The Tampa Bay Lightning is not afforded the opportunity to throw away two points before a game even starts.
That’s what they did again Friday night, as the team decided that they were going to not put forth the effort needed to beat a team in last place in the conference for the first 40 minutes of the game as the Ottawa Senators beat the Lightning 2-1 at the St Pete Times Forum.
Senators goaltender Curtis McElhinney, who was picked up off waivers from the Bolts, when the team tried to sneak him through waivers so they could send him to Norfolk in the AHL, was the difference in the third period as he made a number of big saves to help stave off a big rally by the Bolts to tie the game. McElhinney in all made 19 out of 20 saves in the third period and a total of 34 in the game to earn the victory.
Senators received goals from Jason Spezza and Bobby Butler, as the Sens scored in each of the first and second periods to put the Bolts in a hole that even a furious comeback in the third period would be too much for the team to overcome.
Coach Guy Boucher addressed the media after the game having a difficult time explaining his team’s effort. Tampa Bay all but gave away the first 40 minutes of this game.
“The minute we waste minutes we are cooked, we cannot win with our skill and if we would have scored the tying goal,” he said. “I am not sure we would have learned anything.” He spoke about being “very disappointed, at this stage in the season it has to come from the room.”
Steven Stamkos also talked after the game that his entire team needed to understand the urgency not playing down to teams in the standings.
“Everyone has to look in the mirror with their effort, me included,” said the star forward.
This is a similar quote the Martin St. Louis echoed after the Montreal game when he questioned his teammates effort at the slow start in that game. St. Louis who made an attempt to help his team in defeat as he scored the only goal of the game his 26th in a losing effort, team captain Vincent Lecavalier had an amazing 12 shots in the game as he tried to take his team on his back to bring them back in the game.
Now the team heads on the road for a crucial four game stretch and three of those teams are not currently in the playoff picture (Florida, Toronto and Ottawa) with only Montreal in the top eight of the Eastern conference standings.
If the Bolts have any thoughts of making an effort to win the Southeast division, this is going to be a vital stretch in which they have to bring the urgency every shift and every game no matter where the opponent is in the standings.