TAMPA — Eventually, playing catch-up was going to catch up with the Lightning.
Having trailed in each of the first three games — all victories — Tampa Bay took a silver lining in the end result.
But this time, no relentless rally, no remarkable last-second shot by Steven Stamkos could save Tampa Bay from a 4-0 loss to the Avalanche at Amalie Arena. There was little drama in this one, the sellout crowd of 19,092 at Amalie Arena beginning to file out with seven minutes left.
"You can't keep testing fate," coach Jon Cooper said. "Because eventually, you're not going to be able to come back. And (Thursday) we didn't."
History wasn't on the Lightning's side. The last time it won four straight games after giving up the first goal in each was Nov. 18-25, 1995. Its three-game streak after giving up the first goal was the first since 2001. Tampa Bay, outscored 5-0 in the first period this season, has led for just 26 minutes, 38 seconds in the first four games.
"It'd be nice to have the lead," Cooper said.
The Lightning nearly did, Nikita Kucherov ripping a one-timer off the post during an early power play. Instead, it was Colorado that scored, with Matt Duchene picking up a goal in the final minute of each of the first two periods. The second one came on an impressive re-direction in front.
"An unreal tip," Cooper said.
The Avalanche also got an unreal bounce on a back-breaking goal midway through the third. Tampa Bay, down 2-0, was pushing, racking up the first seven shots of the period. But a seemingly innocent dump-in by Joe Colborne took a wild carom off the back boards, bouncing right onto the stick of Andreas Martinsen, who put it in the empty net.
"That's kind of a stab in the back a little bit," Stamkos said.
Stamkos had thought he scored a couple minutes earlier, his fluttering shot getting through goalie Semyon Varlamov. But the goal was immediately waved off as defenseman Andrej Sustr had been already whistled offsides.
"I thought it was onside," Stamkos said. "I thought we put this review in for a reason. So if it's that close you let it go, let it play out and if it's offsides, you always have (the coaches challenge). It happened so fast."
Cooper said "everything just fell into place" for the Avalanche, but noted the visitors earned this one. Colorado blocked 19 shots, the Lightning still outshooting the Avalanche 27-16. Varlamov made some huge saves. Tampa Bay's power play was shut out for the third consecutive game following it's 3-for-6 performance in the season opener.
"We have to be better than that on home ice," Stamkos said. "Whatever they did, we can't give up four goals. You can't win if you don't score."
The Lightning's season opening four-game homestand was still a success, having won three of four. But it has yet to play the kind of consistent hockey expected from a team many predict will be playing deep into June.
"We haven't seen our best side yet," defenseman Anton Stralman said.
And this upcoming six-game, 11-day road trip, which begins Saturday in Ottawa, would be a good time to start showing it.
"Obviously it's nice to be at home, but sometimes you get on the road, guys get together and you don't try to impress your fans," Stamkos said. "You just go out and play your game. We're looking forward to our first road trip, against some divisional opponents. We should have no problem getting up for those games."
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.
First Period—1, Colorado, Duchene 1 (Mackinnon, Tyutin), 19:35. Penalties—Boyle, TB, Major (fighting), 2:22; Mcleod, COL, Major (fighting), 2:22; Grigorenko, COL, (tripping), 2:38; Filppula, TB, (hooking), 4:43; Iginla, COL, (tripping), 17:23.
Second Period—2, Colorado, Duchene 2 (Wiercioch, Grigorenko), 19:08. Penalties—Iginla, COL, (hooking), 11:52.
Third Period—3, Colorado, Martinsen 1 (Colborne, Wiercioch), 7:53. 4, Colorado, Soderberg 2 (Zadorov, Duchene), 12:22. Penalties—Stamkos, TB, (holding), 9:50. Shots on Goal—Colorado 7-7-2—16. Tampa Bay 5-10-12—27. Power-play opportunities—Colorado 0 of 2; Tampa Bay 0 of 3. Goalies—Colorado, Varlamov 2-1-0 (27 shots-27 saves). Tampa Bay, Bishop 2-1-0 (16-12). A—19,092 (19,204). T—2:27. Referees—Jean Hebert, TJ Luxmore. Linesmen—Pierre Racicot, Tony Sericolo.