Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lightning continues to have trouble holding leads

TAMPA — The Lightning had Monday's game in its grasp.

Having rallied to take a one-goal lead with just under seven minutes to go, all Tampa Bay had to do was hold on at home and pull within just two points of Atlantic Division rival Montreal.

"We have to win that," GM Steve Yzerman said.

The Lightning (18-15-4) didn't, losing 4-3 in a shootout as Montreal took over first place and increased its lead over Tampa Bay to five points. "We gave two points away," captain Steven Stamkos said.

It's something the Lightning has done often this season, the fourth time it has lost a game after having a lead with 10 minutes to go. Three have come against Eastern Conference teams ahead of the Lightning in the standings. If Tampa Bay, still out of playoff position, misses the postseason, those will be those games it likely laments the most.

"We still have the belief from the guys we can turn it around — there's no doubt," veteran center Brian Boyle said. "But there needs to be a little bit of fear. Needs to be a little bit of, 'We're on the outside looking in here.' We need to understand to get our stuff together.

"Urgency is a great way to put it. We have to have that fear of failure, should have that will to succeed. We're too good to be where we are. But we need to understand, it's not going to get any easier."

That includes tonight's game against the reeling Rangers (20-13-4) at Amalie Arena. After racking up just five combined points in the first four games of this homestand, letting Montreal snap a six-game losing streak, Tampa Bay can ill afford to slip up here, not with New York going 0-6-2 in its last eight road games and 4-10-2 in its last 16 overall. Star goalie Henrik Lundqvist has been pulled in four of its last 12 starts, with coach Alain Vigneault said they "don't have enough guys bringing it."

It's time for Tampa Bay to bring it, for 60 minutes.

"We're treating it as we're in the playoffs right now," Yzerman said. "This is our playoffs. It started a lot earlier than we anticipated. There's an emotional roller-coaster with it. When you lose, there's a sense of 'Oh my God,' and the excitement of winning isn't as big as the frustration and disappointment in a loss. But you keep going from game to game and figure out a way to keep clawing back."

The Lightning is getting healthier, with wing Jonathan Drouin off injured reserve and ready to return tonight (Yanni Gourde was reassigned to AHL Syracuse. All-Star center Tyler Johnson came back Monday after missing seven games. Johnson said his right wrist — broken during the Stanley Cup final — is "100 times better" than at the start of the season, when it still impacted his game.

"It feels like my old wrist," Johnson said.

But the Lightning has to get back to its old ways, as in last season, when it rarely squandered late leads. Part of the issue this season has been struggling special teams, like allowing three power play goals in a 5-3 collapse in Washington on Nov. 28. The Lightning also had a power play with five minutes left in a tied game Monday, but came up empty. There's also been "bad luck," as Yzerman put it, a point shot by Florida's Aaron Ekblad taking a fortuitous bounce in the final minute of a 5-4 Tampa Bay shootout loss Nov. 14.

But Boyle notes there have been too many times the Lightning comes out of its structure (like Nashville forward James Neal's tying goal late in a 5-4 shootout victory Oct. 20). Yzerman believes in this team, and that it can get on a hot streak to make this an "exciting second half."

"We know what we're capable of," Boyle said. "We can't just expect to lace our skates up and have it happen. So many games last year, we earned it. We earned respect and earned everything we've got. It's certainly not going to be handed to us this year."

It would help if Tampa Bay didn't hand opponents any more points, either.

Contact Joe Smith at Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.

. Tonight

Lightning vs. Rangers

When/where: 8, Amalie Arena

TV/radio: NBCSN; 970-AM

Key stats: The Rangers (20-13-4) have gone 4-10-2 in their last 16. Forward Kevin Hayes is expected to be a healthy scratch. This is the teams' first meeting this season. The Lightning swept all three games last season (before winning the Eastern Conference final in seven games). G Ben Bishop is 9-0-0 with a 1.43 goals-against average in nine career regular-season games against the Rangers, with two shutouts. The Rangers' power play ranks sixth at 21.4 percent.

Lightning continues to have trouble holding leads 12/29/15 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 29, 2015 8:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rowdies settle for draw at home


    ST. PETERSBURG — The good news for the Rowdies is that they still haven't lost a game at Al Lang Stadium since late April. The bad news is they had to settle for a 1-1 tie against Ottawa on Saturday night in front of 6,710 sweaty fans.

  2. Bats come to life, but Rays' freefall continues (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG —The six runs seemed like a ton, just the second time the Rays had scored that many in a game during their numbing two-plus-weeks stretch of offensive impotency, and amazingly, the first time at the Trop in nearly two months.

    Lucas Duda connects for a two-run home run in the sixth, getting the Rays within 7-5. A Logan Morrison home run in the ninth made it 7-6, but Tampa Bay couldn’t complete the comeback.
  3. Rays journal: Cesar Puello, who has one major-league game, claimed off waivers

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Looking to add punch to their right-handed lineup, the Rays claimed OF Cesar Puello off waivers Saturday from the Angels.

  4. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Saturday's Rays-Mariners game

    The Heater

    SS Adeiny Hechavarria doesn't always look like he's going hard, but he showed impressive reactions Saturday in reversing field to catch a ball that clanked off the catwalk then firing to second to double up Guillermo Heredia on an attempt to tag up.

  5. Bucs journal: Simeon Rice gives master class on sacks to defensive ends


    TAMPA — As the Bucs seek their first 10-sack season from a player since Simeon Rice in 2005, who better to help that cause than Rice himself?

    Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers great Simeon Rice works with defensive end Noah Spence (57) after practice at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017.