TAMPA — The Lightning is discovering the difference between simply working hard and finding that extra gear that enables you to succeed in a playoff atmosphere.
In Tuesday night's 4-0 loss to the Senators at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the team couldn't get there.
The Lightning got shots on net and scoring chances but nothing else.
"We have to put it in, plain and simple," coach Guy Boucher said. "There are goals that should have happened."
Added left wing Ryan Malone: "We just have to battle harder to get those garbage goals."
Those are not good critiques for a team fighting for its playoff life. Tampa Bay (24-26-5) is 1-3-1 in its past five games.
It also is eight points out of the East's final playoff spot and has to leapfrog four teams to boot. That is why players keep saying every game is a playoff game.
Instead, the Lightning made things fairly easy for goaltender Craig Anderson, who made 28 saves.
"We didn't do a good job of screening him," right wing Teddy Purcell said.
And because of that, "pucks were bouncing out to where we should have been," Purcell said, "and we weren't there."
Tampa Bay just came off three games in four nights on the road. And it is not uncommon for teams to be flat in the first home game after a road trip.
But you still have to convert Grade A chances.
Purcell, alone in front of the net, was stoned by Anderson, who stacked his pads to preserve Ottawa's 1-0 lead.
"You think of doing a bunch of different stuff after the time," Purcell said. "You've got to give him credit, I got it up high and I haven't seen a two-pad stack in a while. But it was a nice save."
Steven Stamkos hit the outside of a goal post. Malone, face-to-face with Anderson, whacked the puck as hard as he could but couldn't get it through.
Tampa Bay also failed on two power plays with the score 1-0 and increased its stretch of futility with the extra man to 7-for-72.
The Lightning could not even get gain momentum after goalie Mathieu Garon stopped Kyle Turris' third-period penalty shot to keep the score 2-0.
On the other hand there was Ottawa's Erik Karlsson, who scored 1:04 into the game through a heavy screen, and Jason Spezza, who had a hat trick.
"We felt if we kept doing what we were doing those Grade A chances would give us something," Boucher said. "That's what's tough for me to accept. At some point it's supposed to pay off and it hasn't."
So much for the playoffs.
First Period—1, Ottawa, Karlsson 10 (Spezza, Butler), 1:04. Penalties—Stamkos, TB (tripping), 1:24; Spezza, Ott (tripping), 3:34; Butler, Ott (goaltender interference), 9:04.
Second Period—2, Ottawa, Spezza 23 (Kuba, Karlsson), 16:32 (pp). Penalties—Kubina, TB (interference), 15:30.
Third Period—3, Ottawa, Spezza 24 (Butler, Michalek), 12:37. 4, Ottawa, Spezza 25 (Gonchar), 18:58 (en). Penalties—None. Missed Penalty Shot—Turris, Ott, 11:36 third. Shots on Goal—Ottawa 7-11-9—27. Tampa Bay 10-11-7—28. Power-play opportunities—Ottawa 1 of 2; Tampa Bay 0 of 2. Goalies—Ottawa, Anderson 26-19-6 (28 shots-28 saves). Tampa Bay, Garon 17-15-4 (26-23). A—17,488 (19,204). T—2:26. Referees—Rob Martell, Kevin Pollock. Linesmen—Greg Devorski, Brad Kovachik.