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Tampa Bay Lightning says overconfidence led to loss to Washington Capitals

Captain Vinny Lecavalier (three shots, no points) glides to the bench in the final moments of Friday’s 5-2 loss to the Capitals.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Captain Vinny Lecavalier (three shots, no points) glides to the bench in the final moments of Friday’s 5-2 loss to the Capitals.

BRANDON — The Lightning was overconfident going into Friday's game with the Capitals, simple as that.

That's kind of a strange thing to happen to a team that hasn't been in the playoffs in three years and, you would think, that has enough veteran leadership to guard against such things.

But one day after Tampa Bay was embarrassed 5-2 in front of an announced sellout crowd at home, that was the consensus.

There also was a promise Saturday, after a 60-minute meeting between players and coaches that pre-empted practice at the Ice Sports Forum, to get back to playing the kind of game that has brought them so far.

"There is a sense," center Steven Stamkos said, "of trying to find that button to reboot."

"We were overconfident," defenseman Pavel Kubina said. "That is not what this team is about. It's unacceptable."

Actually, coach Guy Boucher said, "It's human nature."

The Lightning had won six straight with its 4-0 win over the Flyers on Tuesday, Tampa Bay's third straight win over the Eastern Conference leaders.

It outscored foes 13-1 in the first three games of a 12-game homestand. It had shut out the Capitals in two previous meetings and had a five-point lead over them in the Southeast Division.

That Capitals players had called the game their biggest of the season did not seem to register with the Lightning. And when Teddy Purcell gave it a 1-0 lead on the team's first shot, "you think here it goes again," Stamkos said.

So the urgency dropped, the competitiveness sagged, and players tried to create by being fancy instead of with grit.

Stamkos, with a league-best 38 goals but one shot against the Capitals, called the game "one of my worst of the season."

"You need confidence, and we deserved confidence the way we've played at home," he said. "But it's having confidence while respecting your opponent. You want confidence, but you don't want to expect things."

Saturday's meeting, for the most part, was about what the Lightning can expect going forward. Boucher told players "attitude is everything." Left wing Sean Bergenheim reminded that it never is too early to get into a playoff state of mind.

"After a good game, you can't have letdowns," he said later. "It is something we have to take as a challenge."

Players also must recognize that as division leaders, they are the hunted.

"All I hear on radio and TV — and the players are the same — we are the team of the hour," Boucher said. "It's a big mental thing that you have to expect the best out of every single team."

Continuing today against the Blues at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa.

"We see what happens when we get overconfident. We can't beat anybody," Kubina said.

"It wasn't a good feeling after the game or even (Saturday). It's good when you see that. I've seen it before on teams, when we lost and the next day nobody was (upset). That didn't happen here. That's why I say we have something special. The guys care."

BERGERON UP: With defenseman Mike Lundin, who has dealt with a groin/abdominal problem since late December, likely out of today's game, defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron was called up from AHL Norfolk. Bergeron, 30, a power-play specialist signed Jan. 4, has been getting into shape with the Admirals and strengthening his surgically repaired right knee. He had two goals and eight points and is minus-3 in 13 games. Bergeron's one-year, $1 million contract will be prorated to the time he spends with Tampa Bay.

SMITH DOWN: Goalie Mike Smith, who cleared waivers Thursday, was sent to Norfolk.

BLACKOUT: Today's game is not on local TV. NBC declined its option to televise it.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Lightning says overconfidence led to loss to Washington Capitals 02/05/11 [Last modified: Saturday, February 5, 2011 10:05pm]
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