NASHVILLE — This is what it has come to for the Lightning. Between the second and third periods Tuesday night, players spoke of simply winning the period.
That is what happens when you have just allowed five second-period goals. It is what passes for progress when you have one victory in 10 games; the 7-4 loss to the Predators at the Sommet Center the latest crater.
"It's pretty deflating," wing Kurtis Foster said. "There are a lot of unhappy guys here. At the rink, away from the rink, it's not a happy place right now. We need to turn this around."
"It's a mind-set we have to change," defenseman Matt Smaby said. "We can't implode like that."
Especially after playing such a good first period.
Tampa Bay (11-13-9) outshot the Predators 13-6, on the way to a 34-27 advantage, and took a 2-1 lead on Steven Stamkos' team-high 18th goal, his first in nine games, and the first of two goals for Vinny Lecavalier, who scored for the first time on the power play and had a three-point night.
The turnaround was stunning in its suddenness as Nashville scored on five of 10 second-period shots to take a 6-2 lead.
Goaltending didn't help. Antero Niittymaki was pulled after allowing four goals in the game on 14 shots. Mike Smith, who entered with 7:38 left in the second, allowed goals on both shots he faced in the period.
Most damaging, though, were individual breakdowns.
Victor Hedman was outworked twice by David Legwand before Legwand scored 1:12 into the second. Foster failed to get a body on Ryan Jones to prevent his re-direct at 2:53. Niittymaki's late reaction on Patric Hornqvist's goal got him pulled, and James Wright's giveaway led to J.P. Dumont's goal 28 seconds later.
Not the way to end a tumultuous day that began with the benchings of Alex Tanguay and Jeff Halpern, and a declaration by coach Rick Tocchet that other front-line players could be scratched if things don't improve.
But Tocchet saw silver linings.
Yes, he said, the team needs to be better at "sealing off" the crease, but "we played hard. I enjoyed watching the effort. There were some goals there, not clearing the front of the net. That's something the coaches have to keep hammering on. When the pressure is on, you have to make the right decisions."
As in the third period, which Tampa Bay won 2-1 by winning more puck battles and limiting turnovers.
"Still," said Lecavalier, who had a game-high seven shots, "we lost the game. There were some positives, but there were still a lot of negatives, too.
Five in the second period.
First—1, Nashville, Smithson 5 (Legwand, Ward), 6:53. 2, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 18 (Malone, Ohlund), 11:35. 3, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 7 (Foster, St. Louis), 16:30 (pp). Penalties—Smithson, Nas (cross-checking), 14:30; Suter, Nas (high-sticking), 16:04.
Second—4, Nashville, Legwand 7 (Ward), 1:12. 5, Nashville, R.Jones 3 (Spaling, Weber), 2:57. 6, Nashville, Hornqvist 8 (Goc), 12:22. 7, Nashville, Dumont 6 (Hornqvist), 12:50. 8, Nashville, Hamhuis 3 (Suter, Goc), 16:09. Penalties—Walker, TB (boarding), 4:32; Arnott, Nas (hooking), 6:17; Downie, TB, major (fighting), 13:39; Weber, Nas, major (fighting), 13:39; Veilleux, TB, major (fighting), 18:10; Klein, Nas, major (fighting), 18:10.
Third—9, Tampa Bay, Foster 4 (Lecavalier, St. Louis), 1:52 (pp). 10, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 8 (Meszaros), 12:20. 11, Nashville, Erat 11 (Sullivan, Arnott), 13:47. Penalties—Malone, TB, major (fighting), :53; Smithson, Nas, minor-major (roughing, fighting), :53; Hedman, TB (boarding), 5:46; Stamkos, TB (hooking), 20:00. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 13-12-9—34. Nashville 6-10-11—27. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 2 of 4; Nashville 0 of 2. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Niittymaki (14 shots-10 saves), M.Smith 5-8-5 (12:22 second, 13-10). Nashville, Rinne 14-6-2 (34-30). A—15,084 (17,113). T—2:31. Referees—David Banfield, Kerry Fraser. Linesmen—Tim Nowak, Dan Schachte.