PITTSBURGH — It was way too easy to pick on Steven Stamkos after the Lightning's 8-1 loss to the Penguins on Wednesday night at the Consol Energy Center.
But when one of the league's top players slips and falls on an attempted penalty shot and skids backward on his behind past the goal line, well, it is too good of a snapshot to pass up.
"There's not much you can do," said Stamkos, blaming skates dulled by a previous spill into the boards. "That was just the way this game went."
Which was south.
Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin intercepted a Sean Bergenheim pass off the opening faceoff and scored on a breakaway seven seconds in for the quickest first goal allowed by Tampa Bay.
The Penguins led 5-0 after 7:42 and piled up 41 shots, the most allowed by the Lightning this season. Tampa Bay players sagged defensively, had zero takeaways, and made bad passes and horrendous decisions on positioning.
That was quite a difference from Tuesday's 1-0 overtime victory over the Capitals that gave Tampa Bay (24-12-5) first place in the Southeast Division.
Coach Guy Boucher said that monumental effort caused the Lightning on Wednesday to play with "no juice." It didn't help that the Penguins were fresh, having not played since Saturday's loss to Washington.
"(Tuesday) was a big, emotional game, and we gave everything," Boucher said. "The guys were tired. When it's a tough game, it's one thing. When it's an emotional game on top of that, it drains you.
"We had nothing, and they had everything. … We will bypass this game."
But Bergenheim said playing in those circumstances is part of the job.
"We have to be able to regroup after a big loss or a big win," he said. "It's not an excuse. Maybe it has something to do with it, but it really can't be that way for us."
It really hasn't been that way for the Lightning, which is on a 9-2-1 streak. And it was a teamwide letdown, so Boucher did not give it to his players after the game.
It also is why he said he kept changing goaltenders — from Dwayne Roloson to Dan Ellis midway through the first period, back to Roloson in the second and back to Ellis in the third.
"I did not want one guy to suffer that all by himself," Boucher said.
It was a funny kind of suffering. Superstar Sidney Crosby had only an assist. But wing Chris Kunitz had a hat trick, and defenseman Alex Goligoski had a goal and four points.
And then there was Stamkos.
"When you see him fall like that, it's one of those days," Boucher said.
The lesson, Stamkos said: "Get my skates sharpened."
First Period—1, Pittsburgh, Malkin 15, :07. 2, Pittsburgh, Conner 5 (Lovejoy, Cooke), 2:23. 3, Pittsburgh, Kennedy 6 (Letang), 7:17. 4, Pittsburgh, Kunitz 11 (Crosby, Dupuis), 7:42. 5, Pittsburgh, Kunitz 12 (Goligoski, Letang), 18:56 (pp). Penalties—Kubina, TB (holding), 18:26; Downie, TB (slashing), 19:06.
Second Period—6, Pittsburgh, Letestu 9 (Kennedy, Goligoski), 12:54. 7, Pittsburgh, Kunitz 13 (Goligoski, Letang), 19:49 (pp). Penalties—Downie, TB (diving), 6:05; Rupp, Pit (hooking), 6:05; Hedman, TB (boarding), 18:41.
Third Period—8, Tampa Bay, Hall 5 (Thompson, Tyrell), 2:25. 9, Pittsburgh, Goligoski 7 (Conner, Lovejoy), 3:38. Penalties—Lovejoy, Pit (hooking), 5:00; Malone, TB (cross-checking, cross-checking), 6:08; Orpik, Pit (roughing), 6:08; Michalek, Pit (cross-checking), 6:08; Bergenheim, TB (boarding), 7:40; Crosby, Pit (slashing), 16:33. Missed Penalty Shot—Stamkos, TB, 2:37 second. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 8-7-17—32. Pittsburgh 20-16-5—41. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 0 of 2; Pittsburgh 2 of 4. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Roloson 7-14-1 (23 shots-18 saves), Ellis (7:17 first, 18-15), Roloson 7-14-1 (0:00 second), Ellis (0:00 third). Pittsburgh, Fleury 18-9-2 (32-31). A—18,261 (18,087). T—2:31. Referees—Stephane Auger, Don Van Massenhoven. Linesmen—Pierre Champoux, Jonny Murray.