TAMPA — Human nature being what it is, Lightning coach Rick Tocchet understands how difficult it can be late in a dreary season to find the "on" switch.
But when an opponent challenges you physically, as Tocchet said the Senators did during their 3-0 victory Sunday night at the St. Pete Times Forum, you have to respond.
"I'm just from the old school. When you get pushed around, you have to push back," Tocchet said.
"We're accepting when guys on the other team are agitating and making a push. We need guys to make a push back. I'm not talking about dropping the gloves, just playing good, clean, tough hockey. Be abrasive. We need abrasive players on this team. We need guys lively on the bench, not just sitting there."
In one of its worst efforts of the season, Tampa Bay (24-35-17) fell for the seventh time in eight home games. It had just 20 shots, eight in the final two periods.
How uninspired was the effort? In 3 minutes, 26 seconds of continuous power play time early in the second period, including 34 seconds of five-on-three, the Lightning was outshot 1-0.
In other words, it was about as easy as could be for Ottawa goaltender Brian Elliott to earn his first NHL shutout.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay's Karri Ramo took a beating while making 26 saves. He took a shot off the mask and was run over twice in the crease, the worst with 4:15 left in the second period when Nick Foligno, engaged with Lightning defense- man Josef Melichar, went straight into the net.
Ramo said after the game he had some neck pain … but back to the topic.
"It's tough," center Steven Stamkos said of playing out a season. "We still have to find motivation. We can't use that as an excuse."
Tocchet agreed: "If you can't give emotion for 60 minutes, you've got a problem.
And it shouldn't be difficult, Tocchet said, to come to a teammate's aid, such as when Ottawa agitator Jarkko Ruutu dropped to his knees late in the third period to avoid a Ryan Craig check and slid into Craig's knees, both of which have had surgery.
Craig broke his stick when he cross-checked Ruutu across the chest in retaliation. Craig got two minutes, Ruutu nothing.
"His reputation speaks for itself," Craig said. "I thought it was unnecessary."
So did Tocchet.
"I have a suit on. I can't do anything about it," he said. "I wish I didn't have a suit on."
One thing for sure, he said, "this is our building. This is not going to happen next year. We're going to make sure we play smart, tough hockey."
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com.
First Period—1, Ottawa, Heatley 35 (Fisher), 9:45 (pp). 2, Ottawa, Shannon 8, 13:44. Penalties—Lashoff, TB (cross-checking), 8:56; Campoli, Ott (hooking), 17:03.
Second Period—None. Penalties—Spezza, Ott (slashing), 2:38; Alfredsson, Ott (holding), 4:04; Ruutu, Ott (roughing), 10:32; Koci, TB (roughing), 10:32; Halpern, TB (slashing), 16:33; Melichar, TB (hooking), 19:51.
Third Period—3, Ottawa, Spezza 30 (Alfredsson, Kuba), 16:41 (pp). Penalties—Phillips, Ott (hooking), 9:07; Artyukhin, TB (roughing), 14:59; Craig, TB (cross-checking), 14:59. Shots on Goal—Ottawa 8-11-10—29. Tampa Bay 12-4-4—20. Power-play opportunities—Ottawa 2 of 5; Tampa Bay 0 of 4. Goalies—Ottawa, Elliott 16-6-3 (20 shots-20 saves). Tampa Bay, Ramo 4-8-6 (29-26). A—16,427 (19,758).