TAMPA Same old story, same old song and dance.
Tampa Bay returned home only to lose momentum in a game they almost had to have, dropping a 2-1 decision to division rival Winnipeg.
Tampa Bay failed to build off a victory in New Jersey on Tuesday to close out a four-game road trip. The league’s second-ranked home power play failed to give Tampa Bay any life against the league’s worst-ranked penalty kill, going 0-for-4 on the night.
The teams went back and forth in an entertaining opening period, looking like two teams battling for position in the division, coming into the game tied for second place in the Southeast.
It was Winnipeg that struck first when Eric Tangradi came off the left-side boards, took two strides toward the net and snapped a wrist shot that beat Lindback shortside high 10:05 into the game. The goal was the first for Tangradi, acquired in a trade from Pittsburgh last month, since Oct. 15, 2010 against the New York Rangers, a span of 50 games.
The Lightning then went to work against the league’s worst ranked penalty kill unit, a team Tampa Bay scored three power play goals against in the first meeting of the season. But the Lightning power play, which has struggled since that outburst against Winnipeg on Feb. 1, failed to convert on numerous chances, the first coming in the opening period on Evander Kane’s high sticking penalty.
Then Olli Jokinen took a goaltender interference penalty 3:05 into the second period that failed to result in a tying goal. The clincher in power play futility on Thursday, however, came at 7:57 when Mark Postma was called for interference and Mark Stuart was whistled for high sticking giving the Lightning a full two minutes of a 5-on-3 power play. But after four shots on goal, and a bit of overpassing with five forwards on the ice for the full length of the man advantage, Tampa Bay came away empty and started at a one-goal deficit entering the final period.
That’s when the highest-scoring, third-period team in the league went to work when Stamkos notched the tying goal 6:57 into the period. Ryan Malone, back in the lineup after missing 13 games, raced to a puck deep in the Jets’ zone along the left endboards and was able to push a puck over to Marty St. Louis in the opposite corner. St. Louis then quickly put a pass on the stick of Stamkos at the top of the Winnipeg crease for a tap-in to tie the game.
But just moments after rookie Ondrej Palat hit the post off a perfect set up in from Cory Conacher, Bryan Little came off the left side boards low to power past Marty St. Louis to regain the lead for Winnipeg with 4:08 left in regulation.