TAMPA, FL - If the Tampa Bay Lightning are in fact a playoff team, they failed to show it Tuesday night. Coming off an arduous road trip that saw the Bolts drop 3 out of 4, the Lightning continued to play with the malaise that has plagued them the entire month of March and were completely outplayed by the woeful New York Islands, losing 5-2 in front of the home crowd at the St. Pete Times Forum.
The Bolts looked tired, slow, and flat, and it showed on the scoreboard. The offense showed no signs of breaking out, continuing a streak in which the Bolts have scored 2 goals or less in 8 of their last 11, despite being handed eight penalties in the game. Nate Thompson and Dominic Moore scored for the Lightning, Moore's goal coming on the powerplay late in the third period when the game was 3-1.
The Lightning were again miserable in the third period, allowing two shorthanded goals to New York, one on a break away to Frans Neilsen while the game was still in reach and another empty net goal to Michael Grabner as time ran out. The Bolts now lead the NHL with a whopping 15 shorthanded goals allowed, including a very troubling four shorthanded goals in three consecutive games. Josh Bailey scored a powerplay goal for the Islanders, while Matt Martin and Kyle Okposo both netted their fifth goals for New York in a two goal second period.
Lightning goaltender Dwayne Roloson, facing his former team for the first time since being traded to the Lightning on New Years Day did not perform well, giving up four goals and making only 23 saves as the Lightning again outshot its opponent but failed to put enough pucks in the net. Islanders goalie Al Montoya made 36 saves on 38 shots including many difficult stops in a frantic third period.
The Lightning, who have only won twice in March, will fall further out of contention for the top spot in the Southeastern Division as the Washington Capitals beat Philadelphia 5-4 Tuesday, extending their lead to 7 games in the division. Tampa Bay is still sitting in 5th place but only 2 points ahead of 6th seed Montreal. Up next for the Bolts is a back to back home and home match-up with the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday and Saturday.
Tampa Bay has nine games remaining, and has a long laundry list of problems that need to get sorted out, and quickly, if they want to avoid a very short postseason.