PHILADELPHIA — Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said things are going to get tougher as the season progresses.
"We're getting into a stretch where teams are pushing for the playoffs," he said. "People are elevating their games. People are getting tenacious."
Isn't Tampa Bay pushing for the playoffs, too?
"Well, I am," Tocchet said.
The way the Lightning played in Saturday night's 4-1 loss to the Flyers, the only thing players pushed was their luck. That is, they were lucky the score wasn't worse.
Tampa Bay (16-17-10) had just 18 shots, including three on an 0-for-5 power play and zero by captain Vinny Lecavalier. Add seven shots in 30 minutes of Friday's suspended game with the Devils and that's 25 shots in the past 90 minutes of play.
A team should get that by accident.
"We haven't gotten shots on net," center Steven Stamkos said, "because we haven't had the puck."
Stamkos said the fix starts by taking better care of the defensive zone, because "your offense comes from playing good defense."
More tenacity on faceoffs and in puck battles is needed, Tocchet said. And wing Alex Tanguay said a faster transition through the neutral zone would create an offensive push, even on dump-ins.
"We didn't get a whole lot of pressure on their defensemen, and that makes it easy for them to break out, so you don't have the puck and you're not going to shoot as much," Tanguay said. "When you put pressure right away on their D, they're going to fumble it, and you're going to get the puck, and you're going to have a lot more shots."
The thing about a lack of offense is it makes missed opportunities stand out, such as Stamkos not getting good wood on a close-in shot, which allowed Flyers goalie Michael Leighton to make a save in the second period with Philadelphia leading 1-0.
Mistakes stand out as well. So, after Marty St. Louis' 11th goal with 6:55 left in the third made the score 2-1, it was a buzzkill when Blair Betts was not boxed out and scored with 3:05 remaining after goalie Antero Niittymaki, who otherwise played well, gave up a too-big rebound.
How can the Lightning break out of its offensive funk?
"Having a 3-0 lead halfway through obviously helps," Tocchet said of today's resumption of the suspended game with the Devils. "Play a solid game, get the two points and get back to Tampa."
Where, presumably, things won't be any easier.
First Period—1, Philadelphia, Giroux 9 (Richards, Gagne), 13:01 (pp). Penalties—Smaby, TB (tripping), 1:48; Bartulis, Phi (tripping), 5:52; Tanguay, TB (high-sticking), 7:26; Walker, TB (slashing), 11:09; Betts, Phi (hooking), 16:55; Jones, TB, major (fighting), 19:38; Hartnell, Phi, major (fighting), 19:38; Gagne, Phi (hooking), 19:58.
Second Period—None. Penalties—Lundin, TB (delay of game), 2:48; Timonen, Phi (delay of game), 18:37.
Third Period—2, Philadelphia, Hartnell 10 (Briere, Pronger), 3:36. 3, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 11 (Stamkos, Downie), 13:05. 4, Philadelphia, Betts 5 (Laperriere, Coburn), 16:55. 5, Philadelphia, Betts 6, 19:33 (en). Penalties—Tanguay, TB (hooking), 14:57; Gagne, Phi (tripping), 16:08. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 5-7-6—18. Philadelphia 11-8-12—31. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 0 of 5; Philadelphia 1 of 5. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Niittymaki 7-6-4 (30 shots-27 saves). Philadelphia, Leighton 8-4-1 (18-17). A—19,678 (19,537).