VANCOUVER — This one has to sting for the Lightning.
Despite being shorthanded, without Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan, Tampa Bay found itself in a winnable road game at Rogers Arena. It held a one-goal lead in the second period. But the Lightning let another one slip away, a 4-2 loss to the Canucks. The four points lost to Vancouver the past eight days could end up coming back to haunt Tampa Bay as it fights to make the playoffs. And now the Lightning (15-14-2) must bounce back quickly as it faces a rested Oilers team tonight and superstar Connor McDavid.
"In the end, it's a tough game not to get points out of, that's for sure," coach Jon Cooper said.
The Lightning caught a break early, with a Canucks power-play goal in the opening minutes waved off after a coaches challenge for offsides. The Lightning would strike first six minutes in. Victor Hedman, who played a role in mentor Mattias Ohlund's pregame Ring of Honor ceremony, darted into the Canucks zone and finished a great cross-zone feed by Valtteri Filppula.
Tampa Bay seemed to build off its strong performance in Wednesday's 6-3 win at Calgary. It was playing a simple game, tighter in its defensive zone, putting traffic in the crease. But in the second period, the Canucks took a 2-1 lead thanks to a couple of mistakes by the Lightning.
"Second period I thought we stopped doing the right things," defenseman Anton Stralman said. "We took the easy way out a little bit and they hurt us."
Two minutes in, defenseman Slater Koekkoek — still trying to stick in the lineup — made a turnover up the left boards in his own zone. A couple of seconds later, Brandon Sutter beat Andrei Vasilevskiy with a one-timer to tie the score. Then, with just under seven minutes to go in the period, Vladislav Namestnikov lost his coverage of Canucks forward Luca Sbisa, who pounced on a rebound in the left circle to make it 2-1.
But the Lightning tied it up early in the third. Cory Conacher scored a power-play goal on a beautiful shot from the slot, set up by Jonathan Drouin. For Conacher, it was his first NHL goal since Oct. 11, 2014, when he was with the Islanders. That tie was short-lived. Alex Killorn took a holding penalty, a call Cooper dubbed "marginal, at best." Bo Horvat gave the Canucks the lead on the ensuing power play. A dump-in took an awkward bounce off Loui Eriksson and went straight to Vasilevskiy. A juicy rebound went right to a streaking Horvat in the slot.
"Unlucky," Stralman said.
"An unreal break," Cooper said.
And another frustrating loss.
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.