TAMPA — Before Monday night's game with the Devils, Lightning coach Guy Boucher said he asked one thing of his players — to compete.
And Tampa Bay did. But when things are going as badly as they have, that isn't enough. Teams have to make plays, too, and that didn't happen nearly enough in a 5-4 loss at the St. Pete Times Forum.
"We showed a lot of character like we always do," center Steven Stamkos said. "We never quit and came back. But we dug ourselves a hole that was too big to climb out."
Stamkos' two third-period goals, the second with 33.5 seconds left, cut what had been a 5-2 deficit. And the Lightning outshot New Jersey 36-22, including 26-11 in the final two periods.
But Tampa Bay (12-16-2) suffered from the same maladies that have hurt so much in a streak in which it has lost seven of eight games: poor goaltending, poor defense and a struggling power play.
• Goaltender Dwayne Roloson, in his first start after three games, was pulled 56 seconds into the second period after allowing three goals on 12 shots.
Zach Parise's goal was painful because the Lightning had come back with goals by Steve Downie and Blair Jones to tie the score 2-2 after the first period.
"I needed to turn the game around. I needed to do something and I felt that was the moment," Boucher said. "I had to pull him out. I feel bad. I know how he cares so much and prepared so hard for this game."
Roloson also mishandled a shot that led to Petr Sykora's rebound goal 28 seconds into the game, and he let Dainius Zubrus' deflection go under his pads at 5:38 to make it 2-0.
• The defense didn't always help.
Defenseman Matt Gilroy could have been stronger on Parise on New Jersey's third goal, and Tampa Bay allowed odd-man breakout goals to Ilya Kovalchuk (after Parise blocked Gilroy's shot) and Adam Henrique (shorthanded thanks to the puck's weird bounce off the glass) to make the score 5-2 in the second.
• The power play, on a 2-for-23 skid coming in, was 1-for-5 but 0-for-4 after two periods, including a 20-second five-on-three.
"It's frustrating," said Stamkos, whose 18 goals are tied for the league lead. "That word doesn't even describe it. In a game like this when you have a slow start, you need your power play to get you a goal and generate opportunities at least. We have to find a way to correct it."
"There's moments in a season that you don't understand why," Boucher said. It's just happening this way and you have to manage it mentally. React the right way or you sink lower."
Right now, Tampa Bay is sinking fast.
First—1, New Jersey, Sykora 6 (Salvador, Elias), :28. 2, New Jersey, Zubrus 9 (Taormina, Henrique), 5:38 (pp). 3, Tampa Bay, Downie 4 (Gilroy, Stamkos), 17:34. 4, Tampa Bay, Jones 1 (Tyrell, Gilroy), 18:54. Penalties—Brewer, TB (holding), 3:44.
Second—5, New Jersey, Parise 9 (Henrique, Tallinder), :56. 6, New Jersey, Kovalchuk 9 (Parise), 5:42. 7, New Jersey, Henrique 7 (Parise, Fayne), 13:23 (sh). Penalties—Carter, NJ, major (fighting), 4:43; Kubina, TB, major (fighting), 4:43; Larsson, NJ (interference), 8:12; Taormina, NJ (delay of game), 9:52; Tallinder, NJ (tripping), 13:07; Larsson, NJ (interference), 16:21; Moore, TB (tripping), 19:11.
Third—8, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 17 (Moore, Lecavalier), 9:29 (pp). 9, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 18 (Kubina, Lecavalier), 19:26. Penalties—Clarkson, NJ, major (fighting), 2:01; Malone, TB, major (fighting), 2:01; Moore, TB (slashing), 4:49; Urbom, NJ, minor-major (cross-checking, fighting), 8:23; Downie, TB, major (fighting), 8:23. Shots—New Jersey 11-6-5—22. Tampa Bay 10-17-9—36. Power plays—New Jersey 1 of 3; Tampa Bay 1 of 5. Goalies—New Jersey, Hedberg 9-5-1 (36 shots-32 saves). Tampa Bay, Roloson (12-9), Garon 6-8-1 (0:56 second, 10-8). A—17,341 (19,204). T—2:32.