WASHINGTON — Coach Rick Tocchet preaches an even keel whether the Lightning wins or loses, and he did his best after Thursday night's 5-4 loss to the Capitals.
But a voice that was a little more strident than usual and a message that was a little harsher belied boiling emotions.
"A lot of guys put their you-know-what on the line, but not enough," Tocchet said. "There are certain guys who … want to play in the playoffs. Some other guys, I don't really know."
There certainly is no shame in losing to the Capitals, No. 1 in the East and on a team-record 12-game winning streak at the Verizon Center.
But considering how Tampa Bay (26-26-11) went toe-to-toe with Washington and clawed back to tie the score with 7:32 left in the third period on goals 113 seconds apart by Vinny Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos, a fifth straight loss was crushing.
Washington newcomer Scott Walker's winner, 41 seconds after Stamkos' team-best 38th, was his second tally of the period, and his second that skipped through the legs of goaltender Mike Smith.
"We're not getting good goaltending right now," Smith said after Tampa Bay, for the first time in its history, gave up five goals for a fifth straight game.
"It's the time of year your goalie has to be your best player, and if he's not, you won't go very far."
"That's the type of guy he is to put the blame on himself," Lecavalier said of Smith. "But in front of him, the defense, the forwards, we gave them too many Grade A opportunities."
The play of defenseman Victor Hedman, whose bad clearing pass led to the Capitals' first goal, by wing Eric Fehr, has taken a dive.
Defenseman Matt Smaby was benched in the second period and played only 7 minutes, 32 seconds.
Left wing Ryan Malone, with zero goals in 12 games and two in 25, was again invisible and had zero shots.
Left wing Alex Tanguay, who has one goal in 14 games, has one shot and played just 10:32.
"We can't have five or six guys not ready to pay the price," Tocchet said.
"Are you going to dive to get a puck out of your own end? Bite the puck to get it out of your own end? … Five or six guys are costing us right now."
Overshadowed with the loss were:
Stamkos, on a 15-game points streak;
Lecavalier, who snapped a six-game pointless streak with two goals;
Marty St. Louis, who had three assists;
Steve Downie, whose goal pushed his career-best points streak to nine games;
And defenseman Mike Lundin, who blocked seven shots.
"There are guys who want to win and are playing hard," Tocchet said. "I'm proud of those guys."
Others, not so much.
First Period—1, Washington, Fehr 16, 6:10. 2, Tampa Bay, Downie 16 (Foster, St. Louis), 11:55 (pp). Penalties—Foster, TB (tripping), 7:26; Knuble, Was (hooking), 11:45; Parrish, TB (hooking), 12:29.
Second Period—3, Washington, Knuble 24 (Laich, Morrison), 2:17. 4, Washington, Knuble 25 (Backstrom, Ovechkin), 8:21. 5, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 16 (St. Louis, Foster), 9:03 (pp). Penalties—Backstrom, Was (tripping), 5:10; Schultz, Was (interference), 8:38; Hedman, TB (hooking), 13:08; Green, Was (unsportsmanlike conduct), 13:08; Laich, Was (high-sticking), 13:14; Poti, Was (high-sticking), 14:04.
Third Period—6, Washington, S.Walker 4 (Green, B.Gordon), 10:11. 7, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 17 (Purcell, Meszaros), 10:35. 8, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 38 (Ohlund, St. Louis), 12:28. 9, Washington, S.Walker 5 (Green, Chimera), 13:09. Penalties—Stamkos, TB (hooking), 19:48. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 9-9-11—29. Washington 14-9-11—34. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 2 of 5; Washington 0 of 3. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Smith 10-15-6 (34 shots-29 saves). Washington, Varlamov 13-2-2 (29-25). A—0 (18,277). T—2:27. Referees—Steve Kozari, Paul Devorski. Linesmen—Jonny Murray, Tim Nowak.