SUNRISE — At various times Tuesday, coach Guy Boucher was both frustrated and furious behind the Lightning bench.
It wasn't just that the team couldn't generate shots on goal against the league-worst Panthers — 13 were two off the franchise low — it was that players were passing up shots to look for even better plays.
"I've got 12 in my mind right now," Boucher said. "I'm on the bench, yelling, 'Shoot the puck!' "
Thanks to goaltender Anders Lindback, Tampa Bay beat the Panthers 3-2 at the BB&T Center despite being outshot 39-13. But the happy ending could not mask — and actually more brightly highlighted — a problem the Lightning has battled all season: It simply does not take enough shots.
A team with Steven Stamkos, Vinny Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis, Teddy Purcell and rookie of the year hopeful Cory Conacher was 28th in the 30-team league entering Wednesday, averaging 26.7 per game.
In 2010-11, when Tampa Bay went to the Eastern Conference final, it tied for seventh with an average of 31.8. Doesn't sound like much of a difference. But over an 82-game schedule, that's 419 more shots (2,608 to 2,189) and 419 more opportunities to score.
Stamkos' 91 shots entered Wednesday tied for 11th in the league, but you had to go to 72nd place to find the next Lightning player, Lecavalier with 62. Purcell, with perhaps the team's best wrist shot, was tied for 194th with 43.
Then there is this: Tampa Bay has outshot opponents in just nine of 26 games, going 5-4-0.
There were plenty of reasons for Tuesday's drought. The Panthers kept their defensemen hard on the side boards, which helped keep the puck in the Lightning zone. Tampa Bay also was down to 10 forwards by late in the first period because of Tom Pyatt's upper-body injury, so fatigue might have played a part.
Unsaid was Florida also worked harder than the Lightning to control the puck. Then there was what Boucher called "the disease of skill guys."
"Because they're skilled — and we got a lot of skill guys — they're overdoing it with the skill and grinding it less," he said.
"They're stuck on the nice plays they make and passing plays they make, and they're looking for them. But the great majority of times, it's just not there. And we just passed up an opportunity to put a puck on net that could go in or could give us a rebound."
Stamkos said it is not so simple. The team's 5-13-1 swoon, including losses in eight of its past 11 games, has toyed with the players' confidence.
"There were a few times where … confidence with the puck, confidence in making hard plays … you don't want to be that guy that screws up," he said.
The result: "We gave them the puck," he said of Tuesday's game, "chipping it out of our zone when maybe there's a pass. Hopefully, a win gets some confidence."
Boucher joked he would whip his players to get the message across before tonight's game with the Islanders at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
His actual plan is to show them video of shooting opportunities they ignored.
"You just need to put (the puck) on the goalie," Boucher said. "It's not a dangerous shot, but it creates chaos in the (offensive) zone. That's what they need to do."
PYATT UPDATE: There was no word Wednesday on Pyatt's injury other than he was day-to-day.