TAMPA — A shot that looked like a goal but wasn't.
That was the most fervent topic of conversation Tuesday night after the Lightning's 3-1 loss to the Thrashers at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Rookie Steven Stamkos believed his penalty shot was over the goal line. Atlanta goaltender Kari Lehtonen said it wasn't. Referee Rob Martell ruled it no goal and a video review at the league offices in Toronto could not overrule because the puck was not visible.
"I think everyone in the building knows the puck is in his glove and his glove is past the goal line," Stamkos said. "But with the replay, you have to be able to see the whole puck."
Tampa Bay coach Rick Tocchet refused to complain even though the call preserved Atlanta's 2-1 third-period edge. His concerns were broader.
"Tonight," he said, "we had a lot of disinterested players. As a staff we're pretty disappointed in some guys."
He has a right to be.
In a game against the Southeast Division's worst team, which had lost six of seven and allowed the league's second-most goals, the Lightning fell flat.
Don't let the 41-24 shot advantage fool you. Tampa Bay put little pressure on Lehtonen until a third period when it outshot the Thrashers 17-7. Even then, it got few shots from in-close and created even less traffic.
It's not as if the Lightning (18-25-11 and 13 points out of the playoffs) has a shot at the postseason, anyway. But if it can't beat the Thrashers at home, it doesn't deserve to get there.
"That could be huge," Stamkos said of the loss. "That could be in the playoffs, out of the playoffs right there. To lose it, especially to a team below us in the standings, that's a tough one."
The Lightning hasn't made it easy on itself, scoring just nine goals in its past six games to go 1-4-1.
Against the Thrashers, which entered with the league's second-worst penalty kill, Tampa Bay went 0-for-5 on the power play, including 55 seconds combined on two separate five-on-threes.
Its only goal: Gary Roberts' fourth of the season 1:24 into the game off a great pass from Steve Downie.
But goalie Mike McKenna allowed an atrocious shorthanded goal through his legs on Colin Stuart's push of the puck at 9:52, and Lukas Krajicek's weak defense on Slava Kozlov in the slot led to Kozlov's winner 2:02 into the second.
Tampa Bay lost a goal with 2:16 left in the first when Roberts was called for "incidental contact" on Lehtonen as Cory Murphy scored.
Stamkos went to the forehand on his first career penalty shot with 8:09 left in the third. He seemed to have Lehtonen beat. But the goalie threw out his glove and snared the puck.
Replays showed the glove over the goal line, but the puck could not be seen.
"I felt like the puck was not in the pocket of the glove. It was more like next to my wrist," Lehtonen said. "That's why it looked worse than it was because my pocket wasn't in there; nothing there was puck. It was tough. It could have gone either way."
"If I raise that an inch, that goes in," Stamkos said, "so that's another thing where maybe it was my fault."
There was plenty of fault to go around.
As Stamkos said, "We had over 40 shots. You have to score more than one goal."
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com.
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Roberts 4 (Downie, Stamkos), 1:24. 2, Atlanta, Stuart 1 (Perrin), 9:52 (sh). Penalties—Bogosian, Atl (holding), 7:06; Exelby, Atl (interference), 8:28; Bogosian, Atl (holding), 16:09.
Second Period—3, Atlanta, Kozlov 18 (Peverley, Havelid), 2:02. Penalties—Lecavalier, TB (roughing), 5:41; Stamkos, TB (tripping), 15:33; Exelby, Atl (delay of game), 19:20.
Third Period—4, Atlanta, Kovalchuk 23, 19:50 (en). Penalties—Enstrom, Atl (hooking), 1:04; Krajicek, TB (tripping), 12:26. Missed Penalty Shot—Stamkos, TB, 11:51 third. Shots on Goal—Atlanta 6-11-7—24. Tampa Bay 11-13-17—41. Power-play opportunities—Atlanta 0 of 3; Tampa Bay 0 of 5. Goalies—Atlanta, Lehtonen 10-16-2 (41 shots-40 saves). Tampa Bay, McKenna 1-1-1 (23-21). A—13,490 (19,758). T—2:23. Referees—Rob Martell, Tim Peel. Linesmen—Brad Kovachik, Tim Nowak.