The Lightning are one of the most penalized teams in the NHL. On Saturday night, forcing their penalty kill on the ice for more than nine minutes proved too much against the league power-play leader.
Tampa Bay allowed two power-play goals to Carolina forward Martin Necas, including what ended up being the winner with 3:53 left in the third period, in a 4-3 loss at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.
“We’re obviously doing things that are contributing to us losing. Penalties are one of them,” coach Jon Cooper said after the Lightning’s second straight loss. “There’s no doubt about that. You can’t take some of the dumb penalties we’re taking. You give a team like that six power plays, it’s going to be trouble for you.”
Lately, the number of penalties called against the Lightning has been lopsided, and following Thursday’s 4-3 loss at Dallas — in which Tampa Bay had no power plays to Dallas’ three — frustration hit. It continued Saturday, especially after the Lightning’s third-period momentum was halted.
The Lightning’s fourth line got its second goal of the game when Mathieu Joseph tied the score at 3 on the first shift of the third period. The line almost had its third goal with 4:28 left when Joseph made a cross-crease pass from the left circle to Pat Maroon, whose shot went just wide of the far post. Maroon said he believed he was high-sticked on the play, but no call was made.
Seven seconds later, Lightning defenseman Andreas Borgman was called for tripping, and 28 seconds after that, Necas beat Andrei Vasilevskiy for the winner.
“Absolutely, it’s frustrating,” Maroon said. “That’s a Grade A scoring chance, and a stick comes right to my face, and there’s no call, and (the official is) right there. And then, obviously, (Borgman) pinches, and a guy steps on a stick, and it’s a penalty.
“You can’t blame officiating. They’re just doing their job. Are we hard on them? Yes. Do we get frustrated with them? Yes. But that comes down to us and how we manage a game.”
Over the past two games, the Lightning (24-8-2) have had a pair of early two-goal leads disappear while allowing a combined three power-play goals, all that either tied the score or gave the opponent the lead. In Thursday’s loss — the Stars scored the winner with 1:21 left — the Lightning did not draw one penalty for the first time this season. On Saturday, they were 0-for-4 on the power play. Over those two games, 11 penalties were called against the Lightning and six against their opponents.
“Look, has reffing been in the news in our league for the last little while? Yes it has,” Cooper said. Referee Tim Peel was fired last week after being caught on a live microphone saying he wanted to call a penalty against the Predators during their game Tuesday against the Red Wings.
“Do I have a close scrutiny on the way the last two games that we’ve played have been officiated? I have. And I’m wondering what’s going on at times, I’ll be honest. But do not take that as complaining because that’s not complaining. We could have won the last two games 5-0 and I’d still be thinking the same thing. We didn’t win (Saturday) because we got outworked.”
For the second straight game, Vasilevskiy faced at least 40 shots, but he kept Tampa Bay in the game.
Carolina scored twice in the first 3:26 of the second, then took the lead on Necas’ power-play goal with 4:16 left in the period. He also assisted on his team’s first two goals, both coming on odd-man rushes that Vasilevskiy had little chance against.
The Lightning completed a stretch of eight games in 13 days that included two trips to Dallas with a 5-3 record.
“I think some of our errors are being magnified, and I think we’ve played a boatload of games in a short amount of time … and a bunch of different cities,” Cooper said. “And I don’t care how good your team is, it’s going to catch up to you, and it might be catching up to us.”
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Coleman 7 (Goodrow, Rutta), 3:12. 2, Tampa Bay, Maroon 4 (Colton), 5:41. Penalties—Paquette, CAR (High Sticking), 0:17; Hamilton, CAR (Interference), 5:51; Borgman, TB (Elbowing), 12:01.
Second Period—3, Carolina, Paquette 4 (Necas, Pesce), 2:24. 4, Carolina, Aho 15 (Necas, Niederreiter), 3:26. 5, Carolina, Necas 8 (Svechnikov, Aho), 15:44 (pp). Penalties—Sergachev, TB (Cross Checking), 8:20; Niederreiter, CAR (Roughing), 10:03; Coleman, TB (Unsportsmanlike Conduct), 10:03; Carolina bench, served by Lorentz (Slashing), 10:03; Coleman, TB (Roughing), 14:41.
Third Period—6, Tampa Bay, Joseph 9 (Maroon), 0:22. 7, Carolina, Necas 9 (Staal, Hamilton), 16:07 (pp). Penalties—Palat, TB (Slashing), 3:01; Killorn, TB (Boarding), 10:08; Borgman, TB (Tripping), 15:39; Fast, CAR (Tripping), 17:35.
SOG—TB 11-7-4_22. Carolina 12-14-14_40. PP opps—TB 0 of 4; Carolina 2 of 6. Goalies—TB, Vasilevskiy 21-5-1 (40 shots-36 saves). Carolina, Reimer 13-4-1 (22-19). A—4,433 (18,680). T—2:31. Referees—Jake Brenk, Garrett Rank. Linesmen—Devin Berg, Jonny Murray.
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