PITTSBURGH — Lightning coach Guy Boucher didn't spare his players' feelings Sunday night.
So, instead of spinning an embarrassing 4-2 loss to the Penguins at the Consol Energy Center, Boucher was harsh.
"We weren't playing well right from the start and that was everybody," he said. "Our whole game, our defensive game, our offensive game, there was nothing there.
"We had nobody, really, who played a good game."
Tampa Bay was playing the second of back-to-back games and its third game in four nights, "But I don't want to make excuses," Boucher said. "We have to be better."
Especially with a chance to make a move in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
A victory would have put the Lightning (24-25-6) 11th, six points from the eighth and final playoff spot. Instead it is 12th, eight points out, and 11 points behind the first-place Panthers in the Southeast Division.
Pittsburgh's four unanswered goals, including two from league points leader Evgeni Malkin and a 41-23 shot advantage — 19-9 in the second period with three Penguins goals — buried Tampa Bay.
Steve Downie's franchise record two goals in 11 seconds for a 2-0 lead with 9:51 left in the first period became an afterthought.
The Lightning still is on a 7-2-2 run, but the magnitude of how it was outplayed was distressing.
"It didn't help we played three in four nights, but it's not an excuse," said goaltender Mathieu Garon, whose 37 saves kept the score respectable. "It's part of the schedule."
"They came out strong, and we weren't ready for it," defenseman Victor Hedman said. "We got out-battled, out-chanced and didn't work enough. We can't do the same mistakes again."
Steven Stamkos, Marty St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier played one of their worst games of the season.
Teddy Purcell's bad defensive read and slow reactions from Hedman and fellow defenseman Brett Clark allowed Chris Kunitz to make it 2-2 56 seconds into the second.
Garon should have stopped Kris Letang's shot that made it 3-2 but, wow, was he wide open. And Malkin's second goal, his 32nd, made it 4-2 with 9:06 left in the second after a turnover by Pavel Kubina.
So, after a 1-1-1 road trip, the Lightning still is closer to the bottom of the East than the playoffs.
"I'm not talking about the standings," Boucher said. "The other teams we don't control. As much as I'd like to call the coaches and ask them to lose for us, it isn't going to work."
On Sunday, neither did his team.
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Downie 10 (Purcell, Hedman), 9:58. 2, Tampa Bay, Downie 11 (Purcell, Clark), 10:09. 3, Pittsburgh, Malkin 31 (Letang, Neal), 16:15 (pp). Penalties—Staal, Pit (high-sticking), :28; Stamkos, TB (holding), 15:25.
Second Period—4, Pittsburgh, Kunitz 16 (Letang, B.Johnson), :56. 5, Pittsburgh, Letang 8 (Kunitz, Neal), 4:28. 6, Pittsburgh, Malkin 32 (Kunitz, Neal), 10:54. Penalties—Kubina, TB (tripping), 10:58.
Third Period—None. Penalties—Tampa Bay bench, served by Downie (too many men), 5:37; Gervais, TB (tripping), 8:44; Kunitz, Pit (slashing), 9:51. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 5-9-9—23. Pittsburgh 8-19-14—41. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 0 of 2; Pittsburgh 1 of 4. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Garon 17-14-4 (41 shots-37 saves). Pittsburgh, B.Johnson 3-6-2 (23-21). A—18,506 (18,387). T—2:28.