TAMPA — Every Lightning player who spoke after Thursday night's 4-3 loss to the Capitals sounded as positive as he could.
Yes, the team is frustrated by a six-game losing streak, but "our work ethic is there," right wing Teddy Purcell said.
"And we'll learn from it," center Nate Thompson said.
But Thompson also hit the bottom line when he added, "Now we have to get out of it."
Not that the Lightning (6-6-1) didn't give the announced, but overstated, crowd of 19,204 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum a thrill.
Down 4-1 in the third period, goals by Purcell and Thompson in a stretch of 4:45 cut their deficit to one with 3:13 remaining. But unlike Tuesday, when the Lightning turned a three-goal deficit to the Canadiens into a regulation tie (though an eventual shootout loss), the rally fell short.
So, the question is, why can't Tampa Bay push for an entire game as hard as it has the past two third periods?
"You can't re-create that kind of urgency at the beginning of the game or the middle," coach Guy Boucher said. "That's unrealistic to think that's what it's going to be."
Realistic is expecting the Lightning to cut down on mistakes that lead to goals and to get more shots on net. It was outshot for the fifth straight game and ninth time in 13 games, 39-30.
"We're trying to find some guys open here and there," Boucher said. "We're overthinking plays when it should just be a puck on net and a rebound and a fight at the net."
Then there is this: Defenseman Matt Carle was outhustled for the puck behind the Lightning goal line by Joel Ward, leading to Eric Fehr's goal and a 2-1 Washington lead 5:09 into the second period.
Purcell turned the puck over in the offensive zone, and Fehr sent a beauty of a shot — though one goalie Mathieu Garon probably wants back — into the net for a 3-1 lead 2:22 into the third.
Jay Beagle made it 4-1 at 7:29 of the third period when he dug the puck out from under Garon, who seemed to have it smothered.
It wasn't all bad. Marty St. Louis scored his first goal in 11 games, had two points and was plus-3. The line of Thompson, Adam Hall and B.J. Crombeen kept Alex Ovechkin's line off the scoreboard.
And for what it's worth, players didn't quit.
"I felt really sorry for our players," Boucher said. "They were just working, working, working. It just wasn't paying off."
But as Purcell said, "We keep digging ourselves a hole. … We just have to do a better job of making it a closer game and not have to climb back."
First Period—1, Washington, Brouwer 7 (Perreault, Backstrom), 2:40 (pp). 2, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 4 (Pouliot, Lecavalier), 8:23. Penalties—Hedman, TB (hooking), 1:42; Green, Was (holding), 9:07; Hendricks, Was (unsportsmanlike conduct), 9:07; Aulie, TB (roughing), 9:07.
Second Period—3, Washington, Fehr 2 (Perreault, Ward), 5:09. Penalties—None.
Third Period—4, Washington, Fehr 3 (Perreault, Carlson), 2:22. 5, Washington, Beagle 1 (Schultz, Kundratek), 7:29. 6, Tampa Bay, Purcell 3 (Stamkos), 12:02. 7, Tampa Bay, Thompson 3 (St. Louis), 16:47. Penalties—Carlson, Was (interference), 9:29. Shots on Goal—Washington 12-13-14—39. Tampa Bay 6-12-12—30. Power-play opportunities—Washington 1 of 1; Tampa Bay 0 of 2. Goalies—Washington, Holtby 4-4-0 (30 shots-27 saves). Tampa Bay, Garon 1-3-0 (39-35). A—19,204 (19,204). T—2:28. Referees—Steve Kozari, Frederick L'Ecuyer. Linesmen—Shane Heyer, Brian Murphy.