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Lightning is better but not nearly good enough in a 5-1 loss to the Sharks



SAN JOSE, Calif. – Here’s the thing about the Lightning’s 5-1 loss to the Sharks Thursday night at the SAP Center:

Tampa Bay coaches and players truly believe that if they stick with the blueprint they followed in which they skated hard, competed hard and created scoring chances, they’re going to break out of a losing streak that has reached three games.

“I’m not sitting here saying we should have won,” coach Jon Cooper said. “But sometimes you have to have a game like this to work your way out of it. If we continue to play the way we did (Thursday) moving forward, we’re going to come out of this.”

That said, some things must straightened out.

The Lightning cannot keep falling behind as it has, and it must start converting some of its scoring chances. It actually outshot the Sharks 37-36, and a first-period power play in which Tampa Bay held the puck for almost the entire two minutes produced three shots but ended with the score still 1-0.

There also is this: for the third straight game on this west-coast trip, the Lightning (14-8-0) allowed two first-period goals. The six goals allowed matched what Tampa Bay gave up in the first period in its first 19 games, when it outscored opponents 17-6. In first periods during its losing streak, the Lightning has been outscored 6-0.

It also has hit a bit of a goal drought since it lost Steven Stamkos to a broken right leg. It has been outscored 16-6 on the road trip – Tyler Johnson scored against the Sharks – and has just 12 goals in five games without its star center.

For Johnson, though, goals are secondary right now to tightening up on defense, and not only in the first period.

“Obviously, when you’re missing Stamkos, it’s always tough,” said Johnson, who score his fifth goal of the season. “But we’re just giving up too many goals. It doesn’t matter how many you score. If you’re giving up four or five goals a night you’re not going to win too many games. We can’t really be focused on offense right now. We have to be focused on defense and go from there.”

Had it been tighter on defense, a solid game from goaltender Anders Lindback might have had more consequence. Lindback made 31 saves and kept the game from getting out of hand in a first period in which Tampa Bay allowed 18 shots, most in a period this season.

Tommy Wingels scored San Jose’s first goal after Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman and Marty St. Louis lost a corner puck battle to Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture.

The Shark’s second goal, a low shot by Brad Stuart, beat a screened Lindback. But Tampa Bay didn’t make enough of an effort to block the shot, annoying Cooper, who said that goal “can’t happen.”

Wingels made it 3-0 in the second period when he found space in the slot between Teddy Purcell and Matt Carle and banged in Marleau’s pass from behind the net.

It was 4-0 in the third period when Brent Burns scored on a sharp deflection of Scott Hannan’s shot after a defensive zone turnover by Richard Panik. Nineteen seconds later, at 4:42 into the period, Marleau scored on a partial breakaway.

“We did a lot of good things,” Cooper said. “I thought we created. I thought we had a lot of time of possession. But when we broke down the puck went in our net. When they broke down, the puck didn’t end up in their net.”

That said, the game probably was the best Tampa Bay has played on the road trip that ends tonight at Anaheim.

“We believe in this group,” Hedman said. “We know we have it in us, and I think we showed that (Thursday) for most of the game. If we play like this we’re going to win hockey games.”

[Last modified: Friday, November 22, 2013 6:11am]


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