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After ugly loss in San Jose, Tampa Bay Lightning faces challenge at Colorado

Sharks defenseman Jason Demers, left, battles for the puck against Lightning defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron in the third period of Tampa Bay’s 7-2 loss Wednesday. The Lightning gave up five first-period goals.

Associated Press

Sharks defenseman Jason Demers, left, battles for the puck against Lightning defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron in the third period of Tampa Bay’s 7-2 loss Wednesday. The Lightning gave up five first-period goals.

SAN JOSE, Calif. — When the Lightning gave up the final goal of a 7-2 loss against the Sharks on Wednesday, defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron angrily slammed his stick on the crossbar.

Bergeron's clearing attempt instead had ended up in the back of the net, and it was the final indignity of a long night for Tampa Bay.

"It was frustration," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "But you know what? It was frustration that we bring on ourselves, and we deserve it."

Now, Boucher's players have to put it behind them. Tampa Bay completes this two-game road trip in the Western Conference by playing Colorado tonight. That's because the Avalanche presents another stiff challenge for the Lightning.

Colorado (17-17-1) has a young, fast and improving team that is riding a seven-game winning streak at home.

"We have to look at this as a must-win before Christmas," Lightning wing Marty St. Louis said. "We've got an easier schedule after Christmas, being at home a bit more. It's never easy coming out here. But now we have a chance to win in Colorado and come back home 1-1. We just have to answer for this."

By the end of this trip, the Lightning (14-17-2) already will have played 21 road games on the season. It also is an encouraging sign that St. Louis, who made a surprise return to the lineup Wednesday, is back sooner than expected from the facial injuries he suffered Dec. 8.

St. Louis picked up where he had left off in his first game back. He scored his 10th goal of the season and was an active presence all night, logging 20 minutes, 3 seconds of ice time and recording three shots on goal.

"Hopefully that was something that I can personally build on as I get my game back to where it was," St. Louis said. "But it's a process."

Tampa Bay finding its team game continues to be a process.

The Sharks thoroughly dominated the early going, scoring five first-period goals.

"We were soft in the battles," Boucher said. "We lost our races. When we had it, we fumbled the puck. It was a nightmare that you don't want, and it was all there in the first period."

Particularly galling was how the San Jose forwards had their way in the Tampa Bay zone. The fourth goal of the game, for instance, came when Logan Couture was left open after getting past Lightning center Steven Stamkos on a rush.

Starting goaltender Mathieu Garon was chased just 6:21 into the game after the third goal, and replacement Dwayne Roloson didn't fare any better as the Lightning gave up seven goals for the third time this season.

The Sharks, who had 42 shots on goal, constantly were allowed to break free of the Lightning defensive coverage.

Boucher repeatedly came back to the same word to describe the his team's effort: soft.

"It's not that we have a lack of coverage," he said. "It was soft coverage."

Added St. Louis: "You have to be willing to battle in your end. We didn't do that."

Shannon out: Wing Ryan Shannon will be out two to four weeks with a lower-body injury suffered Wednesday, the team said. Shannon will be re-evaluated when the team gets back from Denver. Tampa Bay was already playing without center Nate Thompson and defenseman Matt Gilroy, both with lower-body injuries.

Tonight: Lightning at Avalanche

When/where: 9; Pepsi Center, Denver

TV/radio: Sun Sports; 970-AM

Key stats: The Avalanche is 8-1-0 against the Eastern Conference. … The Lightning is 3-11-2 on the road against Colorado all time. … C Vinny Lecavalier has one goal and four assists in the past 12 games. … C Dominic Moore's brother Steve played parts of three seasons for Colorado. He suffered a career-ending broken neck against Vancouver in an attack by then-Canucks forward Todd Bertuzzi in 2004. … The Lightning has three power-play goals in its past 11 road games.

Michael Kelly, Special to the Times

After ugly loss in San Jose, Tampa Bay Lightning faces challenge at Colorado 12/22/11 [Last modified: Thursday, December 22, 2011 9:09pm]
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