BOSTON — Turns out, the Lightning's well-played 5-1 victory over the Rangers on Friday was a tease. So were 5-2 wins in October over the Sharks and Senators.
Three feel-good wins followed by three dispiriting losses.
That is the kind of season it has been for Tampa Bay; ups followed by downs, good games followed by bad.
Only twice has the team won consecutive games.
"Obviously, the way we are playing we have no consistency," left wing Alex Tanguay said.
"And consistency," center Vinny Lecavalier said, "is everything."
Many things affect consistency, but for the Lightning it basically boils down to this:
Center Steven Stamkos and left wing Ryan Malone, with 17 and 15 goals, respectively, have 32 of Tampa Bay's 66. That is 48.5 percent, by far the most for two players on a team.
It was a good story for a while, those guys starting the season like race horses out of a gate. But after 25 games, it is clear if they don't score, options are limited.
Until that is rectified, Tampa Bay (10-7-8) will continue spinning its wheels at or about .500, straining to stay in the playoff race and hoping goaltenders Mike Smith and Antero Niittymaki maintain their edge.
It is easy to see from where help must come.
Lecavalier and right wing Marty St. Louis have just five goals each. Tanguay has four. The team has just seven goals from defensemen, tied for second-fewest in the league entering Tuesday, though two of Kurtis Foster's three goals came while playing forward.
Is it right to blame a lack of consistency on unbalanced scoring? Coach Rick Tocchet said yes:
"When you're not having balance, you start picking on other things — the power play or we didn't come up with pucks on battles. But when you score a few goals, everything is overlooked. It's something we have to keep fighting for."
Tocchet said he wants players to shoot first and go to the net to create traffic and get rebounds. He wants intense puck battles on faceoffs and forwards to be more physical.
"Get involved early," Tocchet said. "Try to do stuff early in the game to get yourself into it."
He also demanded "accountability of leadership."
"As coaches you can scream and yell, but there's got to be times in a game where leadership has to take over and say, 'This is what we're going to do. We're going to take the puck down low and converge on the net.' "
The Lightning better do it tonight at TD Garden against a Bruins team which allows an average 2.24 goals, third-best in the league entering Tuesday.
Tampa Bay certainly did not do it for the first 40 minutes of Monday's 3-0 loss to the Avalanche, which, after Saturday's uninspired 4-3 overtime loss to the Stars, negated the victory over the Rangers.
"It's pretty frustrating," Lecavalier said. "To make the playoffs and be successful, we have to back up those games. You win a big game, you have to go win another one. You just have to be ready every night."
"You don't want to be a team, win one, lose one," defenseman Andrej Meszaros said. "You want to be more consistent."
Not a tease.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com.