The Lightning didn’t have their best effort Friday night against the Ducks in Anaheim, falling into a two-goal hole after one period and playing catch up from there in a 5-1 loss, a defeat that snapped their four-game win streak.
“They had a good game plan and we didn’t execute from the beginning,” Lightning center Steven Stamkos said. “I think it was just a lack of emotion, a lack of focus and just a lack of structure.”
Here are four observations from the game:
Ducks’ quick pace made the Lightning chase
The Lightning know they’re getting everyone’s best, and a young Anaheim team that hasn’t seen the back-to-back champs since two Cups ago was certainly game. The Ducks pushed the pace from the puck drop and were the faster team both with and without possession. Before they knew it, the Lightning went into the intermission down 2-0.
“We played slow,” coach Jon Cooper said. “So that worked in their favor and it caught up to us in the end. We started at 8 o’clock instead of 7.”
Anaheim certainly didn’t seem like a team that had lost four straight — by a combined score of 16-4 — and had been shut out the past two games. They were quick and aggressive in the offensive zone, buzzing all around the net. The Lightning were sluggish and sloppy, spending the first period chasing the puck, then chasing the score.
“They’re a good skating team,” Stamkos said. “They’ve got some big bodies. They simplified, they were shooting from everywhere, creating scrambles in the D-zone and we were just a step behind.”
How much did Anaheim control the game early on? They had 28 shot attempts in the first period, and 27 of them came in 5-on-5 play. Had it not been for goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, the Lightning might have been down four goals after one period.
“I thought we were on our heels a little bit and they just kept coming at us and and they got rewarded for it,” forward Corey Perry said.
Corey Perry’s return wasn’t a sweet one
Perry returned to Anaheim, where he spent the first 14 years of his career, two seasons ago with the Stars, but he couldn’t play because of a suspension. Friday was his first time on the ice in his old home. He was visibly emotional when a tribute video played at the Honda Center during a first-period whistle, and it was clear Perry’s current teammates wanted to get him a goal.
But it wasn’t in the cards for Perry, who had an open net when he beat Ducks goaltender John Gibson’s stick check, but his backhanded shot was interrupted by Anaheim defenseman Hampus Lindholm’s stick.
“It was a good give-and-go,” Perry said. “Those are the ones you’ve got to put in back of the net. I kicked myself for that one.”
Later in the period, Nikita Kucherov passed up a shot on goal on a 2-on-1 rush to pass back to a trailing Perry, but the puck skipped away as Perry couldn’t free himself of a backchecker.
Ducks’ defensemen were the better blue liners
After the Lightning pulled out a win in Los Angeles behind some yeoman’s work by the team’s four available defensemen, Tampa Bay had some help Friday, activating Andrej Sustr and Fredrik Claesson. The Ducks were without their top pair in Cam Fowler and Josh Manson, but Anaheim’s defensemen were the better group.
Lindholm prevented two goals himself, interrupting Alex Killorn’s first-period one-timer. Former Lightning defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk scored Anaheim’s second goal by putting back a rebound in front of the net. Shattenkirk’s goal was initiated when Ducks defenseman Greg Pateryn pickpocketed Ryan McDonagh at the blue line after exiting the penalty box. The Lightning defensemen are usually the ones jumping in offensively, but not Friday.
Vasilevskiy didn’t get much help
Vasilevskiy, who entered the night with a 4-0-0 record against Anaheim in his career, lost an edge on his skate and fell down while making a save early on during a second-period power play, leaving light-scoring Derek Grant with an open net for his second goal of the night and a 3-0 Ducks lead. But that play was one of the many times the Lightning left the middle of the ice in front of the net uncovered.
The aerial camera replay angle showed two Anaheim players on zero Lightning players in the frame. Shattenkirk’s goal was a result of a lack of coverage in front. Vasilevskiy was under duress all night, especially in a first period in which he saw 18 shots on goal. This was the first time Vasilevskiy has allowed four goals in consecutive games this season. Gibson, meanwhile, who like Vasilevskiy is headed to the All-Star Game, made some huge stops down the stretch on Lightning power plays.
• • •
The Tampa Bay Times has commemorated the Lightning’s second consecutive Stanley Cup title with a new hardcover coffee table book, Striking Twice. Order now.
Sign up for Lightning Strikes, a weekly newsletter from Bolts beat writer Eduardo A. Encina that brings you closer to the ice.