TAMPA — In many ways, the Lightning's 4-1 loss to the Wild on Sunday typified how it has been going during its recent rough stretch.
Tampa Bay came out with a lot of energy, outshot Minnesota 38-18 and generated more scoring chances.
But while the Lightning couldn't buy a goal, missing open nets and hitting a post, the Wild scored on a shot that took a weird bounce off the back boards and deflected off goalie Dan Ellis' skate into the net.
As a result, Tampa Bay lost for the sixth time in its past seven games, in front of 14,868 at the St. Pete Times Forum.
"It's a tough run right now," coach Guy Boucher said. "It's tough on everybody. If you're not working, you don't deserve anything; that's one thing. But right now, our guys are going to war, they're paying the price and it's just not going in."
As much as the frustration and losses mount, players and coaches alike don't feel like there's a need to reinvent the wheel. Boucher said the short-handed team, missing two of its top six forwards, boasts the same type of work ethic and attitude, while creating the same type of chances it did during its 7-2-1 start.
"I think we've just got to realize that we're playing the right way right now," center Steven Stamkos said. "The challenging part is not changing what we believe in because it's not working. We've got to keep pushing it because we know it's worked in the past and know it's going to work."
It certainly doesn't help when, as Stamkos said, "the bounces aren't going our way."
That included Cal Clutterbuck's power-play goal that opened the scoring.
Ellis said he knew the arena's boards created some weird bounces, but he was still baffled when a seemingly "harmless little shot" wide from the left circle turned into a goal that Stamkos said "sucks the life out of you right away."
Ellis, up far in his crease, moved his right skate to avoid the puck, which bounced off his left skate and into the net
"I tried to dodge it," he said. "I guess I shouldn't play dodgeball."
The Lightning (8-7-2) tied the game four minutes later, on a Marty St. Louis power-play goal, but the Wild (8-6-2) scored the next three. That included an empty-net goal with 30 seconds left that bounced off St. Louis' shin pad and the post.
Stamkos said the Lightning, which is in a stretch where it plays 15 of 21 games on the road, has to fight through it and "take as many points as we can."
"If we stick together and not play the 'blame game' and dig deep as a group, we'll be just fine," Ellis said.
"I have no doubt in this team whatsoever."
First Period—1, Minnesota, Clutterbuck 6 (Cullen, Havlat), 7:16 (pp). 2, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 7 (Clark, Stamkos), 11:31 (pp). 3, Minnesota, Madden 3 (Havlat, Zidlicky), 12:55. 4, Minnesota, Miettinen 4 (Brunette, Koivu), 19:30 (pp). Penalties—Downie, TB (tripping), 6:32; Falk, Min (tripping), 10:52; Clutterbuck, Min (interference), 14:05; Ohlund, TB (boarding), 19:16.
Second Period—None. Penalties—Schultz, Min (tripping), 8:20; Scandella, Min (slashing), 19:44; Downie, TB (roughing), 19:44.
Third Period—5, Minnesota, Nystrom 1 (Havlat, Madden), 19:11 (en). Penalties—Downie, TB (slashing), 6:27. Shots on Goal—Minnesota 6-7-5—18. Tampa Bay 16-9-13—38. Power-play opportunities—Minnesota 2 of 3; Tampa Bay 1 of 3. Goalies—Minnesota, Backstrom 7-4-2 (38 shots-37 saves). Tampa Bay, Ellis 4-4-2 (17-14). A—14,868 (19,758). T—2:25.