TAMPA — This is what happens when a team has a crushing defeat. It goes behind closed doors so players can air their feelings uncensored.
So, after the Lightning blew a two-goal third-period lead Saturday night and lost to the Canadiens 4-3 in front of a sellout crowd of 19,204 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa Bay players met for 15 minutes.
"That stays in here," center Steven Stamkos said when asked for the message. "Guys are expressing what they think, but that's about it."
The nightmare scenario — in which the Lightning (10-14-1) allowed three third-period goals while being outshot 13-2 — was the team's eighth loss in 10 games and fourth straight at home.
"Good teams, a 3-1 lead at home going into the third? That should almost be automatic," Stamkos said. "But right now it's clearly not."
It was not Saturday because the Lightning didn't get the goaltending it needed from Cedrick Desjardins and wasn't stout defensively when it counted most. And when pushed by the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference, it simply got tight, coach Guy Boucher said.
"We've seen that before when guys get nervous," he said. "It certainly wouldn't be from anything we changed. Circumstances are that guys got nervous, because we've lost quite a few of those."
"We're scared to lose right now," Stamkos said. "The first three minutes (of the third period), instead of keeping the pressure on them, we're dumping pucks in to nobody, giving pucks right back to them."
And the game, too, as Tampa Bay wasted goals from Stamkos, his league-best 19th, Sami Salo and Ryan Malone, and two assists from Marty St. Louis.
On the winning goal with 7:57 left, Brendan Gallagher beat defensemen Matt Carle and Brian Lee off the end boards and squeezed the puck past Desjardins' left leg.
On Alexei Emelin's goal that tied the score 3-3 7:33 into the period, Desjardins, making his first NHL start of the season and third in his career, could not react quickly enough when the shot from the blue line deflected off teammate Alex Killorn.
The toughest goal to take was Brian Gionta's at 3:49 with one second left on Victor Hedman's tripping penalty. Desjardins said he had the puck covered during a mad scramble at the crease. But the play was not blown dead, and the puck eventually popped out to Gionta.
"That puck popping out after how many seconds is tough to take," Boucher said, "but it shouldn't give us the kind of nervousness we saw in our players after. It comes from the fact we've lost so many of those."
Chalk up another.
First Period—None. Penalties—Crombeen, TB (hooking), 10:45; Desharnais, Mon (diving), 18:25; St. Louis, TB (hooking), 18:25.
Second Period—1, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 19 (St. Louis, Hedman), 5:30. 2, Montreal, Plekanec 11 (Markov), 7:38. 3, Tampa Bay, Salo 2 (Crombeen, Thompson), 8:15. 4, Tampa Bay, Malone 5 (Stamkos, St. Louis), 12:20 (pp). Penalties—Plekanec, Mon (tripping), 12:02; Eller, Mon (face-off violation), 12:56; Hedman, TB (hooking), 14:19.
Third Period—5, Montreal, Gionta 8 (Ryder, Bouillon), 3:49 (pp). 6, Montreal, Emelin 2 (Gionta, Ryder), 7:33. 7, Montreal, Gallagher 7 (Pacioretty), 12:03. Penalties—Hedman, TB (tripping), 1:49. Shots on Goal—Montreal 7-9-13—29. Tampa Bay 10-11-2—23. Power-play opportunities—Montreal 1 of 3; Tampa Bay 1 of 2. Goalies—Montreal, Price 13-4-3 (23 shots-20 saves). Tampa Bay, Desjardins 0-1-0 (29-25). A—19,204 (19,204). T—2:35. Referees—Brad Watson, Brian Pochmara. Linesmen—Scott Driscoll, Ryan Galloway.