Doing their best to make up ground in the NHL, the Ducks cannot afford to lose a single game. On a long, two week road trip, Anaheim has done a superb job at earning points in every game. That ended when they met up with the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.
The 3-2 loss in regulation was their first regulation loss on the road in seven games.
Jonas Hiller has limited opponents to two goals or less for most games since January 1st. This time, he could not prevent Steven Stamkos and the Lightning from striking fast and furious.
Stamkos first goal came just :28 seconds into the game, on a power play. A bad turnover forced Cam Fowler to take a hooking penalty in the first shift of the game and Tampa Bay made quick work of the man advantage.
Stamkos continued to be a one man wrecking crew by adding his second goal at 17:58. He had five shots on goal and it appeared that all of them had a good chance of going in.
As usual, the Ducks were behind, not only by a single goal, but two goals.
Saku Koivu, who committed the heinous turnover on the first shift, redeemed himself for the remainder of the game. He put the Ducks on the board :40 seconds into the second period.
Tampa Bay did not waste any time restoring their two goal lead. Teddy Purcell, assisted by Stamkos, made it 3-1 at 2:40.
Bobby Ryan, assisted by Koivu, put the Ducks back within one goal at 18:38, but the Ducks could not get any closer. Not that they didn’t put up a valiant effort.
Anaheim outshot the Lightning 11-3 in the third period and overall 30-16. It did not matter. Mathieu Garon refused to let any more goals past him, even when the Ducks pulled Hiller for the extra attacker in the waning seconds of the game.
“They made a big push in the third; we knew they’d make a big push,” Purcell said. “They’ve been one of the best teams in the League since the New Year so we knew it was coming.”
The Ducks are now 4-1-2 on their road trip and will finally finish up their travels in Carolina on Thursday.
IN OTHER NOTES: Devante Smith-Pelly was back in the line up after a two month absence. Smith-Pelly was loaned to the Canadian Junior Team for Worlds, but broke his foot in the first game by blocking a shot. After his foot healed, he was then loaned to Syracuse on a conditioning assignment. Smith-Pelly had a very good return game.
“I thought I played pretty well.” Smith-Pelly said. ”Obviously just being my first game, I was just trying to get my legs under myself and play physical and stuff like that. I thought I did a pretty good job of that.”
He did. His youthful energy at the end of a road trip was certainly a positive for the team as well.