaguars running back T.J. Yeldon (24) is thrown for a 1-yard loss as he is stopped by Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David (54) and defensive end Robert Ayers (91) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux) JVS102
  5. Jameis Winston's hardest lesson: He can't always save the day

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Ever wonder what in the world goes through Jameis Winston's mind when he tries to fit the ball in a keyhole as he is being dragged to the turf like he was during Thursday night's 12-8 preseason win over the Jaguars?

    Jameis Winston, left, tries to hang on to the ball as Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler tries to strip it from him.