PITTSBURGH — If Lightning players had any doubts about how poorly they played Saturday night against the Penguins, general manager Brian Lawton straightened them out.
For about a minute after Tampa Bay's 4-1 loss to the defending Stanley Cup champs at Mellon Arena, Lawton ripped his team loud enough to be heard around a corner from the closed locker room door.
"I don't want to get into specifics there, but he has the right to do so after the last two efforts," center Steven Stamkos said. "We have to respond."
Players also said they needed to respond after Thursday's 7-1 loss to the Senators. Instead …
The Lightning (2-3-2) played on the perimeter and without speed, passed sloppily, lost puck battles and was outshot 33-23. Another 19 shots were blocked, partly, Stamkos said, because players were not in good shooting lanes.
It also continued to get nothing out of captain Vinny Lecavalier and left wing Alex Tanguay.
Lecavalier, who had two shots, has gone 14 games without a goal, dating back to last season. Tanguay, who had zero shots, is at 10 games.
"We've got some individuals who are really struggling," coach Rick Tocchet said, speaking generally. "We're going to have to get back to basics here quickly."
"I just think it's our awareness, our desperation," right wing Marty St. Louis said. "We looked tentative. I don't know if it's scared to lose, just not hungry to make the difference. We have to get back to being a hard-working team."
"It's nice to have something over their heads if there is going to be changes," Tocchet said, "and Brian will do it."
Stamkos' fourth goal of the season, on a power play, came off a rebound of St. Louis' blast. The team did good work to kill 3 minutes, 51 seconds of continuous penalty time that included two minutes of five-on-three, and goaltender Antero Niittymaki played well with 29 saves.
He also had a case when Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin brushed his glove as Pascal Dupuis' deflection of Sergei Gonchar's shot whizzed past for a goal. Tocchet said the referees told him they didn't see it.
Coming 1:57 after Stamkos' tally, it was a buzz kill and gave the Penguins a 3-1 lead 8:15 into the second period. Really, though, it was a minor diversion given Tampa Bay was outscored 11-2 and outshot 68-40 on a 0-2 road trip.
"It's unacceptable for the group of guys we have here and with the amount of talent we have on this team to have those two back-to-back efforts," Stamkos said. "We just can't let last year creep into this equation. We're a better team."
Just ask Brian Lawton.
First Period—1, Pittsburgh, Guerin 3 (Malkin, Goligoski), 4:57 (pp). 2, Pittsburgh, Gonchar 2 (Orpik, Crosby), 17:10. Penalties—Miller, TB (high-sticking), 3:40; Goligoski, Pit (tripping), 5:40.
Second Period—3, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 4 (St. Louis, Lecavalier), 6:18 (pp). 4, Pittsburgh, Dupuis 1 (Gonchar, Fedotenko), 8:15. Penalties—Crosby, Pit (holding stick), :50; Dupuis, Pit (slashing), 5:30; Malkin, Pit (hooking), 12:01; Halpern, TB (holding stick), 14:33; Konopka, TB (slashing), 17:44; Walker, TB (slashing), 17:54; Ranger, TB (delay of game), 18:41.
Third Period—5, Pittsburgh, Rupp 2 (Crosby), 11:21. Penalties—Wright, TB (hooking), 5:30; Hedman, TB (holding), 7:18; Fedotenko, Pit (slashing), 12:00; Pittsburgh bench, served by Guerin (too many men), 14:19; Eaton, Pit (tripping), 17:33. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 6-7-10—23. Pittsburgh 11-13-9—33. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 1 of 7; Pittsburgh 1 of 7. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Niittymaki 2-1-0 (33 shots-29 saves). Pittsburgh, Fleury 7-0-0 (23-22). A—17,132 (16,940).