Thursday, May 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning falls under .500 with loss to Sabres (w/video)

TAMPA — There aren't many easy solutions when it comes to the Lightning's stunning funk.

But coach Jon Cooper made one thing abundantly clear after Tuesday's 4-1 loss to the Sabres at Amalie Arena, its seventh loss in the past nine games.

"First of all, this season isn't last season," Cooper said. "There's a big difference between the two."

"There's no comparison," captain Steven Stamkos said.

The Lightning looked like a shell of the team that reached the Stanley Cup final just five months ago. Cooper said they'll have a different journey this time, and it's certainly going to be more difficult after Tampa Bay fell under .500.

The Lightning (7-8-2), the highest-scoring team in the league last season, was held to one goal or fewer for the eighth time, and now finds itself in uncharted territory. It is under .500 this late in a season for first time since ending the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season at 18-25-4 and out of the playoffs.

"We're not a fragile team, but when things aren't going well, you're a human being, you start to doubt yourself," Stamkos said. "You start to doubt things. We can't let that creep in. You're not going to feel that way when things are going well and the team is scoring and we're winning (like) last year. We've got to have that sense of urgency."

The Lightning didn't show nearly enough desperation in a lethargic first period Tuesday. This had the feeling of a response game, a slumping team back at home against the Sabres, which Tampa Bay beat three times this season. But the Lightning faltered, putting itself ninth in the Eastern Conference one-fifth of the way through its season.

"Teams go through funks like this, you have to stop it before it gets too big and before you dig yourself too big of a hole," Stamkos said. "We've had a lot of success and expectations were to pick up right where we left off. Sometimes you need a reality check. There's no more margin for error. That's why it's got to be fixed now. You look at (Los Angeles), Boston last year, got off to slow starts and (were) chasing. Are they both playoff teams? Yeah. Did they get in? No."

Throughout the Lightning's scoring struggles, it could at least depend on strong goaltending. But on Tuesday even that didn't help as Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed a bad, back-breaking goal five minutes into the third, a weak wrist shot from Marcus Foligno that flubbed in off Vasilevskiy's glove.

"That's for sure my bad," Vasievskiy said. "Who knows? If not for (that) goal, maybe we can tie the game, and maybe win for sure."

The Lightning got better as the game went on, veteran wing Ryan Callahan a catalyst. But it has had to play from behind too many times, the result of leading just once after the first period. Tampa Bay continued to get robbed by an opposing goaltender, including Chad Johnson's stellar stop on Nikita Kucherov in the second. "Probably the save of the last maybe five, 10 years," Stamkos said.

Cooper believes the team can still get back to the final again, though he has "no idea how."

There's a solution out there. "It's a little evasive right now. But we're going to find it," he said.

Sabres 1 1 2 4
Lightning 0 1 0 1

 

First1, Buffalo, Eichel 6 (Franson), 5:57 (pp). PenaltiesPaquette, TB (hooking), 4:05; Foligno, Buf (hooking), 8:38; Legwand, Buf (tripping), 14:35.

Second2, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 8 (Kucherov), :52 (pp). 3, Buffalo, Franson 1 (Eichel, Ennis), 1:40. PenaltiesR.O'Reilly, Buf (high-sticking), :26; Franson, Buf (hooking), 2:56; Stamkos, TB (slashing), 4:00; Gionta, Buf (hooking), 9:38; Garrison, TB (hooking), 12:42.

Third4, Buffalo, Foligno 1 (Legwand, Deslauriers), 5:24. 5, Buffalo, Ristolainen 4 (C.Johnson), 19:24 (en). PenaltiesNone. ShotsBuffalo 11-8-8—27. Tampa Bay 5-13-13—31. Power playsBuffalo 1 of 3; Tampa Bay 1 of 5. GoaliesBuffalo, C.Johnson 4-6-0 (31 shots-30 saves). Tampa Bay, Vasilevskiy 2-1-0 (26-23). A19,092 (19,204). T2:25. Referees—Steve Kozari, Kyle Rehman. LinesmenPierre Racicot, Jonny Murray.

Comments
The single biggest reason Tampa Bay isn’t headed to the Stanley Cup final

The single biggest reason Tampa Bay isn’t headed to the Stanley Cup final

TAMPA — Washington is on to Vegas. The Lightning is not. So we asked the Times' Lightning coverage team for the single biggest reason Tampa Bay isn't headed to the Stanley Cup final. Here's their answers:Roger Mooney, staff writer: Th...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Scoring drought brings Lightning season to a close

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Scoring drought brings Lightning season to a close

The Lightning will miss out on the Stanley Cup final after being shut out by the Capitals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final. The Bolts were the highest-scoring team during the regular season but failed to score in almost all of the final eigh...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Postgame reactions from Lightning’s Game 7 loss to the Capitals

Postgame reactions from Lightning’s Game 7 loss to the Capitals

The Lightning was shut out once in the first 97 games of the season, the playoffs included. Then it was shut out during the last two games of the Eastern Conference final, including 4-0 on Wednesday to the Capitals in Game 7.Here are some postgame re...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Lightning journal: A rare fight to this finish

Lightning journal: A rare fight to this finish

TAMPA — After Alex Ovechkin's goal 62 seconds into Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Wednesday, the next highlight was an extended fight between Lightning D Braydon Coburn and Capitals RW Tom Wilson, with a two-minute break for them to spe...
Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/24/18
Lightning’s season ends one win short of Stanley Cup final with 4-0 loss to Capitals

Lightning’s season ends one win short of Stanley Cup final with 4-0 loss to Capitals

TAMPA — The Lightning's dream season ended late Wednesday with the final horn, or, if you prefer, early in the second period of Game 5, when it scored its last goal of the Eastern Conference final.How about that? The team with the most regular-...
Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/24/18
Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay had its chances. Here are the best ones

Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay had its chances. Here are the best ones

TAMPA — Yanni Gourde said he will have to see a replay to know just how it got away, but even in a lopsided 4-0 loss like Wednesday night, he'll remember the puck in front of an empty net, and the missed opportunity that encapsulated a frustrat...
Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/24/18
Lightning-Capitals: A hurt that could last forever

Lightning-Capitals: A hurt that could last forever

TAMPA — This one stings. And it will ache for a long time. Maybe forever in these parts.Another chance for a Stanley Cup. Another disappointment. As the Lightning skated off the ice after losing Wednesday night's Game 7 of the Eastern Conferenc...
Published: 05/23/18
Lightning-Capitals: Grading Tampa Bay’s 4-0 loss in Game 7

Lightning-Capitals: Grading Tampa Bay’s 4-0 loss in Game 7

TAMPA — Forget Vegas.The Lightning have left the building.No more season. No more watch parties. No more anything.There is no way around it. Jon Cooper's team couldn't finish, not in Game 7 at home, not in the Eastern Conference final...
Published: 05/23/18
Live blog: Lightning's season ends with 4-0 loss in Game 7

Live blog: Lightning's season ends with 4-0 loss in Game 7

  Follow our live coverage of the Eastern Conference final between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals. We'll have updates, analysis, photos, video and more on and off the ice from Times reporters, editors, sports columnists and photo j...
Published: 05/23/18
Lightning-Capitals: Roger Mooney’s takeaways from the Lightning’s 4-0 loss in Game 7

Lightning-Capitals: Roger Mooney’s takeaways from the Lightning’s 4-0 loss in Game 7

* The Lightning picked the worst time to stop scoring goals. It's tough to win when you go more than six periods without getting at least one past the goalie, but that is what happened to the NHL's top-scoring team during the regular season.* Certain...
Published: 05/23/18