TAMPA — Lightning players and coaches used the word "embarrassing" to describe Tuesday night's 8-5 loss to the Hurricanes at the St. Pete Times Forum.
They were right. It was embarrassing to allow five first-period goals, including three in 2 minutes, 3 seconds, and two in 11 seconds. It was embarrassing to be outshot 23-9 in the first period, the most shots allowed by Tampa Bay in a period at home and second all time.
It is especially embarrassing how the season is collapsing.
"That's the most frustrating for a lot of the guys," defenseman Kurtis Foster said. "Everybody has got some pride in this room. We're not just lying down and finishing the season to collect a paycheck. We want to go out and win games."
Still, with little effort — except in the third period, when it scored twice to get within 7-5 with 3:18 left while Carolina cruised — a lot of standing around on defense and little consideration for the fans who paid to watch the mess, Tampa Bay (31-36-12) lost for the fourth time in five games and added to a skid that is at 5-15-1.
Steven Stamkos scored his 47th goal to stay second in the league, one behind Washington's Alex Ovechkin and Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby. And he actually gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead. He hit three posts and had eight shots on goal.
He also gets it.
"There should always be some sort of motivation, whether it's for yourself, your teammates or the fans," he said. "If there isn't, then why are we playing? Once you're out of the playoffs, you don't just forfeit. You've got to play, and you've got to play hard."
Not so much in the past five games, in which Tampa Bay has been outscored 23-10, is 2-for-17 on the power play and has generously allowed six goals in 21 shorthanded situations.
In its past two first periods, it has allowed a combined nine goals, with each goalie getting pulled. It was Antero Niittymaki's turn against the Hurricanes.
Asked if enough pride was in the locker room, coach Rick Tocchet said, "There's pride, but there's also, if you can't skate forward without losing the puck or missing a man constantly, you might not be in the league next year. It has gotten to that point with certain guys."
Brandon Bochenski's two goals were a nice flourish. But Tampa Bay needs more than bright spots to get out of its free fall.
"There's 180 minutes left in the season," Tocchet said of the final three games. "I'm sure a lot of people want to get out of here and hide and take off, but you can't. There were stretches (Tuesday), it's embarrassing, for all of us."
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 47, 5:44. 2, Carolina, Bowman 1 (Boychuk, Sutter), 8:04 (pp). 3, Carolina, Brind'Amour 8 (Samsonov, McBain), 10:37. 4, Carolina, Jokinen 30 (Staal, LaRose), 17:57. 5, Carolina, Brind'Amour 9 (Rodney, Kostopoulos), 19:29. 6, Carolina, Bowman 2, 19:40. Penalties—Rodney, Car (high-sticking), 3:40; Lashoff, TB (interference), 6:56.
Second Period—7, Tampa Bay, Bochenski 3 (Thompson, Meszaros), 4:47. 8, Carolina, Staal 25 (Cole, Carson), 6:43. 9, Carolina, Staal 26 (LaRose), 9:47. 10, Tampa Bay, Purcell 5 (Lecavalier, Malone), 14:09. Penalties—Kostopoulos, Car, major (fighting), 2:24; Konopka, TB, major (fighting), 2:24; Bochenski, TB (holding), 5:10; Brind'Amour, Car (holding), 5:57; Foster, TB (tripping), 7:31; Harrison, Car, major (fighting), 11:32; Konopka, TB, served by Fedoruk, minor-major (roughing, fighting), 11:32.
Third Period—11, Tampa Bay, Meszaros 6, 15:17. 12, Tampa Bay, Bochenski 4 (Foster), 16:42. 13, Carolina, LaRose 9 (Staal, Jokinen), 19:35 (en). Penalties—Kostopoulos, Car (hooking), 2:40. Shots on Goal—Carolina 23-15-3—41. Tampa Bay 9-13-15—37. Power-play opportunities—Carolina 1 of 4; Tampa Bay 0 of 3. Goalies—Carolina, Legace (11 shots-9 saves), Ward 17-22-5 (5:10 second, 26-23). Tampa Bay, Niittymaki (23-18), Smith 11-18-7 (0:00 second, 17-15). A—12,454 (19,758).