Lightning Lose To Wild For Fourth Defeat In Last Five Games

Minnesota Wild left wing Jason Zucker celebrates his goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

TAMPA — The Minnesota Wild came into Amalie Arena with a 10-game point streak.

The streak grew to 11 on Thursday night.

Mats Zuccarello’s goal at 4:08 of the third period was the difference in the Wild’s 5-4 win over the Lightning, who dropped to 1-3-1 in their last five.

Zuccarello’s goal came only eight seconds after Tampa Bay tied the score on a goal by Alex Killorn.

A similar situation played out late in the second period when Minnesota scored only 38 seconds after the Tampa Bay tied it at three on Victor Hedman’s 100th career goal, which came on the man advantage.

“That should never happen,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper of allowing two goals on the shift after after knotting the score. “That’s just losing focus. We worked so hard to get the tying goal. There’s not much you can do to get guys focused. They have to go out there and perform.”

A wild first period, pardon the pun, saw the teams combine for five goals. The Lightning scored on the game’s first shot, courtesy Erik Cernak at 1:52.

Minnesota, averaging 2.93 goals per game coming in, scored three times in a 1:41 span midway through the period to take a 3-1 lead.

Mikhail Sergachev brought Tampa Bay to within one when he skated around Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin and slipped a shot past goalie Alex Stalock on the short side with 4:03 remaining in the period.

Tampa Bay spent a good portion of the second period in the Minnesota zone and knotted the score at three on Hedman’s goal, a blast from straight away that went along the ice and between Stalock’s pads.

“It’s cool,” said Hedman of reaching the 100-goal plateau, 10 years to the day he scored his first. “But it’s tough to feel that excitement after a game when you come up with nothing. But it means a lot to get them all in this uniform.” 

The Lightning had a couple of outstanding chances to tie the game at five after goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was pulled with a little more than two minutes remaining. However, Stalock was equal to the task and the Wild improved to 8-0-3 in their last 11 games.

“Obviously, we need to find ways to win games,” said Ryan McDonagh. “Right now we are finding ways to lose them and that is something this group is not satisfied with at all.”

The five goals were the most the Lightning allowed since a 5-2 loss at the Islanders on November 1, a stretch of 12 games.

“The (level of) pride we are taking in our (defensive) zone is unacceptable right now,” said Cooper. “We strung together some games of late where we played pretty well. But, giving up goals like that in this league, you have no chance.”

Thursday’s game was the start of a stretch in which the Lightning play 10 of 12 games at home. They take to the ice again at Amalie Arena on Saturday night (7:00) against San Jose.

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Tom Layberger has been a sports writer, reporter and editor since 1990. Among the companies he has worked for are Comcast, NBC and The Topps Company. In addition to being a contributing writer for sportstalkflorida.com, Tom also writes for forbes.com and globalsportmatters.com. A native of the Philadelphia suburbs and a USF grad, Tom is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation. He resides in Tampa.