TAMPA — In hindsight, Lightning center Vinny Lecavalier said, perhaps he should have tried to beat Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury high to the glove side.
In retrospect, defenseman Shane O'Brien said, he should have buried the puck into a wide open net.
Instead, Lecavalier's backhand try on his mid third-period breakaway was stopped. O'Brien simply flubbed his second-period opportunity and put the puck over the net.
And Pittsburgh ended up with a 2-0 victory Tuesday night at the St. Pete Times Forum when Maxime Talbot scored with 2:47 left in the third period and Evgeni Malkin added an empty-netter.
"We played," Lightning coach John Tortorella said, "good enough to lose."
On the other hand, Fleury played good enough to win.
The goalie made 35 saves for his third shutout of the season and 10th of his career and outdueled Tampa Bay's Mike Smith, who was equally brilliant with 21 saves, including stops on breakaways of Sidney Crosby and Malkin and Petr Sykora's penalty shot.
"Both goaltenders were doing a great job," said Crosby, who returned after missing 21 games with a high ankle sprain. "Both of them gave their teams a chance to win."
Even in a season of misery and defeat, this was a tough one for Tampa Bay to swallow.
The Lightning (26-33-7), which has lost seven of eight, went stride for stride and hit for hit with the No. 1 team in the East, and better than shot for shot as it held a 35-23 advantage.
But chances were missed and opportunities lost.
Marty St. Louis, without a point in seven games, hit a post in the first period. O'Brien, in the second, could not have asked for a better setup from Halpern but missed the net from 5 feet.
"It doesn't get more wide open," O'Brien said. "I had it point-blank. It's unacceptable not to score."
Then there was Lecavalier, who has no goals in 10 straight games and could have put the Lightning ahead with 8:17 left in the third. But he tried to get cute with Fleury, who shut down the five hole.
"I thought he would bite if I went to my backhand and open up his legs," Lecavalier said. "After I did my move, I wished I would have shot and maybe tried to go high glove or something like that."
Lecavalier also rethought the play on which Talbot scored.
It wasn't so much his turnover in the offensive zone, but that he seemed to lose Talbot on the backcheck, which gave the Penguins center a shot at a puck lying in the slot.
"I didn't want to go too deep," Lecavalier said. "I thought it was a three-on-three, so I stopped. Maybe if I would have kept going I would have gotten the puck."
Tortorella believed so.
"A cross-ice pass to start it, gets a turnover, and then no back check," he said. "It's unacceptable."
Situational lapses have haunted the Lightning all season as the team lost for the 16th time when entering the third period tied or with a lead.
"That's why we're (29th) in the National Hockey League," Tortorella said. "We simply will not get that through our heads as far as situational play."
Those missed scoring chances didn't help, either.
First Period—None. Penalty—Orpik, Pit (interference), 13:54.
Second Period—None. Penalties—Lecavalier, TB (tripping), 9:40; Lundin, TB (hooking), 17:29.
Third Period—1, Pittsburgh, Talbot 10 (Dupuis, Crosby), 17:13. 2, Pittsburgh, Malkin 38 (Talbot), 19:55 (en). Penalty—Darche, TB (high-sticking), 7:16. Shots on Goal—Pittsburgh 6-4-13—23. Tampa Bay 10-14-11—35. Missed penalty shot—Sykora, Pit, 13:53 second. Power-play opportunities—Pittsburgh 0 of 3; Tampa Bay 0 of 1. Goalies—Pittsburgh, Fleury 11-8-1 (35 shots-35 saves). Tampa Bay, Smith 13-12-0 (22-21). A—19,206 (19,758). T—2:17. Referees—Mike Hasenfratz, Kevin Pollock. Linesmen—Steve Miller, Jean Morin.