TAMPA — As much as Lightning players tried, they could not put their fingers on why they played without urgency for a good portion of Monday night against the Senators.
Was it insufficient preparation, as right wing Ryan Callahan suggested, or perhaps the old first home game after a road trip blues, as coach Jon Cooper said?
In the end captain Steven Stamkos had the simplest, and most accurate, explanation for the 4-3 shootout loss at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
"We just didn't play well," he said. "There's no tip-toeing around that."
Specifically, Tampa Bay (39-24-9) can't sleepwalk through the first 30 minutes as it did against Ottawa and fall behind 3-1.
It also has to fix its shootout problem as the team has lost three straight and five of its past six and failed on its past 15 shootout attempts. That includes all three Monday against goaltender Robin Lehner. Ottawa's Jason Spezza was the only successful shooter.
Power-play goals by Victor Hedman in the second period and Stamkos 5:44 into the third tied the score. And if there is a silver lining, the team has points in nine straight games (5-0-4), the third longest streak in franchise history.
Tampa Bay also hung on to second place in the Atlantic Division and home ice in the expected first round of the playoffs.
But Cooper called the first 30 or so minutes "a big disappointment," especially defensive zone coverages.
"I'm going to say not good," Cooper said. "But we can think of a plethora of adjectives to say what it was."
Actually, it was nonexistent at times and made worse by 12 giveaways, all of which put goaltender Ben Bishop under the gun.
It was especially bad in a 44-second stretch of the second when goals by Spezza and Kyle Turris gave Ottawa a 3-1 lead 8:56 into the period.
That was when Cooper called timeout and the Lightning found its legs and ended with a 38-32 shot advantage.
"You take a deep breath," Callahan said, "and realize we're still in the game and we still have time left."
Time for the power play — 9-for-29 the past seven games — to come to the rescue.
Hedman's goal was a bullet from the blue line. Stamkos waited at the side of the net for a floating puck to go beneath the crossbar before choking up on his stick and whacking it in.
"I waited as long as I could. It felt like forever," Stamkos said. "I was fortunate to get a good piece of it."
"He had poise, waited till he was legal and put it in the net," Cooper said. "It was impressive."
Mostly, though, the Lightning was not.
|Senators win shootout 1-0|
First—1, Ottawa, E.Karlsson 20 (Greening), 3:57. 2, Tampa Bay, Kucherov 9 (Johnson, Brown), 5:07. Penalties—Neil, Ott (interference), 1:33; Stamkos, TB (hooking), 8:05; Neil, Ott (roughing), 18:12; Greening, Ott (cross-checking), 18:12; Malone, TB (boarding), 18:12; Gudas, TB, double minor (roughing), 18:12.
Second—3, Ottawa, Spezza 19 (Michalek, E.Karlsson), 8:12. 4, Ottawa, Turris 22 (Stone, E.Karlsson), 8:56. 5, Tampa Bay, Hedman 12 (Filppula, Palat), 13:26 (pp). Penalties—E.Karlsson, Ott (holding), 3:21; Michalek, Ott (tripping), 11:58; Methot, Ott (roughing), 14:16.
Third—6, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 21 (Palat, Callahan), 5:44 (pp). Penalties—Cowen, Ott (tripping), 5:33; Carle, TB (hooking), 6:06; Spezza, Ott (holding stick), 12:37; E.Karlsson, Ott (tripping), 19:56.
Shootout—Ott 1 (Zibanejad NG, Spezza G, Turris NG), T.B. 0 (Filppula NG, Kucherov NG, Stamkos NG). Shots—Ott 14-10-7-1—32. T.B. 7-14-12-5—38. Power plays—Ott 0 of 3; T.B. 2 of 7. Goalies—Ott, Lehner 8-15-5 (38 shots-35 saves). T.B., Bishop 34-11-7 (32-29). A—18,486 (19,204). T—2:51.