The Tampa Bay Lightning came into its Tuesday night contest feeling pretty good. The team was tied with Nashville for the league lead and boasted the best goal differential in the NHL. The Bolts — who entered the game having scored 91 goals in the 2018-19 campaign — were also fresh off three games that saw the team out score opponents 16-7. That good feeling got the kibosh at the hands and feet of Anaheim Ducks backup goalie Ryan Miller who came into Amalie Arena and stopped all but one of Tampa Bay’s 35 shots en route to earning a 3-1 victory for the bad guys.
The bad omens were there from the get go, too.
Fans looking for another one of the blazing starts from the last two home games were left wiping sleep from their eyes as both teams slogged through a first period that saw Lightning netminder Louis Domingue look sharp on all 10 of the Ducks’ shots on goal. Anaheim — a big-bodied team — brought physicality to a Bolts side that’s been skating circles around opponents as of late. Neutral zone turnovers and sticks in passing lanes were mostly absent from the Lightning’s last two wins, but were problems in this match that did see the boys in blue clash formidably with the Ducks as both teams racked up 11 hits in the first frame.
In the second, the Lightning still couldn’t capitalize on a short burst of nice passing or Brayden Point’s 1-on-1 with Miller, and the Ducks — who continued to stymie the Bolts’ offense — lit the lamp first when Anaheim defenseman Josh Manson cleaned up a loose puck by flipping it over the left shoulder of Lightning netminder Louis Domingue with just under eight minutes left in the period.
It had been a while since the Bolts played behind, but the Lightning eventually tied the game when Nikita Kucherov watched a Ryan McDonagh shot go wide before giving Point a perfect pass that led to the center’s 18th goal of the season. The goal extended Point’s goal streak to three games and Kucherov’s assist extended his point streak to seven games.
That lone goal would be all the magic the Bolts could conjure up, however, as the team failed to convert on Ducks penalties (including a brief 5-on-3 situation) while Anaheim managed to score one power play goal and tack on another even-strength tallie to put the Bolts back 1-3 with 14 minutes left.
Credit should most definitely go to Miller, a 38-year-old vet who was awarded the Vezina Trophy (given to the NHL’s best goalie) in 2010, but the Bolts looked flat for the entire game which saw missed passes and at least one missed goal on a wide open net (it’s OK, J.T. Miller).
The Tampa Bay Lightning looks to rebound in two days as it closes out the homestand on Thursday against the red-hot Buffalo Sabres. Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m.