BWas it just two days ago that this team seemed to have some fire against the Red Wings? That we all seemed to think that perhaps the New Coach Bump might last, or at least keep them entertaining?
After two four goal losses in back to back games, this team hardly seems to be the same one we saw on the ice just a few short nights ago.
With both teams looking like a walking MASH unit (or perhaps something of a matchup between the Norfolk Admirals and Springfield Falcons + a few surprise players), the Jackets found themselves facing former backup netminder Mathieu Garon, while his "replacement", Curtis Sanford, would face off from him across the ice.Neither team found an early advantage, but the Lightning were able to grab momentum on an early power play and eventually opened the scoring when Mike Angelidis, playing in his first NHL game, made a strong play to work the puck away from the wall, pushed past Colton Gillies, and drove to the net before stuffing through Sanford at the goal line.
The Jackets would respond, however, with the first goal from another former AHL player - the recently signed Brett Lebda would do a great job pinching in behind the play and grabbing a pass from Derick Brassard before snapping a one-timer that popped the water bottle off the net.
Despite being outshot 12 to 5, the Jackets at least had the theory of a chance going into the second period, but hopes for a resurgence were doused quickly when the Lightning came flying out of the gate. Pushed back into their own zone, the Jackets struggled to break out of their own zone, while the skill of Tampa's top lines was clearly on display.
With Grant Derek MacKenzie in the box for a tripping call, Vinny Lecavalier would convert on a bizarre goal - parked in front of the net to tip a Bruno Gervais point shot, the puck would take a long arc through the air that Sanford appeared to get the glove on, but it would bounce off the webbing at the top of his mitt and into the net. Crazy or not, a goal is a goal, and the Lightning were on top once again.
Lecavalier would also figure in on the next goal, performing a beautiful give and go play with Martin St. Louis, breaking into the zone and wiring a gorgeous pass to his longtime linemate for the tap-in as he streaked past the net.
After 40 minutes, the visiting team was being outshot 24-11, and it certainly looked like the majority of the team had started their All Star Break vacation early. Interviewed at the intermission, long time Lightning forward Vinny Prospal called out his team for the "unacceptable" effort, clearly frustrated at the way Tampa was pushing them around the ice.
Perhaps Vinny was able to instill the team with some of his fire during the break, or perhaps head coach Todd Richards put a little foot to ass, but the Jackets certainly seemed to have a spark, pushing back against the Lightning and cutting their deficit down to one when Ryan Johansen dumped the puck to the end boards for R.J. Umberger, and the veteran battled free and set his rookie linemate up with a long return pass that the Johan nailed with a bullet to the top corner.
The Jackets might have built from the goal, but Tampa would strike again on what can only be called a weak goal by Sanford. Tampa's Nate Thompson would go to the net and take a shot from the goal line that slid straight through Sanford's five hole to put the game away for the Lightning.
The team visibly deflated, and despite some hard charges to the net by Umberger and Derek Dorsett, the team didn't seem to truly be a threat offensively, even when the coaching staff shuffled things up and started through four forwards over the boards.
Final Score: Lightning 4 - Jackets 2
- Brett Lebda - Seriously, for all the jokes and japes about Mr. Lebda, he had an OK game - certainly better than several of our d-men, even with some obvious flaws in his game. And, hey, nice goal.
- Ryan Johansen - Not a bad night at all. Why was he scratched last night?
- Vinny Prospal - Props for calling out an unacceptable effort on live TV. If Vinny is leaving at the deadline, I will understand it, but I will be sad. We need players with his desire and commitment.
Bottom Of The Barrel:
- Grant Clitsome - Terrible night for Clitter. No control of the puck, a bad penalty, and tons of turnovers.
- Curtis Sanford - Four goals, three of which were...weak. Two, for sure, were in the "this should not go in" category. This was not a night where we can say "Well, his D was terrible". Sanford had a couple great saves, but that made the failures to handle "routine" plays that much worse.
- Lineup Decisions - Seriously, I don't argue with shaking up the lines when the team is down two goals late, but Sammy Pahlsson as the fourth forward? Really? WHAT?
- Energy - Seriously, far too many players had nothing doing tonight. By the final eight minutes of the game, my Fiancee looked at me and said "My Chuzzles are way more interesting than this game." This team couldn't compete with an iPhone app for entertainment value in her mind, and I didn't really disagree.
The Jackets are off until January 31st in San Jose. Here's hoping for recharges, soul searching, and perhaps something worth staying up until midnight for.