NEW YORK — Lightning coach Guy Boucher pointed out what he considers a disturbing trend with his players: playing to the competition.
Think about it, he said. Tampa Bay has lost twice to the Islanders, twice to the Panthers, to the Flames and the Oilers, teams that entered Thursday with a combined record of 46-68-14.
And even though the Lightning gained points in four of those games with regulation ties — including Wednesday's 2-1 overtime loss to the Islanders — eight points were left on the table. "It's a lack of urgency, period," Boucher said Thursday. "It's not taking the other team seriously, even though you want to. You don't feel threatened.
"Every game we've played up to now, almost, we feel like our backs are against a wall. That is the nature of the NHL. You feel every team can beat you, so you get in there and fight. But then you meet a team (the Islanders) that has won two in their last (23), and you lack that urgency. Human, yes, but I don't care. It's part of the maturity we need to have. If we're going to be a top-notch team, we can't have that."
Especially in a game in which a victory meant claiming first place in the Southeast Division. "We disrespected the opponent," Boucher said, "and disrespected the chance to advance."
RW Adam Hall agreed that Tampa Bay's "execution wasn't there as much as we'd like," but he also gave credit to the Islanders. "They're not a team playing like their record," he said. "They're tenacious."
Still, Hall said "You have to find ways to generate the emotions to get the job done."
Eight points are eight points.
"These one points here and there that you're losing, ask those teams who are looking for that point the last week of the season," Boucher said.
CONNOLLY HURT: RW Brett Connolly, drafted No. 6 overall in June, sustained an upper-body injury Tuesday playing for Canada against Sweden in a warmup for the world junior championship, which begins Sunday. He was held out Thursday against Finland as a precaution, Canada's TSN reported.
Tampa Bay spokesman Bill Wickett said the team was aware of the injury but declined further comment.
SOUNDS BAD: G Mike Smith said he thought the worst when he heard his left knee pop during Monday's morning skate after his skate was clipped by the skate of teammate Simon Gagne. So, Smith considers himself lucky he has only a mild sprain that needs two to three weeks of rest.
That said, the timing "couldn't be much worse," he said. Though Smith is 10-5-0, his 3.20 goals-against average and .893 save percentage are near the bottom of the league. In his past two games he is 2-0-0 with a 0.96 goals-against average and .961 save percentage.
"I'm happy it happened when I started to play well, and I know I can get back and pick up where I left off," he said.
ODDS AND ENDS: As per NHL rules, Tampa Bay will not skate Christmas Eve or Christmas, meaning it will not skate until the morning of Sunday's game at Atlanta. … LW Johan Harju was reassigned to AHL Norfolk. … D Matt Smaby was scratched.