RALEIGH, N.C. — Marty St. Louis says the Lightning's effort is there.
But the team's execution, its smarts, its attention to detail are "all over the map," the assistant captain said.
And that's a big reason why Tampa Bay lost its second straight game, 6-4 to the Hurricanes on Saturday night in front of 18,680 at the RBC Center.
Special teams killed the Lighting (26-15-5), which gave up a season-high four power-play goals and its league-leading ninth shorthanded goal of the season, which turned into the winner.
"Our work ethic was extremely high," coach Guy Boucher said. "But the reality is, we were extremely stupid."
The Lightning had a 1-0 lead in the first period when, on a power play, it had a line-change mixup that led to a penalty for too many men on the ice.
"That's unacceptable," Boucher said.
Just more than a minute later, the Hurricanes tied the score when Chad LaRose came out of the penalty box and got behind the defense for a breakaway.
Boucher said Carolina's five-on-three power play early in the second period, on which it scored, was sparked by a Tampa Bay turnover.
But the backbreaking goal was the shorthanded tally by Hurricanes star Eric Staal at 12:51 of the second.
A clearing attempt bounced past St. Louis at the right point and turned into a breakaway for Staal, but goalie Dwayne Roloson steered it to the side wall. That's when St. Louis, who noticed the Hurricanes pinching in, saw a potential four-on-two opportunity the other way and tried to bank the puck up the boards to streaking Steven Stamkos.
But the puck ended up on the stick of Carolina's Erik Cole, who found Staal — still wide open in front of the net — for the goal, which made the score 5-3.
St. Louis, who said he takes the power-play struggles personally because he handles the puck so much, believed he made a mistake but wouldn't change the play he made.
"Nine times out of 10 he gets that (puck) by and we got a four-on-two," Stamkos said. "It was a tough play, an unfortunate bounce."
Boucher said it also marked the end of his five-forward alignment for the power play. He had hoped defensive play would step up in that unit, but it hasn't worked.
And now the Lightning faces what Boucher labeled "our toughest stretch of the year" because of two losses to the Devils in a week that "killed" its momentum and confidence.
Said Boucher: "We've got to turn it around."
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]s.com.
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 33 (Downie, Kubina), 1:44. 2, Carolina, LaRose 8 (Corvo, Cole), 4:42 (pp). 3, Carolina, Skinner 16 (Ruutu, White), 17:23. 4, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 8 (St. Louis, Malone), 19:37. Penalties—LaRose, Car (high-sticking), 2:35; Tampa Bay bench, served by Downie (too many men), 3:30; Gleason, Car (tripping), 10:01; Boychuk, Car (charging), 12:45.
Second Period—5, Tampa Bay, Gagne 5 (Stamkos, Hedman), 1:02. 6, Carolina, McBain 2 (Jokinen, E.Staal), 4:19 (pp). 7, Carolina, Jokinen 9 (Samsonov, Skinner), 6:31 (pp). 8, Carolina, E.Staal 22 (Cole), 12:51 (sh). Penalties—Hedman, TB (hooking), 3:28; Stamkos, TB (interference), 5:05; Ohlund, TB (holding stick), 5:16; Carter, Car (slashing), 11:56; LaRose, Car (tripping), 17:19.
Third Period—9, Tampa Bay, Gagne 6, 11:05. 10, Carolina, Jokinen 10 (E.Staal, Cole), 19:53 (en-pp). Penalties—Stamkos, TB, served by Ritola (unsportsmanlike conduct, holding), 18:31. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 13-10-11—34. Carolina 6-19-6—31. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 0 of 5; Carolina 4 of 5. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Roloson 9-16-1 (30 shots-25 saves). Carolina, Ward 19-12-5 (34-30). A—18,680 (18,680).