TAMPA — The boos directed toward the Lightning began with about five minutes left in the second period Friday night against the Hurricanes, and they continued sporadically throughout the first part of the third.
With nearly 10 minutes left in the game and Tampa Bay down three goals, many fans headed for the exits. Then the Lightning stormed back with a flurry as unexpected as its uninspiring start. It scored twice in 52 seconds but lost 4-3 in front of 16,656 at the St. Pete Times Forum.
The score wasn't indicative of how the game was played.
"We didn't work (Friday). We deserved the result," alternate captain Marty St. Louis said. "They outplayed us, plain and simple. We didn't respond to any of their surges or anything. We didn't win too many battles. We were easy to play against (Friday).
"I'm running out of answers right now, to be honest. I feel like this is Groundhog Day," St. Louis said, referring to the Bill Murray movie about a man who lives the same day over and over.
The loss was the fourth straight for the Lightning, which has lost 10 of 12, falling out of first place in the Southeast Division and from second to fifth in the East.
Coach Guy Boucher has been disappointed with losses before. But he had trouble finding answers after this one. He had given most of his players two days off after Tuesday's 5-2 loss to the Islanders, hoping it would help them re-energize and refocus.
Instead Carolina, fighting for its playoff life, outshot Tampa Bay 25-10 in the first two periods, including holding the Lightning to two shots in the second, matching its season low. Boucher said players were looking for the "pretty play" instead of putting the puck on the net, "and we don't have the skill enough and the depth to go out there and skill it."
"This one scares me," he said. "Because it becomes the result now of our players not sticking to what made us successful all year. To get that, we need guys to do it consistently throughout 60 minutes, and now we're not close to that."
The Lightning (39-24-11), largely due to strong early play by goalie Dwayne Roloson (35 saves), trailed 2-1 after two. But the Hurricanes scored twice in the third, taking a three-goal lead with eight minutes left before the Lightning showed more life.
Boucher said he believes in some cases, previous losses hurt his team in its next game and "we need to be a lot stronger than that and a lot more mature than this."
"We're not competing for anything," Boucher said. "We're kind of floating right now, and that's the wrong state to be in."
First Period—1, TB, Gagne 13 (St. Louis, Lecavalier), 7:11 (pp). 2, Carolina, Skinner 26 (Ruutu, Pitkanen), 12:52. Penalties—Lecavalier, TB (roughing), :13; Skinner, Car (holding), 1:49; Harrison, Car (roughing), 5:53; Harrison, Car (cross-checking), 9:37; Downie, TB (slashing), 9:37.
Second Period—3, Carolina, Cole 21 (Stillman, E.Staal), 8:23 (pp). Penalties—Roloson, TB, served by Purcell (tripping), 1:56; Stamkos, TB (hooking), 7:52; Hedman, TB (tripping), 9:32; Harrison, Car (tripping), 12:52; Bergenheim, TB (hooking), 19:17.
Third Period—4, Carolina, Cole 22, 6:50. 5, Carolina, E.Staal 30 (Corvo, Pitkanen), 12:20 (pp). 6, TB, Lecavalier 20 (Hedman), 13:17. 7, TB, Gagne 14 (St. Louis, Clark), 14:09 (pp). Penalties—Downie, TB, misconduct, 10:56; Stamkos, TB (tripping), 10:56; Joslin, Car (goaltender interference), 14:00; Allen, Car (boarding), 17:20. Shots on Goal—Carolina 16-8-15—39. TB 7-3-11—21. Power-play opportunities—Carolina 2 of 6; TB 2 of 5. Goalies—Carolina, Ward 32-24-9 (21 shots-18 saves). TB, Roloson 20-24-5 (39-35).