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Lightning @ Ucks Recap: Still Missing the D

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After the Ducks surrendered 4+ goals for the seventh time in the last 11 games, it's about time to hit the panic button on the state of the defense.

Lightning forwards beating Duck defensemen? What a surprise!
Lightning forwards beating Duck defensemen? What a surprise!
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Final Score: Tampa Bay Lightning 4, Anaheim Ducks 1

ANA vs. TB Shot Attempts 2-18-15

First Period: In true Bruce "change all the lines" Boudreau fashion, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry's left wing at the beginning of the night was Rene Bourque. The combination wasn't as detrimental as some may have feared in the early going, but then again, neither was the defense, because the puck spent A LOT of time in the first few minutes in Ben Bishop's end. It's not entirely uncommon during extended periods of pressure in a particular end that the offense only needs a matter of time to break through, and this was no exception. Patrick Maroon found himself fighting Victor Hedman for a rebound just to the left of Bishop, and the Big Dog simply overpowered the Lightning defenseman and chipped away at the puck until it was in the back of the net. Ducks 1, Lightning 0

The Lightning power play got their feet wet not long after the ensuing faceoff, as Bourque let an errant elbow hit Steven Stamkos up high. During a scrum in front of John Gibson, catastrophe almost struck the Ducks in a way other than the tying goal during the power play. While trying to help his goalie sprawled across the crease, Ben Lovejoy accidentally knocked Gibson's lid off right after a Tampa Bay shot rang off the cage of his mask. The youngster was just milliseconds away from suffering an injury that would have been eerily similar to what happened to Henrik Lundqvist a few weeks ago.

One thing in particular that the defense absolutely could not allow was Stamkos getting the puck alone in the slot, which, lo and behold, is something that ended up happening. Gibson was up to the challenge though, shutting down the five-hole in time. That must not have been enough incentive for the defense to keep a closer eye on that prime real estate, because shortly after that opportunity Cedric Paquette had the chance at an uncontested try from about the same spot. Thankfully, he missed wide on Gibson's glove side.

As the NHL's most lethal offense began to pick up steam, the Ducks found themselves on their heels and focused on clearing the zone instead of fighting back. Until oh look, a breakaway! Maroon found himself one-on-one against Bishop looking for his second of the night, but after playing the role of wrecking ball and knocking out any and all white jerseys in his way earlier in the same shift he was too gassed to do anything that would shake the Tampa goaltender, and ended up missing the net entirely.

The excitement relatively died down for the duration of the period, and Anaheim closed out the first with an 8-7 deficit in shots, but a 1-0 lead in what really matters.

At the beginning of the game, the Ducks broadcast pointed out that the team is 25-2-6 when scoring first, 17-0-3 when leading after the first, and 28-1-5 when the opposition doesn't score in the opening period. Three reasons to be optimistic about the remainder of the game, but only time would tell if these impressive records would improve or take a hit. Want to guess what happened?

Second Period: The beginning of the second period featured a cavalcade of one-timers from the point and a few more gift-wrapped chances from the slot, all coming off Tampa Bay sticks. Just like the Ducks' goal in the first, the  defense eventually folded to a persistent offense. Anton Stralman turned a Brian Boyle wrist shot from the blue line into a bouncing knuckleball that got above Gibson's glove and into the top corner. Lightning 1, Ducks 1

About a minute after the game-tying goal, a Getzlaf turnover off a faceoff gave the Lightning more time in the Anaheim zone that they wouldn't squander. Below the face off circle Ondrej Palat got Gibson to commit to him, and found Tyler Johnson uncontested (surprise) front and center at the top of the crease. Easy tap-in, and the visitors took their first lead of the night. Lightning 2, Ducks 1

Would giving up two goals in 1:24 wake the team up? Apparently not, as Tampa charged Gibson again, and if not for an old-school maneuver in a two-pad stack the Lightning would've potted their third goal in almost no time at all. At this point in time the Ducks were absolutely lost, and the scenario that a lot of us were fearing was becoming all too real. Tampa Bay had taken total control of the game, as evidenced by their offense putting 12 shots on goal in just the first seven minutes of the period.

With the way this period had been going, it seemed like nothing short of dumb luck would send Anaheim to the locker room with the deficit at one, but that notion was put to bed in the waning minutes of the second. Nikita Kucherov took a shot from the blue line that Gibson stopped, and laid down on the ice for in an attempt to cover up the rebound he couldn't find. In the process, though, as he tucked his stick into his side, he knocked the puck that was on his hip under his legs and into the net. Lightning 3, Ducks 1

Still, trailing 3-1 after this abysmal 20 minutes wouldn't have been the worst scenario, all things considered. Stamkos though, decided that his team deserved more than a two-goal lead. Presumably frustrated at all the prime chances he missed throughout the game he set himself up in the left faceoff circle, all alone again, and after being fed a cross-ice pass from Alex Killorn he didn't miss a wide-open net to close out the second. Lightning 4, Ducks 1

Exactly how one-sided was that period? The Lightning scored one fewer goal in the second than the Ducks had shots. Ducks faced a 4-1 deficit after 2 with a 28-12 disadvantage in shots. As they left the ice boos rained down in abundance from the crowd, justifiably so.

Third Period: The final period was a less extreme mirror of its predecessor: the Ducks' defense, at the mercy of the Tampa Bay forecheck, generally unable to do much of anything but send the puck away and pray for a friendly forward to pick it up. The first half of the third was a lot less eventful though, with the exception of the Ducks almost losing their goalie to a net falling on them for the second time in as many games against the Lightning.

Maybe in an attempt to get the team re-energized, Devante Smith-Pelly decided to dedicate a shift to doing what he does best: dropping the hammer. After throwing his weight around at the expense of a couple Tampa players, Devo got sent to the box for roughing Hedman. A less than ideal situation for the Ducks was somewhat remedied by the fact that the Tampa power play is somehow the inverse of their offense, so the best chances during DSP's penalty came off the sticks of Jakob Silfverberg and Getzlaf.

At the beginning of the third Lightning man advantage of the night by way of a Maroon slash, the Ducks wasted no time in taking the puck the other way, and a streaking Ryan Kesler was hooked by Johnson, returning play to even strength just 23 seconds into the penalty kill. Getzlaf dangled around almost every white jersey before tossing the puck to the front of the net, but no Duck could connect. The majority of Anaheim's best chances in that period came in that 4-on-4 and shortened power play, but they couldn't cash in on any, summing up a night that was all-around ugly.

The third as a whole wasn't terrible. Uneventful, but not terrible. Anaheim held their guests to only four shots on goal to their 13, but too many missed opportunities in this period ensured that any chance of a comeback wasn't going to happen. Ducks ended up closing the gap on the final shot count to 32-25, but it hardly matters as they get swept in the season series with the Lightning thanks to the 4-1 final.

* * *

The Good: Patrick Maroon. He came to play tonight, which is something that definitely can't be said about everybody on the team. He got the only Duck goal on the night and could have had one or two more, had some solid feeds that, unfortunately, nobody took advantage of, and dropped a handful of Tampa bodies, none better than a nice hit on Stralman into the Anaheim bench.

The Bad: Team attitude. I could be totally off on this one, and I really hope I am, but in the middle of what is by far the biggest slump of the season, you'd think there would be some urgency on everyone's part to put a stop to it as soon as possible. While watching this team lately, though, it kind of looks like a lot of guys are somewhat nonchalant about it. The Ducks are not the Kings. They cannot keep calm in a stretch like this with the comforting thought that everything will be okay in the end. They cannot flip a switch and go from a mediocre team to world beaters. Maybe it's just good control over their emotions, but for God's sake, these guys need to start showing some fire, or else this R-E-L-A-X approach could very well turn into losing home ice advantage and a first round date with St. Louis or Chicago.

The Ugly: Do I really need to spell it out? Holy moly, that second period was the embodiment of our worst fears about tonight. You don't need to have the mind of an NHL coach to understand that there's a particular area of your defensive area that should always be a no-fly zone for opposing players, for very, very obvious reasons.

Slot Mark

It blows my mind that the defense consistently A) tried to send the puck through the middle of the ice on multiple clearing attempts and B) allowed Lightning players to dipsy-doodle into this area as they pleased. Honestly, it's some kind of otherworldly miracle that Stamkos didn't get a hat trick tonight with all the chances he had around here. Throughout the season Frederik Andersen has been the glue that holds this dysfunctional defense together, but with the way they've been playing lately, he or any goalie in the league wouldn't be able to save this team from the inevitable first-round exit they're headed for. This is a plague that needs to get fixed and it needs to get fixed now.

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3rd Icehole: John Gibson. Oh boy, I'm not used to putting a goalie down here. Don't get me wrong, Gibson had a great first period, but it almost worries me to think what the score could have been if some of those missed grade-A Tampa opportunities actually hit the net. Rebound control is a crucial component to goaltending and he wasn't exactly on top of it tonight, which allowed the Lightning to get their offensive possessions up and running again. Oh yeah, he kind of put one in on himself too. The sequence was more of one that went horribly wrong as opposed to an idiotic play, but the simple fact still stands, that when you're a goalie you really can't go off and score on yourself.

2nd Icehole: Rene Bourque. I, for one, really don't want to see him on the top line again. If you're partnered up with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, your production is going to see a spike, but he's just not good enough to finish off what the Twins can set him up for. Between a blown breakaway and losing pucks all night, the Ducks might as well have had an empty left wing slot on line 1 tonight.

1st Icehole: Defense. All of the defense. Feel like a broken record due to the fact that I linked the "ugly" and the #1 spot here together for the San Jose game, but it's just as valid tonight as it was then. Not much more that needs to be said that wasn't hit above.

Next Game: Friday, February 20th @ Calgary Flames, 6:00 PM PST