BOSTON — How do you know it's not your night?
How about when an opponent scores by deflecting a puck shot so hard, it knocks the stick out of his hand?
Chuck Kobasew scored that way for the Bruins Tuesday night in their 3-1 victory over the Lightning at TD Banknorth Garden; the puck, blasted by defenseman Zdeno Chara, bounced over the shoulder of goaltender Mike McKenna.
"I've seen it all this year," Tampa Bay coach Rick Tocchet said. "We can do a David Letterman top 10; that might be No. 5."
In that context, the Lightning's seventh loss in eight games will fade into the woodwork as the team (24-36-17) grinds through its final five.
But it will stick in Tocchet's mind.
The coach said players lagged competing for pucks and position. There was improvement from Sunday's awful loss to the Senators. Still, the Lightning was outshot 39-25, outhit 21-18 and blocked just four shots.
Granted it faced the East's best. But that is when you need to raise your level, Tocchet said:
"You've just got to keep teaching and looking for players who want to play in the NHL. It's easy decisions when you look at guys not competing.
"When you have 20 guys working hard, you're like, 'Wow, we have to make choices.' Right now, I don't think we have to make many choices, to be honest with you."
How do you know it's not your night?
When Steven Stamkos' 20th goal with 7:53 left is not so much something to celebrate as to be thankful it snapped Tampa Bay's scoreless streak of 129 minutes, 8 seconds.
When you're trailing 1-0 in the first period and get one shot in 2:34 of continuous power-play time, including 1:26 five-on-three.
When captain Vinny Lecavalier plays his fifth straight game without a point and has zero shots for the second time in that stretch.
"It's always frustrating to lose," defenseman Matt Lashoff said. "But at this stage, you learn a lot about yourself and each other as teammates. You learn a lot about desire."
How do you know it's not your night?
When two power-play goals allowed means you have given up eight in four games, and a 0-for-5 power play means you're 0-for-14.
When you outshoot an opponent 3-1 to start the game, but end the period outshot 10-4.
The Bruins complimented Tampa Bay for hanging in there. But Tocchet said, "Losing is losing. Right now we're taking our licks."
"It's something you have to learn from and remember the feeling," Stamkos said. "Hopefully it doesn't happen again."
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com
First Period—1, Boston, Wheeler 20 (Savard), 14:03. Penalties—Bochenski, TB (high-sticking), 3:56; Lecavalier, TB (hooking), 8:43; Artyukhin, TB, major (fighting), 8:43; Chara, Bos, minor-major (roughing, fighting), 8:43; Lucic, Bos (interference), 17:53; A.Ward, Bos (high-sticking), 18:27.
Second Period—2, Boston, Chara 17 (Bergeron, Krejci), 6:56 (pp). 3, Boston, Kobasew 20 (Chara, Krejci), 13:35 (pp). Penalties—Artyukhin, TB (high-sticking), 6:31; Wheeler, Bos (goaltender interference), 7:26; Petiot, TB (hooking), 13:16; Petiot, TB, major (fighting), 16:21; Hunwick, Bos (high-sticking), 16:21; Bitz, Bos, major (fighting), 16:21; Melichar, TB, served by Artyukhin, minor-major (elbowing, fighting), 19:48; Lucic, Bos, major (fighting), 19:48.
Third Period—4, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 20 (Malone, Lashoff), 12:07. Penalties—Welch, TB (holding), 12:58; Kobasew, Bos (high-sticking), 14:19; Malone, TB (tripping), 16:33. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 4-14-7—25. Boston 10-13-16—39. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 0 of 5; Boston 2 of 6. Goalies—Tampa Bay, McKenna 4-6-1 (39 shots-36 saves). Boston, Fernandez 16-6-3 (25-24). A—16,996 (17,565). T—2:30. Referees—Steve Kozari, Dave Jackson. Linesmen—Steve Miller, Jean Morin.