Too many penalties costing Lightning valuable 5-on-5 time

·3 min read

TAMPA — Trying to make something happen early in the Lightning’s 4-3 shootout loss to Colorado on Saturday night, defenseman Mikhail Sergachev tried to charge up ice when he lost the puck at his own blue line.

That put Sergachev in a tough position, and with Avalanche defenseman Logan O’Connor heading the other way with nothing but open ice in front of him, Sergachev made a desperate reach with his stick and was called for holding.

The Lightning also killed off a penalty called just 36 seconds into the game, meaning Sergachev’s miscue forced the Lightning to kill off two penalties in the first six minutes.

It was the second of six penalties the Lightning recorded against the Avalanche — preventing them from getting any offensive flow despite outshooting the Avalanche early.

“It’s tough for momentum to get your way early,” Mathieu Joseph said of the team’s infractions.

Penalties are nothing new for the Lightning. The past three years they’ve been one of the most penalized teams in the league when it comes to minor violations.

Last season, they logged the second-highest minor penalty count at 197 behind Boston’s 199. The year before it was 257, putting them third behind Carolina (258) and Washington (267). In 2018-19, they led the league with 301 minor penalties, nine more than second-place Anaheim.

But those teams were able to get around those disadvantages with scoring, something the Lightning have struggled to find as easily this season.

Tampa Bay has yet to score a first-period goal or hold a lead in regulation, reminiscent of the start to the 2016-17 season, the last time the team missed the postseason.

Saturday, the Lightning couldn’t find a rhythm and Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog opened scoring nearly three minutes after the second penalty expired.

“Penalties killed us,” Steven Stamkos said. “It ruined the flow of the game.”

Second-period penalties in particular have killed the team’s five-on-five chances. To date, they’ve logged 14 in the middle frame, accounting for 58.3 percent of their penalty total. The team also has been outscored 8-4 in the second period.

The team’s five-on-five game has been a slow progression since the opener against Pittsburgh, a 6-2 blunder that the team called “uncharacteristic.”

After the Colorado game, coach Jon Cooper thought a lot of what the team did at even strength looked good enough to earn a point by sending the match into overtime, but he didn’t excuse the number of times his group gave the Avalanche ample opportunities to score with a man advantage.

With the penalties Tampa Bay has taken this year — all 24 of them — the Lightning have chased the lead more times than not.

“Penalties happen obviously in hockey,” Joseph said. “We felt good about our game and then boom, penalty against us.”

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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