Morning after: Lightning needs more 'urgency'
Lightning coach Jon Cooper said the theme of the preseason has been that his team has gotten better as the game goes on.
The problem is, Tampa Bay isn't starting so well, including Tuesday's second straight 4-2 loss to the Panthers. And with just two preseason games remaining before the Oct. 6 season opener, time is running out to shake the rust off.
"There's urgency," captain Steven Stamkos said. "Especially when coming off the year we didn't make the playoffs. We're not sitting here thinking, 'Ok, we'll just flip the switch when the season starts.' We need to get better. Obviously the last couple games we'll see, including tonight, more of the guys who will be in the opening night roster. We need to come together.
"I know we've had the same core guys for a while. It always takes some time to get that chemistry back and that's what we'll do in the last two games."
No one should read into preseason records. But with the roster down to 26, Tuesday included a lot of the Lightning regulars - from Stamkos to Nikita Kucherov to Tyler Johnson and Andrei Vasilevskiy. And the first two periods were sloppy, sluggish, before the Lightning outshot Florida 19-9 in the third.
The Lightning finish up the preseason with games Thursday (in Sunrise) and Saturday (in Nashville), so the regulars have a few more opportunities to come together.
"There's only six periods left," Stamkos said. "If we've learned anything from the last couple years, we want to start the season on time, not get behind the eight ball. There's definitely some areas to improve."
More from Tuesday's game: LW Alex Volkov, a plus-one, held his own on a line with Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat, the second-round pick continuing his darkhorse case to make the team. G Andrei Vasilevskiy was sharp with 29 saves... D Anton Stralman was encouraged with how he felt in his exhibition opener, having been sidelined with an undisclosed injury the first week of camp. He had four shots in a team-high 21:12. "It was a good test," Stralman said. "And I think I passed." Stralman was paired with D Mikhail Sergachev, who had an assist in 19:50 in his fourth straight game. "I think 'poise' would be a word that kind of sums him up," Stralman said. C Steven Stamkos said his legs felt a lot better than Friday's exhibition debut, but still wants to get better with the puck and making plays (five giveaways). "That's probably the toughest part to come in and expect yourself to make those plays," Stamkos said. "Your mind wants you to make those plays, but sometimes your body is a step behind." Ryan Callahan scored a goal, a deflection in front of a Dan Girardi point shot. "Those are the areas I have to go to put the puck in the net," Callahan said. C Brayden Point had a team-high seven shots, playing well alongside Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, who had a goal and six shots. The Lightning got handled in the faceoff circle, losing 32 of 56 (43-percent). Tyler Johnson won 8-of-11.