TAMPA — Different game, same issue. Penalties cost the Lightning Saturday’s game … again.
After staying out of the box for two games, the Lightning went right back to what has been their biggest issue of the young season and took five penalties against Nashville.
The Predators only scored two power-play goals in regulation, one of which tied the score with about five minutes to play. In a game where the Lightning won the five-on-five play, those penalties added up to a 3-2 overtime loss.
“Again, we took some unnecessary penalties, some untimely penalties,” Steven Stamkos said. “Five-on-five was a step in the right direction. Special teams let us down.”
It was similar to the game against the Bruins: Tampa Bay played the better game five-on-five but let the opponent force overtime with power-play goals. That game, the Lightning found a shootout win.
They had a lead … at home … in the final minutes … and lost … because of a penalty.
Ryan McDonagh took an interference call in front of his net with 5:29 to play. About 15 seconds into the power play, Victor Hedman got the puck on his stick but failed to clear it. Ryan Johansen kept it in the zone and started a cycle that ended with Roman Josi landing a one-timer past Curtis McElhinney. Tie score.
“You can’t take five penalties,” coach Jon Cooper said. “And if you do, you have to find a way to kill them off. Especially the last one there. The game-tying goal, we had the puck on our stick and we can’t get it out. You can’t do that.”
The Predators’ first goal, with about five minutes left in the first period, occurred when Calle Jarnkrok took a one-timer that deflected off Erik Cernak past McElhinney.
That one bothered Cooper less. Cernak went for a block and “got a bad break.” He said he can’t fault a player for effort.
Cooper feels similarly about the penalties. Some come with tough play and he can live with those. Some are tough calls against them, which is how he characterized a couple of Saturday’s penalties. The careless ones are the most irksome.
Ondrej Palat committed a careless stick penalty when he got loose with his stick and was called for tripping. That play turned into Jarnkrork’s goal.
Cooper thought the team’s two too-men-men penalties were tough calls, though. He said the first was numbers missed by the official and the second featured two players not involved in the play.
“You’d have to ask the officials since they’re making calls on that,” he said. “If that were the way it’s going to be, there’d be 25 too many men every night.”
Even if he’s right, the Lightning have now had a handful of these penalties in this 10-game season.
None of the penalties in general should be this hard to clean up. The team started training camp talking about taking fewer penalties, instead they’re losing games because of them.
The Lightning took on the team that has given them the hardest time this decade and then beat themselves.
Contact Diana C. Nearhos at email@example.com. Follow @dianacnearhos.