UNIONDALE, NY — The door of the Lightning locker room remained closed for a players-only meeting a few minutes after Thursday night's 5-1 loss to the Islanders, with the team facing its first piece of adversity of the season.
Tampa Bay had dug itself too big of a hole by allowing four first-period goals, a couple off turnovers and another off the glove of defenseman Victor Hedman. And now, with one game left on a seasonlong five-game road trip, the Lightning (1-2-1), under .500 for the first time in coach Guy Boucher's tenure, knows it has to be better. Last season's results — and Eastern Conference final appearance — matter little.
"This league is an unforgiving league," said Marty St. Louis. "You have to earn it every day. You look at (defending Stanley Cup champion) Boston is 1-3. It's the National Hockey League. Every team, whenever the year starts, it starts from scratch. Nobody is going to give you wins; you have to earn it. And we haven't done that."
Boucher said the Islanders' first goal was fitting of the way the entire night played out. Just 36 seconds in, goalie Dwayne Roloson made a glove save on a wrist shot by John Tavares. But the puck popped out in front, and Hedman tried to swat it away, only to watch it go in the Tampa Bay net.
"It shows what this game is all about, and that's exactly what happened after," Boucher said. "Everything we tried, we just hit our own guy's skate, couldn't get a pass right, we shoot, we miss the net all the time. We get good opportunities and fan on it."
The Lightning tied it at 1 on Steven Stamkos' first goal of the season, a deflection of a Marc-Andre Bergeron shot from the point. But that was it for Tampa Bay.
Tavares, who had a four-point night (two goals, two assists), helped cap off the period by taking advantage of a Hedman turnover in front of the crease to set up P.A. Parenteau's one-timer. The Lightning, which had worked on defensive zone coverage during practice this week, couldn't recover.
"For me, personally, I can't play like that in the first period," Hedman said.
It made for a short night for Roloson, who was pulled with 13 minutes left in the second after allowing five goals on 18 shots in his return to Long Island for the first time since being acquired in a New Year's Day trade.
Boucher said he made the switch because he "wanted to turn the game around." But though the Lightning played better in the second half of the game, it wasn't enough.
"We want adversity now so it shakes us and we pay attention to details," Boucher said. "And I think players understand now that all these teams are fighting for the playoffs and anybody can make the playoffs right now."
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.
First Period—1, N.Y. Islanders, Tavares 1, :36. 2, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 1 (Bergeron), 7:10. 3, N.Y. Islanders, Moulson 1 (Tavares, Eaton), 9:28. 4, N.Y. Islanders, Tavares 2 (Moulson, Parenteau), 15:15. 5, N.Y. Islanders, Parenteau 1 (Tavares), 18:39. Penalties—None.
Second Period—6, N.Y. Islanders, Grabner 1 (Okposo), 6:47. Penalties—Streit, NYI (hooking), 7:24; Lecavalier, TB (hooking), 11:49; Kubina, TB (interference), 12:51.
Third Period—None. Penalties—Tavares, NYI (hooking), 5:14; Lecavalier, TB (roughing), 5:34; Hedman, TB (roughing), 7:38; Tavares, NYI (roughing), 7:38; Bailey, NYI (hooking), 13:24; Ritola, TB (cross-checking), 19:07. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 11-16-8—35. N.Y. Islanders 15-14-5—34. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 0 of 3; N.Y. Islanders 0 of 4. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Roloson 1-1-1 (18 shots-13 saves), Garon (6:47 second, 16-16). N.Y. Islanders, Montoya 2-1-0 (35-34). A—9,759 (16,234). T—2:19.