TAMPA — For the Lightning, it was hard not to be a bit disappointed.
What had been the team's most successful homestand, which included a season-best three-game winning streak, ended Friday night at the St. Pete Times Forum with a 2-1 loss to the Ducks in a shootout.
"It's not hockey; it's not the team game," goalie Antero Niittymaki said of such an ending. "It's frustrating. It was a good hockey game. It was fun to play in. Too bad we only got one point, but that's the way it is."
That's not bad for a team desperate to climb in the Eastern Conference standings. And not bad for a team beset by uncertainty off the ice as reports swirled that a Boston investor, Jeff Vinik, was exploring the possibility of buying it.
"It was a hard-fought game," coach Rick Tocchet said. "But I think it's a good lesson for some guys to know if it's going to be a playoff game, you have to raise your level of play. If you don't have another gear, you're in trouble.
"These are the tough games. It's back and forth. You've got to take a punch in the mouth. You've got to take pressure in the back, and you've got to dish it out on the other end, too. It's the way it should be played. For (some) guys, it's a lesson."
The Lightning (22-20-11) scored first when it took advantage of a four-on-four as center Steven Stamkos broke free on the left and perfectly slid a pass by Anaheim defenseman Ryan Whitney to onrushing Marty St. Louis on the right. St. Louis then beat goalie Jonas Hiller for a 1-0 lead midway through the opening period.
Anaheim, which entered the game with one of the league's least productive power plays on the road (11-of-96 for a meager 11.5 percent, ranked 29th), tied the score on a power-play goal by defenseman James Wisniewski at 6:36 of the second.
Tampa Bay was one of the top penalty-killing teams at home.
That goal ended Niittymaki's career-best scoreless streak at 146 minutes, 13 seconds, the fourth longest in franchise history.
"He's given us a chance to win every night here," Tocchet said. "He deserves a lot of credit."
Although Tampa Bay beat Atlanta on Jan. 23 in a shootout, it was 2-6 in shootouts this season. Still, this one looked good for the home team after Stamkos, the first of three shooters, scored and Niittymaki stopped a shot by right wing Corey Perry. "We had an advantage, but it definitely wasn't over," Stamkos said.
Center Ryan Getzlaf and Wisniewski scored for the Ducks, and center Jeff Halpern and right wing Brandon Bochenski misfired for the Lightning to end it.
"It shouldn't (take away from the four-game homestand)," Niittymaki said. "We've played pretty solid. We have to build on that."
|Ducks win shootout 2-1|
|Ducks win shootout 2-1|
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 15 (Stamkos), 9:47. Penalties—Parros, Ana, major (fighting), 2:25; Walker, TB, major (fighting), 2:25; Festerling, Ana (hooking), 6:12; Wisniewski, Ana (roughing), 8:24; Downie, TB (unsportsmanlike conduct), 8:24; Parros, Ana (roughing), 11:31; Foster, TB (cross-checking), 11:31.
Second Period—2, Anaheim, Wisniewski 3 (Getzlaf, Whitney), 6:36 (pp). Penalties—Meszaros, TB (cross-checking), 5:19; Bodie, Ana, major (fighting), 7:28; Konopka, TB, major (fighting), 7:28; Carter, Ana (roughing), 13:58.
Third Period—None. Penalties—Smaby, TB (cross-checking), 7:09; Whitney, Ana (roughing), 18:28; Sexton, Ana, misconduct, 18:28; Downie, TB, misconduct-game misconduct, 18:28; Hedman, TB (roughing), 18:28.
Shootout—Anaheim 2 (Perry NG, Getzlaf G, Wisniewski G), Tampa Bay 1 (Stamkos G, Halpern NG, Bochenski NG). Shots on Goal—Anaheim 12-9-9-2—32. Tampa Bay 8-8-11-4—31. Power-play opportunities—Anaheim 1 of 2; Tampa Bay 0 of 2. Goalies—Anaheim, Hiller 21-15-2 (31 shots-30 saves). Tampa Bay, Niittymaki 12-9-5 (32-31). A—15,230 (19,758).