OTTAWA One thread coming loose once again unraveled a Lightning team that seems incapable of tying things all together.
Ottawa scored four times in the final seven minutes of the opening period and cruised to a 5-3 victory at Scotiabank Place on Saturday in front of an announced crowd of 20,016.
With 17 games remaining in the season, and Tampa Bay trailing eighth place Carolina by five points entering Saturday, and seven points behind division leading Winnipeg heading into their meeting on Sunday, the season seems all but lost in terms of getting into the playoffs on the heels of back-to-back losses to open a three-game road trip.
Perhaps the only bright spots came from the play of goaltender Cedrick Desjardins, who made several quality saves among the 19 stops made in relief which prevented the game from becoming a blowout, and the two goals scored by rookie Tyler Johnson, who continues to impress in his just his fifth career game.
The Lightning mounted a comeback with three goals in the final eight minutes, capped by Teddy Purcell’s goal with 1:59 left, but the hole was too big to crawl out of.
Tampa Bay actually got off to a good start with a solid forecheck and organized play in its own end. But with the state of the team, all it took was one mistake to send the team spiraling nearly out of control for the second half of the first period.
As usual, it started with a turnover in the defensive zone that marked the first thread to come unraveled. After Victor Hedman had a soft clear attempt kept in the zone, moments after the Senators misfired on a 2-on-1, Jakob Silfverberg was left alone in front where he redirected a Marc Methot shot/pass from left point at 12:49.
After that the Lightning looked completely out of synch in their own end, which led to Ottawa’s second goal as Marty St. Louis drifted too far toward the boards. That mistake opened up the middle area of the ice where rookie defenseman Eric Gryba found the vacant area of ice to fire home a one-timer off a pass from Kyle Turris at 14:29.
Ottawa went up 3-0 with 2:59 left in the first period as a dump in from Silfverberg took a funny bounce off the end boards right to Guillaume Latendresse, who outbattled Sami Salo for the puck to collect it and put a bad angle shot just inside the far post. That ended the afternoon for Garon, who was pulled for the second consecutive start after allowing three goals on 11 shots.
The onslaught did not stop, however, as Cedrick Desjardins had to make a couple of point-blank saves to keep it a three-goal game. But Daniel Alfredsson made it 4-0 with 9.1 seconds left after he collected his own shot, which had been blocked, and whistle the puck past Desjardins.
The second period, Tampa Bay looked more in control and better organized, creating scoring chances but could not solve Robin Lehner, who received some help from the post on a Tom Pyatt chance.