Right when the Tampa Bay Lightning start to gain some ground, the hockey gods smack them right back down to earth.
Jon Cooper opted to dress seven defensemen against the Minnesota Wild. On any given night, it’s usually not a problem if the team goes down a forward. How about a what would equate to a whole line of forwards? Yeah, that’s worrisome. Especially considering the players lost are all centers.
Yet somehow the Lightning managed to beat the Minnesota Wild 4-1 despite losing Vladislav Namestnikov, Tyler Johnson and Cedric Paquette in the process.
Let’s start with Namestnikov.
In the second period, he and Zach Parise get twisted together as they chase down a puck. When Parise falls, hie body weight drags down Namestnikov by the leg.
The two continue to move together into the side boards. Right before they make contact, Namestnikov appears to try to get to his skate. He sticks out his leg as he and Parise collide with the boards. Their momentum causes his leg to bend awkwardly.
The Lightning forward stayed down on the ice for a couple minutes as the trainer attended to him. He skated off with the help of his teammates putting little to no weight on his left leg.
The injury to Namestnikov happened around the 16:50 mark on the clock. Just shy of five minutes later, Tyler Johnson goes down in a heap along the side boards.
This time Nino Niederreiter goes straight at Johnson as he plays the puck.
It’s questionable as to if El Nino intended to go knee-on-knee with Johnson. He definitely was going for the hit and Johnson was trying to get out of the way.
Regardless, the contact caused Johnson to fall to the ice where play continued.
He, like Namestnikov, stayed down on the ice until teammates helped him skate off. He also was unable to put little or no pressure on his left leg.
The Lightning announced both players would not return to the game due to lower-body injuries.
Finally, just over midway through the third period and the Lightning with a solid 3-0 lead, Cedric Paquette gets smacked by the injury bug.
Paquette is watching the action out front of the goal crease when Niederreiter skates into his personal space. Paquette grabs El Nino so he cannot cause any more havoc when defenseman Jake Dotchin gives Niederreiter a shove.
The shove has a ripple effect. It gets Niederreiter away from the crease, but it also causes Paquette to fall over and his leg bend awkwardly underneath him. Legs don’t bend that way on purpose. Paquette immediately grabs his left leg and writhes in pain.
He leaves the game and does not return.
In his post-game media scrum, John Cooper has no official update on the status of the players. According to Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, Cooper said ‘it doesn’t look encouraging’ for all three.
Time to inject Steven Stamkos with some of Wolverine’s blood. The Lightning might need him now more than ever.