TAMPA — Why is shooting the puck seemingly such a chore for the Lightning?
We're not talking about getting shots on net or avoiding blocked shots, but just shooting.
"You'd think it would be easy enough," center Steven Stamkos said. "It seems easy. It should be easy, but we're not doing it."
The problem was on brutal display during Saturday's 5-2 loss to the Flyers, when Tampa Bay was outshot 32-19, including 26-11 in the final two periods, and had three shots on four power plays.
On two critical power plays when the Lightning could have padded a 1-0 lead, Tampa Bay, losers of six of seven games and 10 of 14, had zero shots.
"It should be more," captain Vinny Lecavalier said. "We have to get more shots. We have to get more shots from the point. We have to get more shots off the rush, create that chaos."
Right now all the Lightning is doing is making it easier for its opponents.
• Tampa Bay's average of 28.5 shots per game entered Sunday 21st in the 30-team league. Last season its average of 31.8 shots tied for seventh.
• The problem is especially acute on the power play. The Lightning has only 131 shots in 102 opportunities with an extra man, a dreadful 1.3 average. It's no surprise the power play is on a 2 for 23 skid overall and 3-for-33 on the road.
• Shots equal goals, coach Guy Boucher likes to say. Tampa Bay's average of 2.52 goals entered Sunday 21st in the league, and the Lightning has scored more than two in just three of its past 15 games.
Saturday's loss drove Boucher to distraction, especially in the third period, when Tampa Bay had four shots and did not get a shot for 13 minutes, 1 second after Lecavalier's power-play goal cut its deficit to 3-2.
"First of all, we're not shooting," Boucher said. "We didn't shoot the whole third period. We had the slot open I don't know how many times, we don't shoot. We're looking for a play here, we're looking for a play there. If we don't shoot, we can't score, plain and simple."
It is a curious situation for a team with players such as Lecavalier, Stamkos, Marty St. Louis, Teddy Purcell and Marc-Andre Bergeron, who can shoot with authority.
But Stamkos, who entered Sunday tied for third in the league with 16 goals, was 13th in the league with 102 shots. Lecavalier, with 11 goals, was 15th with 98.
But this isn't about how hard or fast one can shoot. It is about getting a commitment from everyone to develop a shoot-first mentality. It is about players not turning over pucks, working harder to get time in the offensive zone and being willing to go to the net and battle, something that will come in handy tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum against the defense-first Devils.
Bottom line: Tampa Bay has been outshot 892-827 in 29 games. That means 65 fewer chances to score. Over an 82-game season, that is 184 fewer chances.
"If we had the secret, we would do it," Lecavalier said about reversing the trend. "A good start would be to shoot the puck more and get the puck on net."
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8622. View his blog at lightning.tampabay.com. Follow him on Twitter at @LightningTimes.