Lightning aren’t backing up Curtis McElhinney’s play in net

Diana C. Nearhos’ takeaways: Brayden Point shouldn’t be dropping the gloves. Lightning aren’t rolling four lines. Senators’ arena leaves a lot to be desired.
Ottawa Senators defenceman Mark Borowiecki (74) collides with Tampa Bay Lightning centre Alex Killorn (17) and centre Anthony Cirelli during second period of NHL action in Ottawa, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. Fred Chartrand  |  AP
Ottawa Senators defenceman Mark Borowiecki (74) collides with Tampa Bay Lightning centre Alex Killorn (17) and centre Anthony Cirelli during second period of NHL action in Ottawa, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. Fred Chartrand | AP
Published October 13
Updated October 13

The Lightning needs to give Curtis McElhinney some help. The goaltender has played well enough to win two games, yet he’s come up empty.

Both times, the Lightning played a dud in front of him. Last Sunday, they started well and faded hard. Saturday, they started flat and never caught up. Either way, the result is zero in the win column for McElhinney.

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“He’s been incredible,” Ryan McDonagh said. “He was our backbone back there. He came up with some huge stops to give us a good chance. It’s just too bad we haven’t been able to get him a W.”

The Lightning struggled to get out of their own zone and couldn’t get past the neutral zone to start the game. The Senators put 12 shots on McElhinney in the first period and he turned away all of them.

In all, McElhinney made 30 saves on 33 shots. Two of the goals against came on odd-man rushes and the third when Jean-Gabriel Pageau got to the crease past four Lightning skaters.

“We talk about giving (the goalie) an honest effort and I’m not sure we did that tonight,” coach Jon Cooper said.

Can a goalie get a little support here?

Read up on the Lightning’s 4-2 loss to the Senators

Odd-man rushes pull people out of their seats. They’re fast and they lead to scoring chances. The Lightning’s first few games have demonstrated exactly why – for the other team. Read more.

The Lightning’s 2011 first-round pick scored two goals and an assist against them. Vladislav Namestnikov was a difference-maker with his brand new team. Read more.

More notes and thoughts from the game:

  • Brayden Point is not the player the Lightning want dropping the gloves. Jean-Gabriel Pageau engaged Point after the two tangled, digging out a puck along the boards. The star center fighting in his second game back from injury makes you cringe.

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  • In the past, Cooper has stressed how much he likes rolling all four lines. But when the going has gotten tough so far this year, he’s pulled back on the fourth line. It’s not exactly a goal-scoring line but there’s more to the decision. Both Pat Maroon and Carter Verhaeghe play on the power play, which can effect the rotation of the lines. Luke Witkowski is the loser in that equation, as he ends up with the least ice time.
  • Least ice time, yes, but Witkowski did double his NHL goal total. He landed a nice wrist shot from the left circle to tie the game 2-2, midway through the third period. He scored his only previous goal with Detroit, against Nashville on Feb. 17, 2018.
  • Carter Verhaeghe lost a skate blade during play and looked like a baby giraffe just learning to walk as he tried to get back to the ice. It made for a decent metaphor for the team’s play overall, but at least he had a reason. (Good thinking by Andrei Vasilevskiy, who you can see reach out to help Verhaeghe from the bench at the end of this GIF)
  • The Canadian Tire Centre has no atmosphere. Other than when the Senators score (and when the t-shirt cannon comes out), the crowd has the feel of a group without an allegiance, just here to check out the game. It’s in the outskirts of Ottawa, which doesn’t help. And owner Eugene Melnyk has made matters worse by blaming fans while not putting money into his team nor arena. It’s a sad state.

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