TAMPA — The way it's been going for the Lightning lately, it'll take any point it can get.
But coach Jon Cooper was frustrated his team left another point on the table Monday in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Coyotes in front of 18,167 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Tampa Bay blew two one-goal leads before forcing overtime with an Ondrej Palat goal with 37.2 seconds left. But like Saturday's 4-3 shootout loss to Boston, the Lightning failed to score in the shootout. Tampa Bay (34-24-7), losers of a season-high five in a row and 10 of its past 13, is four points ahead of Detroit, which has a game in hand, for the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot.
"We're going to need that point at the end of the season," Palat said. "We should have won those games."
There were some positives: Palat's two goals and three points; linemate Ryan Callahan's team-high eight hits and a gritty assist; rookie Tyler Johnson tying the NHL lead with his fourth shorthanded goal.
But while the effort was there, the execution wasn't. With Tampa Bay up 2-1 early in the third period, defenseman Victor Hedman made a routine behind-the-net back pass back to Matt Carle. "It's an automatic play," Hedman said. But it wasn't. As goalie Ben Bishop turned his head right to instruct Carle, the puck bounced off the boards to the short side to the Coyotes' Martin Erat, who put it in the open net.
"A bad bounce," Hedman said.
"Fluky goal," Bishop said.
But Cooper felt it was a controllable play.
"Make the D-to-D pass behind the net," Cooper said. "Goaltender, follow the puck. That's what has to happen. We were just way too lackadaisical."
Tampa Bay had a chance to regain the lead midway through the third on its fourth power play. But Valtteri Filppula quickly got called for hooking. Eleven seconds into the 4-on-4, Phoenix left wing Mikkel Boedker pounced on a rebound due to leaky Lightning zone coverage.
"We run that coverage 10,000 times; just a blown assignment," Cooper said. "Those don't go in in midget hockey, let alone the NHL. Or they shouldn't anyway. That's what's frustrating."
The Lightning feels if it hadn't gone 0-for-10 in total shootout tries the last two games, it could be on a winning streak. It's still trying to find its line chemistry, having traded Marty St. Louis Wednesday but gained Callahan and got Steven Stamkos back.
But Tampa Bay has blown leads in three of four losses in a 1-4-2 stretch since the Olympic break. "I would never have suspected the results we were getting," Cooper said. "But I totally believe, don't dwell on the problem, find a solution. And that's what we have to do."
|Coyotes win shootout 1-0|
First—1, Tampa Bay, Johnson 20 (Palat, Brewer), 11:26 (sh). Penalties—Stamkos, TB (hooking), 9:58; Boedker, Pho (holding), 14:26; Doan, Pho (delay of game), 16:53.
Second—2, Phoenix, McMillan 2 (Yandle, Doan), 1:01. 3, Tampa Bay, Palat 16 (Callahan, Aulie), 19:07. Penalties—Barberio, TB (high-sticking), 5:26; McMillan, Pho (hooking), 14:49.
Third—4, Phoenix, Erat 2, 2:13. 5, Phoenix, Boedker 16 (Vermette, Michalek), 7:48. 6, Tampa Bay, Palat 17 (Filppula, Carle), 19:22. Penalties—Erat, Pho (interference), 7:19; Filppula, TB (hooking), 7:41.
Shootout—Phoenix 1 (Boedker NG, Vrbata G), Tampa Bay 0 (Palat NG, Filppula NG, Callahan NG). Shots on Goal—Phoenix 3-9-8-0—20. Tampa Bay 9-11-8-3—31. Power-play opportunities—Phoenix 0 of 3; Tampa Bay 0 of 4. Goalies—Phoenix, M.Smith 23-19-10 (31 shots-28 saves). Tampa Bay, Bishop 29-11-6 (20-17). A—18,167 (19,204). T—2:37. Referees—Francois St. Laurent, Rob Martell. Linesmen—Trent Knorr, Pierre Racicot.