TAMPA — Anybody seen a goal around here?
A goal? Anybody? The Lightning could sure use a few.
With a 4-2 loss to the Canadiens on Saturday night in front of an announced sellout of 20,274 at the St. Pete Times Forum, the team has lost three straight while scoring four goals total.
Ignore the 8-3 win over the Coyotes on Feb. 23 and the Lightning has been outscored 19-12 while going 2-4-1.
"We've battled through a lot of adversity throughout the year," wing Marty St. Louis said. "Right now, we're in the middle of it."
Vinny Lecavalier, despite a sore back, and Dominic Moore scored. But it was not nearly enough against a team the Lightning (37-21-7) would face in the first round of the playoffs if the season ended today.
Falling behind 2-0 in the first 8:41 of a lethargic first period wasn't the best strategy, either, especially against goaltender Carey Price, whose 43 saves negated Tampa Bay's 45-23 shot advantage, and especially considering the Lightning's now one-point lead for first in the Southeast Division over the Capitals.
If Washington beats the Panthers today, Tampa Bay will be out of first for the first time since Dec. 22, and an enormous game Monday at home against the Caps gets even bigger.
But back to Saturday and the Lightning's flat-footed opening.
Montreal was first on the puck. Tampa Bay turned the puck over, passed poorly and covered worse in front of goalie Dwayne Roloson, who generally wasn't great, either.
"It didn't surprise me," coach Guy Boucher said of the way his team came out. "It shocked me."
More shocking is how Tampa Bay's top players disappeared from the score sheet.
Steven Stamkos has one goal in 11 games. His eight shots were eight times more than his previous three games combined, but he took two penalties, one of which led to a goal. A turnover led to another. Simon Gagne has one goal in 14 games. St. Louis has zero in three, Teddy Purcell zero in five.
The power play, in a 3-for-20 slump, is dreadful. Moore scored with the man advantage 1:40 into the second to make it 2-1. But Tampa Bay had just six shots in six tries, including a 1:31 five-on-three in which it had one.
Add a 1:53 five-on-three from Thursday's 2-1 loss to the Bruins and the Lightning has bubkes and three shots in its past 3:24 with two extra men.
"It seemed like we weren't on the same page," said Lecavalier, whose 16th goal was his eighth in 11 games. "We have to get back to basics, get some shots, open the lanes and put the puck on net."
"The danger is to get out of the course," Boucher said. "The last thing we want to do is panic. When you start panicking, you sink lower."
First Period—1, Montreal, Gill 2 (Gionta, Plekanec), 5:27. 2, Montreal, Desharnais 8 (Kostitsyn), 8:41 (pp). Penalties—Bergenheim, TB (roughing), 8:08; Eller, Mon (tripping), 19:28.
Second Period—3, Tampa Bay, Moore 12 (Kubina, Purcell), 1:25 (pp). 4, Montreal, Pacioretty 13 (Plekanec, Subban), 14:05 (pp). Penalties—B.Pouliot, Mon (elbowing), 3:56; Stamkos, TB (tripping), 5:20; Stamkos, TB (hooking), 12:26; Eller, Mon (holding stick), 14:45.
Third Period—5, Montreal, Pacioretty 14 (Gomez), 1:18. 6, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 16 (Moore, Purcell), 14:07. Penalties—Cammalleri, Mon (interference), 3:13; Moen, Mon (hooking), 3:42; Halpern, Mon, double minor (high-sticking), 19:11; Lecavalier, TB (hooking), 19:35.
Shots on Goal—Montreal 9-9-5—23. Tampa Bay 13-14-18—45. Power-play opportunities—Montreal 2 of 3; Tampa Bay 1 of 6. Goalies—Montreal, Price 31-21-6 (45 shots-43 saves). Tampa Bay, Roloson 18-21-2 (23-19). A—20,274 (19,758).