The Tampa Bay Lightning scored a league-high 262 goals this season.
Well, they scored exactly none in a 3-0 shutout loss to the Detroit Red Wings in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series Tuesday. Tampa Bay now trails Detroit two games to one.
What the heck has happened to this team in the playoffs?
“I think they had a good first two games in the series,” Lightning radio voice Dave Mishkin said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “But they lost Game 1 because Petr Mrazek had a fantastic game and they couldn’t capitalize on some of the chances they had – and that happens in hockey sometimes. I agree with you. They didn’t have a good game (Tuesday). But every time this team has kind of been pushed so far this year, they found a way to respond. They were the only team in the league not to lose three straight at any point all year. They were able to bounce back. You could call Game 2 a very important game, one they needed to have. They got that game and we’ll see how they’re able to respond (in Game 4 Thursday).”
Both teams have scored seven goals in the series, but Detroit has taken Tampa Bay out of its game. The Lightning are at their best when they’re putting non-stop pressure on the crease and creating second and third shot opportunities. They simply haven’t been able to do that thus far.
Or have they?
“Well, look, in Game 1 they had 46 shots,” Mishkin said. “I don’t think you can say they didn’t shoot the puck in Game 1. They had 30 shots in Game 2 and scored five goals. So I would agree with you they didn’t shoot the puck enough (in Game 3). Maybe it was partially because they passed up some shots. But I thought the biggest problem was they passed the puck terribly. They really did. And I’ll give full credit. Detroit has played pretty well defensively in the series.”
Indeed, which is typically the nature of the playoffs in general.
“In playoff hockey, it’s hard to score four and five goals a game,” Mishkin said. “If you look around the league, scores are typically 2-1, 1-0. We had a 1-0 game (Wednesday) between Ottawa and Montreal. That’s the way playoffs games typically go. The Lightning can’t expect to score three to four to give goals a night. But you’re right that (in Game 3) they didn’t get enough pucks to the net, nor did they get to areas where they could get second (and) third shot opportunities.
“But I would maintain in addition to the fact that the Red Wings defended well – and Jon Cooper referenced this when he met with the media today, and I agreed with him – the Lightning made it easy on the Red Wings because their passing was not good,” Mishkin continued. “If you’re going to try to play a game with speed and with pace – which is what the Lightning want to do – you have to be able to pass the puck well. Because nothing will slow down a team that wants to play a speed game more than a pass that’s out of reach. The only way you can play the game fast is if you pass the puck crisply and cleanly.
“Now that was atypical for the Lightning (in Game 3), so we’ll see if they can get back to playing the way they typically do (in Game 4). But it’s not going to be easy. Because the Red Wings, as I mentioned, play a very structured game. Their defense is in great position to box out in front of Mrazek. They’re limiting the Lightning in many of these games to one-and-done shots, so the Lightning have to find a way – if they can get shots on the net – to try to get second and third opportunities.”
Game 4 is Thursday in Detroit at 7 p.m. ET.