TAMPA — The fact the Lightning got blown out 5-1 by the Canucks on Thursday night was concerning enough.
It was Tampa Bay's sixth loss in seven games, with defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh arriving at Amalie Arena on Saturday.
But as the Lightning faces arguably its worst slide in recent seasons, it was more alarming in how the veteran-laden group is handling even smaller in-game adversity.
Tampa Bay (14-12-2), feeling it got things figured out over the weekend, jumped out to a strong start Thursday, racking up the first six shots. But Jack Skille scored on Vancouver's first shot, just under four minutes in. And for the Lightning, it was like the wheels came off.
"All of a sudden, one goal goes in on us, and it's, 'Now what do we do?' " coach Jon Cooper said. "And we've never been like that. It seemed like, that was it."
The Lightning seems a bit lost, and it certainly doesn't help that its top leader, captain Steven Stamkos, is out until mid March after knee surgery. Another strong voice, wing Ryan Callahan, missed his fifth straight game. Tampa Bay fell behind 2-0 in the first period for an NHL-most eighth time this season, and 13th time overall in 28 games.
"We can't let a moment like that affect us as much as we did," wing Alex Killorn said. "At the beginning of the season, it seemed like those deficits didn't really effect us. But you can't expect to come back in this league every time."
Goalie Ben Bishop, who had been so stellar in taking three of four points over the weekend, was pulled after the second period, allowing four goals on 20 shots. There were again some weird ones, including an Erik Gudbranson shot off the back boards that Bishop inadvertently knocked in with his glove.
"An unfortunate bounce." Bishop said.
But still, Vancouver, the second-lowest scoring NHL team coming in (2.19 per game), scored five Thursday. Skille scored his first two goals of the season. Jayson Megna scored his second and third goals of the year.
"I don't even remember losing games by four goals, maybe one a year," Cooper said. "We're losing them now once a week."
The Lightning had its share of chances, 41 shots, with Vancouver goalie Ryan Miller spectacular. But Tampa Bay has been held to one goal in regulation in five of the last six games. And the more the Lightning tries to score, it seems to hurt on the other end. Case in point was Vancouver's back-breaking fourth goal coming on a 2-on-1 with 1.3 seconds left in the second.
"That fourth one was the killer," Cooper said. "We were clearly thinking about the wrong net. That was a microcosm of what's been going on."
It was a rough night for some of the Lightning's top players. Bishop. Nikita Kucherov was a minus-four. So was Killorn.
"There were some bad stat lines for a few of those guys tonight," Cooper said. "Guys we depend on."
"It's time for us to step up," Bishop said. "Nobody is going to feel bad for us."
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.
First Period—1, Vancouver, Skille 1 (Gudbranson), 3:50. 2, Vancouver, Gudbranson 1, 9:03.
Second Period—3, Vancouver, Megna 2 (Tryamkin, Biega), 6:01. 4, Tampa Bay, Drouin 4 (Witkowski, Filppula), 11:46. 5, Vancouver, Megna 3 (Granlund, Sedin), 19:59.
Third Period—6, Vancouver, Skille 2 (Gaunce), 13:58.
Shots on Goal—Vancouver 9-11-10—30. Tampa Bay 12-18-11—41.
Power-play opportunities—Vancouver 0 of 3; Tampa Bay 0 of 3.
Goalies—Vancouver, Markstrom 6-4-2 (2 shots-2 saves), Miller 6-9-0 (39-38). Tampa Bay, Bishop 8-10-1 (20-16), Vasilevskiy 6-2-1 (10-9).
A—19,092 (19,204). T—2:30. Referees—Tom Kowal, Frederick L'Ecuyer. Linesmen—Michel Cormier, Darren Gibbs.