ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Lightning are honest with themselves. When they play poorly, they accept it. But following their 5-1 loss to the Wild on Wednesday at the Xcel Energy Center — where they have lost 10 straight games and haven’t won since 2011 — they thought they were more snakebitten than anything.
They could have done more to take control of the game, especially in the opening minutes of the second period, when they trailed by one and had six shot attempts in the first five minutes but couldn’t convert.
Steven Stamkos then took a tripping penalty 6:04 into the period, the Lightning’s first penalty of the night, and the Wild took advantage on forward Kirill Kaprizov’s redirection in front to go up 2-0. Just 2:18 later, Wild defenseman Calen Addison found space at the left point to rifle a shot through teammate Nick Boldy’s screen and past goaltender Brian Elliott, who never really saw the puck, to give Minnesota a 3-0 lead.
The Lightning cut their deficit to two on Brayden Point’s goal later in the period, but they never gained enough traction to truly get back into the game.
“A pretty even game,” coach Jon Cooper said. “You look at those two bang-bang (goals) and it goes from 1-0 to 3-0, so it was unfortunate that we couldn’t kill that (penalty) off. A couple of their goals, they got some breaks.”
Two Wild goals went in off players’ skates.
Tampa Bay faced many obstacles, including an early morning arrival in Minnesota following its win in Chicago on Tuesday night and a late change in net after Andrei Vasilevskiy was unable to play because of an illness, forcing Elliott to start on consecutive nights for the first time since December 2017.
The Wild are a good team that blends heavy, physical play with speed and skill, especially on the wings.
But the Lightning could look at their 5-on-5 numbers and see that the breaks that went the Wild’s way might have been the difference. Tampa Bay had more shot attempts (48 to 45) and scoring chances (27 to 24) than the Wild in 5-on-5 situations and had a 28-27 edge in 5-on-5 shots on goal by the end of the game following a third-period push.
If anything, the biggest difference was a 5-1 advantage by the Wild in high-danger scoring chances in the second period that gave Minnesota a 9-7 advantage in 5-on-5.
“That’s part of the game,” Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said of the breaks the Wild received on two goals. “We’ve probably been on the good end of those a few times. So that’s part of hockey. But I think it was a pretty even game overall and it could have gone either way.”
Dreams come full circle for Nick Perbix in Minnesota return
Rookie defenseman Nick Perbix, a Minnesota native who grew up in Elk River, about 30 miles north of Minneapolis, started receiving ticket requests for Wednesday’s game in October when he was first recalled by the Lightning.
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“I’m like, ‘I don’t know if I’m going be there, right? So let’s calm down,’ " Perbix said before the game, his first as an NHL player in his home state. “They’re like, ‘Jan. 4, I’m getting tickets.’ I’m like, ‘Let’s pump the breaks here because I could get sent down tomorrow.’ "
Perbix now knows he’s sticking around after signing a two-year contract extension Monday. A strong contingent from Elk River and St. Cloud State, where Perbix played college hockey, came out to support him.
A late bloomer who was a sixth-round draft pick by the Lightning in 2017, Perbix, 24, said he dreamed of playing at the Xcel Energy Center as a kid and thought his best chance would be in high school. But his team never advanced to the state championship tournament held every year at the arena.
He did get to play a few games there in college.
“Realistically, I was just hoping for a (Division I) scholarship at most,” Perbix said before the game. “Now here playing against a Wild team I watched my whole life, it’s going to be pretty surreal.”
Perbix started for the Lightning, getting cheered as his name was announced, and he had 11:44 of ice time. In the first period, he had an unlucky bounce hit off his skate leading to the Wild’s first goal. He had a great scoring attempt on a rush early in the second period, but his wrister from the right wing was stopped by goaltender Filip Gustavsson.
Point’s second-period goal extended his point streak to six games, with goals in five of them. He also has goals in 10 of his last 13 games (12 goals, three assists). Point has seven power-play goals this season, second on the team behind Stamkos’ eight.
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at email@example.com. Follow @EddieintheYard.
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