DETROIT — With each loss, Lightning players sound like a broken record.
But it hasn't broken their spirit, at least not yet.
As Tampa Bay watched three potential tying shots clank off the post in the third period of Tuesday's 2-1 loss to the Red Wings, there weren't many answers. It was the Lightning's fifth loss in its past six games, having scored three combined goals in those defeats.
Wasn't this the highest-scoring team in the league last season?
"We keep saying it's going to come, it's going to come, it's going to come, but it doesn't seem to be coming," wing Alex Killorn said. "We can't be doing the same thing over and over. That's insane. We've got to change things up."
What can Tampa Bay do? It switched up its lines, even having the touted Triplets opening a game apart for the first time since early last season. The players are crashing the net, creating chances, with coach Jon Cooper saying "they've done everything we've asked."
The Lightning (6-6-2) is playing well defensively, giving up two or fewer goals in four of the past six. Those are games Tampa Bay should win — and it did many times last season — but is losing at an "alarming rate," Cooper said.
"It's new for us," Cooper said. "How are we going to adapt to this? You can sit here and say, 'Well, 50-win season last year, 46 the year before,' and you can't sit there and take for granted like it's going to happen every single year. We've got to keep working for it, I truly believe we're working. The puck is just not going in for us."
Goaltender Ben Bishop picked up his fourth straight loss; in each of them he allowed two or fewer goals. He made 27 saves, some of them big ones to keep it a one-goal game in the third period. But the two he allowed are ones Bishop has to stop.
"Bottom line is you've got to score one more or need another save," Cooper said. "And we didn't get either. Another frustrating loss."
Cooper noted Tampa Bay is putting undue pressure on Bishop.
"Now you're poor goaltender is saying, 'What, 'I have to post a shutout every night to get us a point?,' " he said.
Bishop said the scoring slump hasn't given him a smaller margin for error, but it clearly has. Otherwise, he wouldn't have to explain how Riley Sheahan's unscreened wrist shot in the second period got by him.
"He beat me," Bishop said.
In the third, rookie Dylan Larkin gave the Red Wings the lead for good with a bad-angled shot that somehow got inside Bishop's right arm.
"Frustrating," Bishop said.
Killorn said it's frustrating for the forwards, for the team. And while the Lightning hasn't dug too deep of a hole — tied with Ottawa for second in the Atlantic Division — it can ill afford to let these winnable games slip away.
"There's no panic in our group, they're battling," Cooper said. "We've got to just will that puck into the net."
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First Period—None. Penalties—Tampa Bay bench, served by McGinn (too many men), 8:26; Abdelkader, Det (tripping), 10:55; Filppula, TB (interference), 13:54.
Second Period—1, Detroit, Sheahan 2 (Tatar, Kindl), 2:02. 2, Tampa Bay, Kucherov 4 (Johnson, Stamkos), 15:58 (pp). Penalties—Stamkos, TB (roughing), 6:51; Larkin, Det (roughing), 6:51; Smith, Det (tripping), 14:50; Andersson, Det (delay of game), 15:37; Namestnikov, TB (hooking), 17:20.
Third Period—3, Detroit, Larkin 4 (Abdelkader, DeKeyser), 5:54. Penalties—Ferraro, Det (interference), 7:11. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 8-9-13—30. Detroit 9-10-10—29. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 1 of 4; Detroit 0 of 3. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Bishop 5-6-1 (29 shots-27 saves). Detroit, Howard 3-2-1 (30-29). A—20,027 (20,027). T—2:32. Referees—Francis Charron, Ghislain Hebert. Linesmen—David Brisebois, Steve Miller.