Missing the Point: Tampa Bay Lightning May Regret the Points They Lost

JC De La TorreAnalyst IIIMarch 22, 2011

Dwayne Roloson Hates Third Period Collapses
Dwayne Roloson Hates Third Period CollapsesPaul Bereswill/Getty Images

While the Lightning might feel fortunate for finding themselves within five points of the Southeast division-leading Washington Capitals after a disappointing four-game road swing, they just may look back at the trip with a little frustration.

Three times in the last four games, Tampa Bay had the second point in its grasp, heading to overtime with bottom feeders Florida and Ottawa as well as playoff-caliber Montreal Canadiens.

Earlier this season, Tampa Bay would come through in these situations with a play in overtime or the shootout. Lately though, it seems—with points at a premium—that Tampa Bay just can't secure that crucial second one.

As the Capitals have churned win after win in their 9-of-10 hot streak, Tampa Bay blew a two-goal, third-period lead to the last-place Senators and settled for an overtime loss.

The Sens' comeback was sparked by Tampa Bay surrendering its league-leading 13th shorthanded goal.

"It's identifying danger (when on the power play)," wing Martin St. Louis told reporters. "Sometimes it's just the bounce of the puck. We think it's going to bounce the right way. Sometimes it doesn't and ends up on their stick and goes the other way. We could have read the danger before and been back and killed it."

Since Tampa Bay has entered this funk, it's been a little play here, a lapse in concentration there that has cost this hockey team points in the standings.

"We get five points out of eight (on the four-game road trip), but that's not enough for me, it's just not enough,'' Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "Every single game we had on this road trip, we could have won, that's what I want. Period.''

With 10 games remaining, Tampa Bay still holds a game in hand on both the Capitals and the fourth-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins, who lead the Lightning by three points.

Barring a complete collapse down the stretch by Washington, it's likely the Capitals will claim their fourth straight Southeast Division title. They're so confident about their positioning that they plan on resting superstar forward Alex Ovechkin for the next 7-10 days to clear up an undisclosed injury before the playoffs.

The Lightning are now fighting for positioning and home ice advantage in the first round. With the injury-plagued Penguins still in shouting distance, Tampa Bay has the opportunity to tilt a potential playoff series against Pittsburgh to its advantage if it can overcome the three-point deficit (with one game in hand).

To do that, the Lightning need to stop giving away points.

One of the main causes for the lost points is their play in third period. Tampa Bay has been outscored 83-60 in the final stanza.

After a season's worth of data, Boucher has decided that perhaps his team's shifts have gone a little long. He's planning on rectifying that down the stretch by limiting shifts.

"We had guys who were averaging (more than) 50 seconds a shift," the coach told the Tampa Tribune. "And when that happens, all of a sudden in the second period, your play slips a little bit. And then in the third it slips a little more."

For Bolts defenseman Brett Clark, it's a bit simpler, "We need to learn how to close out games."