TAMPA — The word "unacceptable," was popular in the Lightning locker room Tuesday night.
Not surprising, really. It's the kind of word that usually makes an appearance after a game like the one Tampa Bay blew at the St. Pete Times Forum.
The six-round, 4-3 shootout loss to the Maple Leafs was bad enough. That Toronto overcame a three-goal, second-period deficit was, well, you know.
"To go up 3-0 and lose the game, that's totally unacceptable," center Steven Stamkos said. "We can't afford to do that moving forward if we want to continue improving."
"It just goes to show you we have a long way to go as a team," coach Rick Tocchet said.
The injury-depleted defense absorbed another blow as power-play specialist Cory Murphy was lost with a lower-body injury believed to come from a Vinny Lecavalier slap shot off a foot.
That proved devastating as the Lightning failed on two chances in the final 5:35 of regulation with the score 3-3.
"He's been our best power-play guy," Tocchet said. "But you're looking for other guys to step up."
Funny thing is, Tampa Bay (23-32-15) thought it made progress during its 2-0-1 road trip. And when Lecavalier's team-best 29th goal in the first period was followed by goals in 10 seconds from Stamkos and Matt Pettinger, tying the team record for fastest two goals at home, the Lightning led 3-0 2:36 into the second.
It also led 14-12 in shots with 7:32 left in the period. But the Lightning simply stopped skating, and the Maple Leafs didn't.
Toronto had a 27-8 shot advantage the rest of the way and got a key goal with 23.3 seconds left in the second period on John Mitchell's wraparound after goalie Karri Ramo took himself out of the play.
Jason Blake's goal through Ramo's legs made it 3-2 3:24 into the third, and Jeff Hamilton tied it with 5:31 left in regulation with Lecavalier, minus-3 in the game, banging his stick in frustration after he failed to break up the play.
"We never said die," Toronto defenseman Ian White said. "We kept battling, kept shooting pucks."
And fed off a screaming crowd of 18,793 filled with Leafs fans, who brought the house down when Mitchell scored in the sixth shootout round to give Toronto a 2-1 win.
The Leafs got lucky in the shootout as Stamkos and Marty St. Louis hit posts. But Lecavalier was the only dent Tampa Bay made in goalie Curtis Joseph, who stopped Ryan Malone, Vinny Prospal and Evgeny Artyukhin.
"I loved the crowd," Lightning defenseman Matt Smaby said. "I would have liked it if it would have cheered for us a little more."
Perhaps it needed a reason.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com.
|Maple Leafs win shootout 2-1|
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 29 (Murphy, St. Louis), 13:39 (pp). Penalties—Smaby, TB (boarding), 3:38; Murphy, TB (high-sticking), 6:50; Welch, TB (high-sticking), 11:01; Ponikarovsky, Tor (goaltender interference), 12:38.
Second Period—2, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 15 (St. Louis, Ramo), 2:26 (pp). 3, Tampa Bay, Pettinger 5 (Karsums, Krajicek), 2:36. 4, Toronto, Mitchell 9 (Blake, Stralman), 19:36. Penalties—Grabovski, Tor (tripping), 1:20; Mayers, Tor, major (fighting), 6:59; Craig, TB, major (fighting), 6:59; May, Tor (hooking), 7:23; Koci, TB, misconduct, 7:23; Kubina, Tor (slashing), 9:58; Lecavalier, TB (slashing), 17:19.
Third Period—5, Toronto, Blake 24 (Stempniak), 3:24. 6, Toronto, J.Hamilton 2 (Devereaux, Stajan), 14:29. Penalties—Artyukhin, TB (tripping), 7:44; White, Tor (tripping), 14:35; Oreskovic, Tor (interference), 17:14.
Shootout—Toronto 2 (J.Hamilton G, Stempniak NG, Blake NG, Grabovski NG, Kulemin NG, Mitchell G), Tampa Bay 1 (Stamkos NG, St. Louis NG, Lecavalier G, Malone NG, Prospal NG, Artyukhin NG). Shots on Goal—Toronto 9-12-14-4—39. Tampa Bay 7-7-6-2—22. Power-play opportunities—Toronto 0 of 5; Tampa Bay 2 of 6. Goalies—Toronto, Joseph 3-7-1 (22 shots-19 saves). Tampa Bay, Ramo 4-7-4 (39-36). A—18,793 (19,758). T—2:43. Referees—Greg Kimmerly, Don Koharski. Linesmen—Mike Cvik, Don Henderson.