EDMONTON, Alberta — Considering the Lightning was playing its third game in four nights, with half of its top-nine forwards hurt, it will certainly take the one point earned in Saturday's 3-2 shootout loss to the Oilers.
"Courageous effort by our guys," coach Jon Cooper said.
But as much as Tampa Bay (15-14-3) feels it's improved its play the past week or so, it's letting too many points and winnable games slip away. The Lightning, which has lost nine of its last 11, has just six points in the last 25 days, though is just two points out of the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division.
"These teams ahead of us aren't too far ahead of us in the division, so at least they're still in sight to catch," Cooper said. "We've just got to keep gutting games out and hopefully get some of these guys back and take our game to another level."
The Lightning took three of six points on this three-game swing through Western Canada, and nearly had four, with Vladislav Namestnikov hitting the crossbar in overtime Saturday. But after holding Oilers superstar Connor McDavid scoreless through regulation and overtime, the league's leading scorer had the shootout-sealing goal.
"Tonight really could have gone either way," center Tyler Johnson said.
Tampa Bay was without five regular forwards: Steven Stamkos (knee surgery), Nikita Kucherov (lower body), Ondrej Palat (undisclosed), Cedric Paquette (upper body), Ryan Callahan (lower body). It tried to call up a forward from AHL Syracuse, but flight delays cost Tanner Richard his NHL debut.
"Now you just put in a new guy in the lineup almost every night," Cooper said.
The culprit for Tampa Bay continues to be the penalty kill. The Lightning allowed two power play goals Saturday, the third time in the last four games it has given up multiple goals on the man advantage.
"We've got to step up as players, enough is enough here," goalie Ben Bishop said. "We got to have more passion to kill these penalties. It's starting to get almost embarrassing."
But the Lightning wouldn't strike until late in the second period. Jonathan Drouin, who has been dazzling the past few weeks, tied it up on a highlight-reel power play goal, a snipe from the slot. It was his fourth goal in his last six games. And Bishop made sure it was a tied game after two periods with a great save on Lucic in the final minute.
In the third, the Lightning came out with some jump, and took the lead on a Johnson goal, his first since Dec. 1. It came on a 2-on-1 set up by Cory Conacher, who is playing like he doesn't want to go back to Syracuse. But the Oilers tied it up shortly thereafter with their second power play goal, a deflection by Leon Draisaitl with 13 minutes left in regulation.
"It's been tough because special teams are a big part of the game," Cooper said. "And it seems killing penalties is costing us some points."
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.