TAMPA — For the first time in a while, Lightning coach Jon Cooper said, he sensed frustration among players during a game.
"It's not a situation where guys are mad at each other," Cooper said Thursday night. "They're mad at themselves. Some of these guys who are used to putting pucks in the net aren't putting them in right now, and it just compounds."
After a 4-1 loss to the Maple Leafs at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the Lightning has scored three regulation goals in its past three games, part of a stretch of four losses in five games that has put the team in a precarious position in the Atlantic Division.
The statuses of goaltender Ben Bishop and center Valtteri Filppula also are uncertain. Bishop left the game after the second period with an upper-body injury. Filppula left in the third with a lower-body injury.
"The soap opera continues," Cooper said.
Until more is known about the injuries, the story line is about results, or a lack thereof.
Tampa Bay (32-20-5), which not long ago challenged the Bruins for the division lead, is fighting to hold second place, one point ahead of Toronto and Montreal.
"We're leaking oil a little bit," Cooper acknowledged.
Much of that is due to Tampa Bay's inability to score.
Ondrej Palat's goal against Toronto was a beauty as he split the defense after taking a pass from Marty St. Louis. But it came in the third period with the Lightning down 3-0.
Had Tampa Bay scored in the game's first 13 minutes, when it dominated with an 8-1 shot advantage, the game likely would have been different.
But Teddy Purcell and Nate Thompson couldn't cash in on two-on-ones. And down 1-0 entering the third period, Tampa Bay could not dent Toronto goalie Jonathan Bernier, who played well with 33 saves in the game.
St. Louis, though, put the onus on the Lightning, including himself. He did not get a shot on goal.
"Just missing that killer instinct, I guess," he said. "We're just down a goal going into the third. We weren't able to create enough to give ourselves a chance. It starts with our top guys. I had a tough one. That's going to happen. But when you're down a goal going into the third, you expect more. We just didn't get it done."
Tampa Bay has one more game — Saturday at home against the Red Wings — before the Olympic break.
Cooper called it a "one-game season."
"We have to play that like it's either make the playoffs or bust," he said.
Bottom line, Palat said, "We have to find a way to score more goals."
First—None. Penalties—Gudas, TB (interference), 14:57.
Second—1, Toronto, Raymond 15 (Kulemin, Rielly), 7:57. Penalties—None.
Third—2, Toronto, McClement 3 (Clarkson, Lupul), 2:19. 3, Toronto, van Riemsdyk 23 (Gunnarsson, Kessel), 8:10. 4, Tampa Bay, Palat 12 (St. Louis, Johnson), 10:28. 5, Toronto, Bozak 12 (Kessel), 17:08 (en). Penalties—Gleason, Tor, double minor-misconduct (roughing), 18:17; Bernier, Tor, served by Kessel (roughing), 18:17; Desjardins, TB, served by Brewer (leaving the crease), 18:17; Gudas, TB, misconduct, 18:17; Brown, TB (goaltender interference), 18:17. Shots on Goal—Toronto 12-10-14—36. Tampa Bay 9-14-11—34. Power-play opportunities—Toronto 0 of 1; Tampa Bay 0 of 1. Goalies—Toronto, Bernier 21-16-5 (34 shots-33 saves). Tampa Bay, Bishop (22-21), Desjardins 0-1-0 (0:00 third, 13-11). A—19,204 (19,204).