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Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning Let One Slip Away In Third

ST. PAUL, Minn. - In addition to a lack of scoring, one glaring element missing from the Lightning is an attitude. Whether it's around the net - the opposition's or their own - the team has not been playing with confidence at critical moments. Against Minnesota on Friday, Tampa Bay could have used such an attitude to pull out a victory. Instead, the Lightning failed to hold the lead they took into the third period and couldn't get it back despite a two-man advantage late in the game. The Wild scored three times in the third period - one into an empty net - to come from behind for a 4-2 victory. It was the first time this season Minnesota picked up a victory in five tries when trailing entering the third period.
For 40 minutes, the Lightning played like a team seeking to turn things around. After falling behind, the Lightning rallied with a power-play goal by Radim Vrbata with 39.9 seconds left in the first. Ryan Malone then gave Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead in the second period during a delayed call by picking up a loose puck in front. Then the third period arrived, and the Wild scored twice in the opening minutes, with the first on a James Sheppard deflection 2:01 into the period. Mikko Koivu put Minnesota up 6:10 in, and Tampa Bay never pulled even. "We had a really good second, and then it just seems like we are waiting for something bad to happen instead of sticking to what we are trying to do," interim coach Rick Tocchet said. "We have a couple of guys with the deer-in-the-headlights look, and we can't have that, we have to keep attacking." It's all about having the mental approach to finish things off. "As a team, when we go into the third period with the lead, I think we have to play harder and more responsible than you do the first two periods just to not even give the other team a chance to get back into the game," defenseman Paul Ranger said. "I think we need our key players to lead the way, especially at those certain times of the game." One of those key times would have been with 5:05 left, when the Lightning had a full two-minute, two-man advantage but failed to score. While Niklas Backstrom, who finished with 35 saves, stopped the six shots he faced during the 5-on-3, Tampa Bay didn't make the saves too difficult. "We didn't have much movement out there," Tocchet said, "and then when we did, we had our 20-foot shots and didn't have any traffic."

Reporter Erik Erlendsson can be reached at (813) 259-7835.

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