NEW YORK — The injuries piled up all at once for the Lightning on Tuesday.
They started the game without Anthony Cirelli then lost Victor Hedman and Pat Maroon in the first period. Eventually, they lost the game, falling to the Rangers 4-1 at Madison Square Garden.
Hedman played most of the first period, logging 6:37, but did not return after intermission. Maroon only played two shifts and left the game two minutes in.
Brayden Point was also banged up but played despite missing morning skate. He created the Lightning’s lone goal in the first period, chasing down a loose puck and catching the Rangers in a bad line change. He and Nikita Kucherov ended up with a two-on-none and Kucherov finished the goal.
The injuries, however, proved to be the story of the night.
“It hurt us in the end,” Cooper said. “When you lose two guys early, it disrupts a lot of things. We controlled the game in the first and a lot of the second. I think our legs got a little weary in the end.”
Hedman’s lower-body injury was not apparent in play. He played a 66-second shift on a power play with 2:40 left in the first period and never returned. He’s considered day-to-day.
“That was an unexpected loss,” Cooper said, “a little deflating for the guys.”
Maroon got in a fight with Michael Haley less than two minutes into the game. He took a solid punch to the back of the head, and went directly to the dressing room when the fight was over.
The injuries added up to a bad outing. Down two players, the Lightning all played extra shifts and ended up out of gas. They made little mistakes that they typically avoid and got caught flat-footed, getting beat on plays.
“You have to be even smarter when you do have the puck on your stick or when you’re playing away from the puck,” Ryan McDonagh said.
More concerning is what these injuries could mean going forward. The Lightning have struggled to find their footing as it is, losing guys certainly doesn’t help.
Anthony Cirelli did not participate in the morning skate and Cooper called him a game-time decision, but said he doesn’t think the lower-body injury will be a long-term issue. Cirelli practiced with the team on Monday, but did leave the ice immediately after the official session. He typically lingers over individual drills.
Point also practiced on Monday, but looked to be limping afterward. He said his injury was not a lingering issue and isn’t a concern going forward.
Cirelli, Hedman and Maroon are all listed as day-to-day, but that can mean anything from returning for Wednesday’s game against New Jersey to missing the rest of the week or more.
Day-to-day implies that they’ll be back for next week’s games in Sweden, but injuries don’t follow schedules. Ondřej Palát was listed as day-to-day for a couple of weeks last season before he was switched to week-to-week and missed a month of play.
Cirelli is the Lightning’s best defensive center. The team has been able to rely on him on the penalty kill and against opponents’ top lines.
Hedman is the No. 1 defenseman who plays in all situations, including quarterbacking the power play. Last year, his being off his game and then missing in the playoffs was one of the most glaring pieces. His importance to this game can’t be overstated.
Pat Maroon, Cedric Paquette and Luke Witkowski have clicked on the fourth line, bringing physicality and energy.
The Lightning appear to have recalled Alex Volkov, according to his agent Dan Milstein. Volkov was one of the last players cut in the preseason. He got a late start to his season in Syracuse, sidelined for a few weeks with an injury. Volkov, who had a strong showing in training camp, has three assists in three AHL games.
This move could be a precaution, the Lightning do have an open roster spot. They might recall him in case they need him or because they know they’ll need him.
Jan Rutta, who is still waiting to make his season debut, is available at defenseman if Hedman cannot play. But the Lightning didn’t have an available forward. If either Cirelli or Maroon can play on Wednesday, they didn’t necessarily need someone. If both cannot, they only had 11 forwards, before recalling Volkov.
Now, the Lightning can field a full lineup no matter who is available or not. But clearly a rash of injuries could mean trouble.
Contact Diana C. Nearhos at email@example.com. Follow @dianacnearhos.