Lethargic Tampa Bay Lightning loses 4-0 to Florida Panthers

SUNRISE — Give the Lightning this: It won more faceoffs during Wednesday night's game with the Panthers.

That's about all the good that came out of a dreadful 4-0 loss at the BankAtlantic Center.

"We just didn't play well," defenseman Paul Ranger said.

That is putting it mildly.

Tampa Bay (5-6-4), which finished a five-game road trip 1-3-1, managed just 24 shots, allowed two power-play goals to the league's worst team with the extra man and went 0-for-5 on the power play with six shots on goal.

If that isn't enough to make you hold your nose, consider this:

The Lightning was outplayed by a team that isn't even on the same page in terms of talent and entered on a 1-5-1 streak, all after Tuesday's team meeting addressed the issue of consistent effort.

"It's not motivational," Ranger said. "We just need to play better, period, play a 60-minute game, make better decisions. We have to play harder and win more battles.

"Some nights we can play with any team in the league. Other times we play like tonight."

Bottom line, Tampa Bay has to start scoring.

The team that over the summer spent lavishly to bolster its offense has a league-low 30 goals. That is not going to change much if it doesn't start getting more pucks to the net — it had just four first-period shots — and finishing its chances.

Marty St. Louis and Chris Gratton had glorious first-period opportunities in front of the net after Vinny Prospal and Ryan Craig, respectively, did good work to feed them after winning puck battles behind the goal line.

Neither beat Craig Anderson, who earned his first shutout of the season and fifth of his career. Had either chance converted, "maybe it would have been a different story," Prospal said.

Two minutes after Gratton was stopped, Bryan McCabe, with a slap shot from the high slot, beat Lightning goalie Mike Smith, who was screened by teammate Marek Malik, to give Florida a 1-0 lead.

For the fragile Lightning, it was a huge blow.

"For a team that's struggling, that's all it takes," coach Barry Melrose said. "It's the same thing when you're on a roll. Nothing bothers you. We had those two glorious chances. If one goes in, they're the fragile club."

"It's really tough. You're watching tape and wondering, 'Are we forechecking properly?' … No one is feeling sorry for us. No one is going to help us, and the cavalry isn't coming. This is a team that has to get it done."

Just spit-balling here, but the line of Prospal, St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier has to get more than six shots, as it did against Florida.

A goal here and there from the bottom lines would help, too. And two goals from the blue line are tied for fewest in the league.

Mostly, though, the team has to generate more effort, simply move its feet more, battle, especially tonight against the Red Wings. A repeat of what Tampa Bay showed against Florida, a team that at times looked as sloppy and sluggish, and it could get ugly.

To be fair, the game will be Tampa Bay's sixth in nine nights.

"No excuses," Melrose said. "We have to win whether we're playing 10 games in 10 nights."

He wasn't talking about faceoffs.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.

Panthers 1 2 1 4
Lightning 0 0 0 0

First Period1, Florida, McCabe 1 (Campbell, Olesz), 16:33. PenaltiesNone.

Second Period2, Florida, Horton 6, 1:28 (pp). 3, Florida, Campbell 1 (Bouwmeester, Horton), 10:25 (pp). PenaltiesEminger, TB (hooking), :35; Peltonen, Fla (hooking), 1:49; M.Smith, TB, served by Roberts (delay of game), 3:34; Krajicek, TB (hooking), 10:07; McLean, Fla (hooking), 11:36; Jokinen, TB (hooking), 15:34.

Third Period4, Florida, Campbell 2 (Bouwmeester, Peltonen), 16:28. PenaltiesBouwmeester, Fla (hooking), 1:40; Artyukhin, TB (interference), 4:55; Lecavalier, TB (boarding), 8:41; Skrastins, Fla (interference), 11:18; Belak, Fla (hooking), 14:28; Craig, TB, major (fighting), 18:13; Boynton, Fla, major (fighting), 18:13. Shots on GoalTampa Bay 4-9-11—24. Florida 8-15-8—31. Power-play opportunitiesTampa Bay 0 of 5; Florida 2 of 6. GoaliesTampa Bay, M.Smith 4-4-3 (31 shots-27 saves). Florida, Anderson 3-1-1 (24-24). A12,104 (19,250).

Panthers 4

Lightning 0

Lethargic Tampa Bay Lightning loses 4-0 to Florida Panthers 11/12/08 [Last modified: Friday, November 14, 2008 10:22am]

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