OTTAWA — The Lightning didn't bother trying to sugarcoat Monday's clunker, a 5-1 loss to the Senators.
"Just a mailed in effort," center Brian Boyle said.
It was surprising considering Tampa Bay had been one of the league's hottest teams, still winners of 10 of its past 12. But you wouldn't have guessed it by watching Monday, when the Senators outplayed and outworked Tampa Bay thoroughly.
Coach Jon Cooper said he didn't even step into the dressing room after the game. No words needed to be said.
"We've been on a pretty good run here the last month and a half, two months," Cooper said. "And it came to a crashing halt (Monday)."
The Lightning (29-19-4) needs to wake up fast, because it is facing another desperate team in the Canadiens tonight in Montreal.
Despite Tampa Bay's recent roll, it's just two points ahead of the eighth-place Islanders in the extremely tight Eastern Conference, three ahead of the ninth-place Devils.
And the Lightning will be without top-four defenseman Jason Garrison, who missed the final two periods with a lower body injury and is out tonight (and potentially longer).
"We should carry a little bit of anger in us," Boyle said. "So we have a chance to redeem ourselves."
Not much went right for the Lightning in this one. It started with an uninspired work ethic, as the Senators got to most loose pucks. Tampa Bay was sloppy with the puck, a couple of turnovers leading to Ottawa's first goals. The Lightning was soft in its own zone, giving the Senators way too much time and space.
Even the typically steady line of Alex Killorn, Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov were a combined minus-7. Johnson looked like he got banged up in the third, but Cooper said he thinks he's okay.
"It's 82 games, you're not going to Picasso every single one," Cooper said. "But a lot of the things we do as a team, kind of our trademark. First and foremost, our work ethic, our speed, our tenacity, our being dangerous out there on the ice. You can throw a big goose egg for all those."
Cooper started Andrei Vasilevskiy in goal instead of former Senator Ben Bishop, who was 8-0-3 in his career against Ottawa. Vasilevskiy, in his first start since Jan. 27, wasn't sharp, but it likely wouldn't have mattered if Ken Dryden was in net. Tampa Bay was so far behind, Cooper pulled Vasilevskiy with just under nine minutes left for the extra attacker.
"We have to realize that you can't just show up and win games," captain Steven Stamkos said. "It's how hard you're playing. We put ourselves in position in the last couple weeks because we've executed our game plan, we've worked hard. We've wanted it more than the other teams. (Monday), it was just, 'Let's come in and hopefully we'll get a win.' "
The only bright spot was J.T. Brown, who had a consistent all-around game, pulling Tampa Bay to within a goal late in the first on a great second-effort.
"Just an off game," Stamkos said. "We've got to make sure it doesn't snowball."
Contact Joe Smith at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.
First Period—1, Ottawa, Smith 11 (Stone), 5:23. 2, Ottawa, Prince 3, 16:51. 3, Tampa Bay, Brown 6 (Coburn, Callahan), 17:25. Penalties—Ryan, Ott (tripping), 7:46; Stamkos, TB (interference), 9:37; Callahan, TB (hooking), 19:21.
Second Period—4, Ottawa, Stone 15 (Pageau, Zibanejad), 4:41 (pp). 5, Ottawa, Stone 16 (Ceci, Pageau), 10:46. Penalties—Kucherov, TB (holding), 4:15; Karlsson, Ott (slashing), 5:59; Hedman, TB (tripping), 6:45; Paquette, TB (roughing), 9:02; Hoffman, Ott (cross-checking), 9:02; Coburn, TB, major (fighting), 12:11; Neil, Ott, major (fighting), 12:11; Filppula, TB (tripping), 13:29; Chiasson, Ott (tripping), 19:01.
Third Period—6, Ottawa, Pageau 13, 15:22 (en). Penalties—Kucherov, TB (tripping), 17:51. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 13-10-9—32. Ottawa 10-11-8—29. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 0 of 3; Ottawa 1 of 6. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Vasilevskiy 8-5-0 (28 shots-24 saves). Ottawa, Anderson 22-17-4 (32-31). A—17,078 (19,153). T—2:25. Referees—Brad Watson, Ian Walsh. Linesmen—Shandor Alphonso, Vaughan Rody.