ST. PAUL, Minn. — So there was Lightning center Tyler Johnson 17 feet away from an open net.
"For the most part I put that in a lot more times than not," Johnson said.
Instead, Johnson clanked a backhand off the crossbar with 39 seconds left in the third period, a last gasp Tuesday night in a 2-1 loss to the Wild at the Xcel Energy Center.
The loss finished a disappointing 1-3-0 road trip for Tampa Bay (32-19-5), which is starting to lose ground to teams behind it in the Atlantic Division.
That has created what goaltender Ben Bishop called "almost must-win" divisional home games Thursday against the Maple Leafs and Saturday against the Red Wings before the Olympic break.
"Two teams that are nipping at our heels," coach Jon Cooper said. "We'll have this team ready to play for those games. It will be good to get home. It's just really disappointing we pulled just two points out of this road trip."
And disappointing the way the game went against Minnesota despite a solid 24-save effort by Bishop and Valtteri Filppula's 20th goal on a wonderful deflection with his back to the net of Marty St. Louis' shot to make the sore 2-1 with 6:07 left.
The Lightning had all kinds of trouble clearing pucks from the defensive zone. And when pucks got out, neutral-zone turnovers stymied the attack.
Puck retrieval in the offensive zone also was lacking. And on both Wild goals — Nino Niederreiter's first-period, power-play tally and Dany Heatley's goal 34 seconds into the third that made it 2-0 — neither shooter was picked up.
On Heatley's goal, Victor Hedman's misplay of the puck after a nice back check by J.T. Brown let Minnesota regain control of the puck in the offensive zone.
"I was going to grab it and it hit Brownie's stick or hit the ice or something and it popped between my legs instead; an unlucky break," Hedman said.
"We worked harder, we just didn't work smarter," Cooper said.
And while Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper played well with 34 saves, "I don't know how much courage we had going to the net till the end," Cooper said. "Shocking that's where (Filppula's) goal was scored."
"Don't get me wrong, they're a good team and play a structured system," Cooper added about the Wild, "but for a lot of the game we made it easy on them. A lot has to do with them, for sure, with the way they played, but we could have made it a little harder on them."
Then there was what Johnson admitted he could have done: "Just put it in."
First Period—1, Minnesota, Niederreiter 10 (Spurgeon, Zucker), 16:04 (pp). Penalties—Gudas, TB (boarding), 15:55; Veilleux, Min (cross-checking), 18:27.
Second Period—None. Penalties—Johnson, TB (hooking), 12:51; Crombeen, TB (roughing), 16:58; Zucker, Min (roughing), 16:58.
Third Period—2, Minnesota, Heatley 11 (Spurgeon), :34. 3, Tampa Bay, Filppula 20 (St. Louis, Gudas), 13:53. Penalties—Cooke, Min (tripping), 4:14. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 11-11-13—35. Minnesota 8-14-4—26. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 0 of 2; Minnesota 1 of 2. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Bishop 27-8-4 (26 shots-24 saves). Minnesota, Kuemper 7-3-2 (35-34). A—18,454 (17,954). T—2:23. Referees—Mike Leggo, Ian Walsh. Linesmen—Brian Mach, Brian Murphy.