For the first five minutes of Game 1 against the New York Islanders, the Lightning looked near perfect. They were fast, smart and ready for the Islanders. After scoring a quick goal and getting Alex Killorn a mere inches from adding another, the top came off for the Lightning. When Erik Condra got knocked out of the game after taking a hard and awkward hit into the boards, the Lightning mentally followed him into the locker room. The (lazy) Lightning then coasted for the next 40 to 45 minutes, before playing out the final minutes to close out the loss.
Perhaps the Lightning were just lost after their week-long vacation, but not playing full games has been a regular trend for the Lightning all season. The team has a tendency to quit after taking a lead or in the majority of second periods this season. If it weren’t for Vezina candidate Ben Bishop saving them night after night, the Lightning easily could have lost five to 10 more games this season due to their lapses in play.
The Seasons Turning Point
The best example of the Lightning quitting on a game after a strong start was also one of the turning points in the Lightning’s season. After taking a 3-0 lead against the Winnipeg Jets, the Lightning proceeded to give up four goals in the third giving the Jets the lead in a game they had no right to be in. If it weren’t for a clutch goal by Kucherov to get the game into overtime and then the winner by Stamkos in the shootout, the Lightning would have lost a game they should have won. What happened after that win? The Lightning rattled off the franchise record 9-game win streak. It’s amazing what almost wasn’t.
The Good News
If there’s a consolation prize for the Lightning, it’s that they dropped Game 1 three times in last years playoffs and still came back to win two of those series. This is a team that has been in pressure situations before and they have consistently come out ahead. If the Lightning don’t wake up and play a complete 60-minute game, however, this Islanders team can and will sweep them out of the playoffs. Don’t expect Ben Bishop to give up four goals next game either, but at the same time the Lightning need to do more than rely on the four or five players who have carried them so far this year. If they don’t, the Lightning will have far longer than a week break come Round 3.