WASHINGTON — The Lightning was feeling good about itself, having won three straight heading into Friday's game in the nation's capital.
Maybe too good.
In a measuring-stick game against one of the Eastern Conference's top teams, the Lightning got stuffed like Thanksgiving turkeys in an admittedly embarrassing 4-2 loss to the Capitals at the Verizon Center.
"We (laid) an egg," center Brian Boyle said.
Tampa Bay is 2-17-2 in its past 21 games in Washington. But it was how the Lightning lost — coming out flat, getting outshot 31-14 in the first two periods — that left a sour taste in its mouth, forcing a much-needed response game tonight against the Islanders in Tampa.
"Good news is we play (tonight), so we don't have to think about the crappy effort we gave (Friday)," captain Steven Stamkos said. "Can't play 15, 20 minutes in a game and expect to win."
That the Lightning (11-10-3) lost center Tyler Johnson for undisclosed reasons 48 seconds into the game didn't help. Neither did Tampa Bay giving up three power-play goals, with star Alex Ovechkin scoring one of them.
"Happy Thanksgiving, Ovi," goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy quipped.
But whether it was the team Italian dinner on Thanksgiving or something else, coach Jon Cooper said his squad didn't "have our legs." And it didn't execute, looking little like the team that beat the red-hot Rangers, Ducks and Kings in the past eight days.
"(Friday) was hopefully a blip on the screen," veteran wing Ryan Callahan said. "It wasn't good enough. Everyone realizes that. That's the hardest part. We feel like we were finding our game the last three games, playing well, getting wins, finding different ways to win."
The Lightning made the game interesting with a push in the third period, during which it racked up 20 of its 34 shots and scored twice (goals by Boyle and Victor Hedman) to pull within two with 7:05 left. But it was too late.
The score would have been a lot worse had it not been for the stellar play of Vasilevskiy, who made 33 saves in his first start since Nov. 16.
Vasilevskiy had little chance on the goals, one on a Ovechkin blast, two on weakside redirections. The Capitals were given way too much space and too many passing lanes.
"Our special teams were not good," Cooper said. "That's ultimately what cost us the game."
The Lightning is still trying to find consistency 24 games into the season, the defending Eastern Conference champion having yet to find its identity.
"If we fought hard, played well and a couple breaks didn't go our way and we lost, that's disappointing," Boyle said. "But disappointing isn't the word for this. It's worse than that.
"We're what our record says we are. That's where we're at. That's our identity right now. If we want to change it, we've got to do it ourselves."
Contact Joe Smith at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.
First Period—1, Washington, Ovechkin 12 (Chimera, Kuznetsov), 7:09 (pp). Penalties—Hedman, TB (high-sticking), 5:17; Callahan, TB (roughing), 14:43; Latta, Was (roughing), 14:43; Callahan, TB (tripping), 17:30.
Second Period—2, Washington, Chimera 6 (Kuznetsov, Niskanen), 18:03 (pp). 3, Washington, Johansson 4 (Carlson, Schmidt), 19:18. Penalties—Coburn, TB (delay of game), 16:05.
Third Period—4, Washington, Oshie 6 (Backstrom, Carlson), 5:16 (pp). 5, Tampa Bay, Boyle 5 (Callahan, J.Brown), 10:49. 6, Tampa Bay, Hedman 2 (Namestnikov), 12:45. Penalties—Sustr, TB (hooking), 4:00; Ovechkin, Was (slashing), 15:16; Johansson, Was (delay of game), 19:48. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 9-5-20—34. Washington 18-13-6—37. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 0 of 2; Washington 3 of 4. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Vasilevskiy 2-3-0 (37 shots-33 saves). Washington, Holtby 14-4-0 (34-32).