TAMPA — Here's a stat that should make Lightning players queasy.
With Thursday night's 3-2 shootout loss to the Devils at the St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa Bay has lost more games than it has won when leading after the first period.
Yep, the Lightning is 11-6-6 when leading after one period. It also has lost seven when leading after two.
With leads of 2-0 after the first period and 2-1 after the second, Tampa Bay (19-27-11) added a notch to each category.
"The common denominator is we start to get away from the game plan, and that's the frustrating part," coach Rick Tocchet said.
"That is something that can't happen this year or next year. It just can't happen."
It did, though, and nullified a well-played first period in which Ryan Malone's two goals gave him 21 for the season and 14 in his past 24 games.
New Jersey got power-play goals in the second period by Brian Rolston and 1:13 into the third by Zach Parise and won the shootout 2-1 with New Jersey goalie Kevin Weekes stopping Vinny Prospal and Malone.
Otherwise, the Lightning, which outshot New Jersey 41-40 and blocked 23 shots, gave a good effort against a tough Devils squad on a 14-3 run and with wins in eight of its past nine on the road.
That after getting the news defensemen Paul Ranger and Andrej Meszaros will have surgeries on their left shoulders to repair torn labrums and are done for the season.
Tampa Bay got a point for the regulation tie, but as center Jeff Halpern said, "You don't like giving up leads at home. It's frustrating. When there's a push, sometimes we don't calm things down or seem to have a push back. … When teams are pushing like that, it's important to give a push back."
The Lightning had chances to win.
Evgeny Artyukhin was stopped by Weekes on a third-period breakaway with the score 2-2, and Tampa Bay failed on a power play that began with two minutes left in regulation.
Karri Ramo also took blame as Tampa Bay fell to 2-8 in shootouts and 3-12 in overtime games.
"Their goalie was better than me," Ramo said. "It's a one-on-one battle (in a shootout). I didn't make a save. It's my fault."
The rookie was too hard on himself.
Parise, who has 35 goals, and Patrik Elias, both of whom scored in the shootout, are veteran marksmen. And who knows what would have happened had the puck not bounced off Travis Zajac's face to Parise, whose goal tied the score after a Ramo save.
Tocchet knows what should have happened.
"It's 2-1, and New Jersey clogs the middle," he said. "The meeting before the start of the third is, 'Do not throw the puck in the middle of the ice.' We throw the puck in the middle of the ice, take a penalty and they score a power-play goal."
It's enough to make a coach queasy.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com.
|Devils win shootout 2-1|
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Malone 20 (St. Louis, Lecavalier), 4:33. 2, Tampa Bay, Malone 21 (Lecavalier, Smaby), 12:55. Penalties—Salvador, NJ (high-sticking), 8:15; Lecavalier, TB (unsportsmanlike conduct), 8:34; Clarkson, NJ, major (fighting), 14:16; Smaby, TB, major (fighting), 14:16.
Second Period—3, New Jersey, Rolston 11 (Clarkson, Zubrus), 2:16 (pp). Penalties—Lecavalier, TB (tripping), :44; Salvador, NJ (high-sticking), 4:09.
Third Period—4, New Jersey, Parise 35 (Zajac, Langenbrunner), 1:13 (pp). Penalties—St. Louis, TB (hooking), :48; Rupp, NJ (boarding), 3:48; Smaby, TB (tripping), 9:58; Zubrus, NJ (holding stick), 18:00.
Shootout—New Jersey 2 (Parise G, Elias G); Tampa Bay 1 (Lecavalier G, Prospal NG, Malone NG). Shots on Goal—New Jersey 11-12-13-4—40. Tampa Bay 14-12-13-2—41. Power-play opportunities—New Jersey 2 of 4; Tampa Bay 0 of 4. Goalies—New Jersey, Weekes 7-4-0 (41 shots-39 saves). Tampa Bay, Ramo 1-3-1 (40-38). A—14,408 (19,758).