For a team that has spent the better part of the post-All-Star break losing and seeing points vanish into the abyss, the Tampa Bay Lightning didn’t sound too upset Thursday night about dropping their ninth game in 12 outings.
The Lightning, who will host the struggling Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night, fell 4-3 in overtime Thursday to the Vegas Golden Knights, but the fact that the defending Eastern Conference champions salvaged a point was worth noting in itself.
They scored twice in the last 2:07 of regulation with an extra skater on the ice — Nikita Kucherov’s blast in a six-on-five and Brayden Point’s career-high-tying 41st tally on a power play with 28 seconds left during a six-on-four advantage.
“Good to see some resiliency,” said Point, who matched his goal total from the 2018-19 season. “Obviously, it’s been a tough stretch for us here. To keep with the work ethic and then kind of claw our way back into it and get a point is big for us.
“It looked like we were getting nothing out of that game, and to get one is nice.”
Point and Kucherov –who extended his home point streak to a franchise-record 23 games — each produced three-point showings.
However, ugly numbers accompanied the loss.
The club has won just six of 17 games since the early February break (6-6-5) and is 3-5-4 over its past 12 contests. The Lightning are just 1-2-2 in the season’s final full month.
Despite the steady run of mediocre play over five weeks, Tampa Bay remains firmly in third place in the Atlantic Division. They hold a healthy 10-point lead over the fourth-place Florida Panthers, who beat the Chicago Blackhawks in overtime Friday night.
For the second straight game, the Blackhawks wasted a two-goal lead and dropped a 4-3 decision on the road.
After Wednesday’s loss at the Detroit Red Wings, Chicago suffered the overtime defeat at the Panthers in a setback that was tough to stomach.
In another two-score first period, Chicago got goals from Caleb Jones and Boris Katchouk, but Florida — chasing a wild-card spot — put three on the board in a span of 4:13 in the third.
With goalie Petr Mrazek off for the extra skater, Cole Guttman scored for the fourth time in 13 games to force overtime with 45 seconds left.
Defenseman Brandon Montour won it for Florida in the extra session with a blind, backhanded, miraculous swipe that sent the puck through the legs of Mrazek, who stopped 39 of 43 shots.
“(In) the third period, they brought it on,” said Chicago fourth-line center Jujhar Khaira. “Good on us for not giving up, folding under and getting a late one to tie it up.
“It’s a learning process for everyone, so for us to do that, I think it gives us confidence going into games for the rest of the season.”
With goaltender Alex Stalock (non-COVID illness) out, the Blackhawks signed Zach Andrews — a resident of nearby Coral Springs, Fla. — to serve as the emergency backup goalie.
Anders Bjork was hurt in the first period, didn’t return and won’t be available Saturday, according to Chicago coach Luke Richardson.
Connor Murphy (personal reasons) wasn’t in the lineup and also is expected to miss the game with the Lightning.
–Field Level Media