NEWARK, N.J. — For Lightning coach Rick Tocchet, the frustrating part of Friday night's 3-2 loss to the Devils at the Prudential Center is that a between-periods reminder to his players seemed to go unheard — or at least not sink in.
Stay away from penalties, he said he told them, and "stay patient."
"But sometimes when the pressure is on, people do stupid things," Tocchet added, "just stupid penalties."
Three in the first 3 minutes, 50 seconds of the third period — Lukas Krajicek (slashing), Jeff Halpern (tripping) and Steven Stamkos (tripping) — which led to two goals that erased a 1-0 Tampa Bay lead.
And while Jamie Langenbrunner's goal with 38.1 seconds left that broke a 2-2 tie was even strength, it also stoked Tocchet's ire as defenseman Andrej Meszaros failed to box out the right wing, who tipped in Andy Green's shot from the point.
"It's frustrating," Tocchet said. "We're in control of the game 1-0 and they didn't have many chances. Then dumb penalty after dumb penalty, and in the last seconds, no tenacity to clear out the front of the net.
"Just ways to lose."
For the 10th straight time to New Jersey and the fourth straight in a mini-skid for Tampa Bay (10-9-8) that includes an overtime loss.
Vinny Lecavalier, who took a couple of shifts on left wing for what Tocchet called a "change of scenery," beat goalie Martin Brodeur on a wraparound early in the second for his sixth goal. And Steve Downie's goal with 3:00 left in the third tied it at 2.
That goal was notable because it broke a 0-for-16 power-play streak. Special teams have been abysmal for Tampa Bay. The penalty kill has allowed seven goals in its past four games.
So it was no surprise New Jersey took advantage.
Brian Rolston's huge shot beat goalie Antero Niittymaki top-shelf, glove side 1:15 into the third period off a clean faceoff win by Rob Niedermayer against Halpern three seconds after Karijcek was whistled.
Niclas Bergfors scored at 5:14 with Stamkos in the box and after defenseman David Hale's clearance was deflected by the stick of New Jersey's Vladimir Zharkov.
Niittymaki said he wanted that goal back; it slid underneath his pads. But given the unexpected nature of the play, it was tough to blame him.
More to the point, Halpern said, "We're just not doing a good job executing, whether it's a lost faceoff or not clearing the puck, but those things can add up."
"It's three penalties in a row," Stamkos said. "You expect them to score."
"Stupid penalties," Tocchet said.
First—None. Penalties—Veilleux, TB (hooking), 2:18; Wright, TB, major (fighting), 14:02; Corrente, NJ, major (fighting), 14:02; Langenbrunner, NJ (hooking), 18:28.
Second—1, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 6 (Halpern), 1:26. Penalties—Konopka, TB, major (fighting), 2:48; Corrente, NJ, major (fighting), 2:48; Parise, NJ (tripping), 6:03; Malone, TB, major (fighting), 12:20; Elias, NJ (cross-checking), 12:20; Fraser, NJ, major (fighting), 12:20.
Third—2, New Jersey, Rolston 9 (Niedermayer), 1:15 (pp). 3, New Jersey, Bergfors 8 (Zharkov), 5:14 (pp). 4, Tampa Bay, Downie 4 (Stamkos, Malone), 17:00 (pp). 5, New Jersey, Langenbrunner 6 (Greene, Rolston), 19:21. Penalties—Krajicek, TB (slashing), 1:12; Halpern, TB (tripping), 1:35; Stamkos, TB (tripping), 3:50; Fraser, NJ (hooking), 16:45. Shots—Tampa Bay 7-9-8—24. New Jersey 5-6-8—19. Power plays—Tampa Bay 1 of 4; New Jersey 2 of 4. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Niittymaki 6-4-3 (19 shots-16 saves). New Jersey, Brodeur 16-7-1 (24-22). A—15,336 (17,625). T—2:22. Referees—Dennis LaRue, Dean Morton. Linesmen—Ryan Galloway, Brad Kovachik.