TAMPA — Steven Stamkos was caught in a weird place Tuesday night.
The Lightning center felt great after becoming the first Tampa Bay rookie with a hat trick. But he felt lousy because his team came up short, 5-3 to the Blackhawks at the St. Pete Times Forum.
"Any time you get a hat trick it's pretty special, but to do it on home ice in my rookie season is a dream come true," Stamkos said. "But I'd much rather have it in a win."
The Lightning (19-27-11) just couldn't hang with a faster, more-skilled squad that scored four straight goals to overcome a 3-1 second-period deficit, held a 49-23 shot advantage including 19-3 in the first period, and wore down a bruised and makeshift defense.
If not for Karri Ramo, who faced more shots in a game than any goaltender in Tampa Bay history, things would have been worse.
"They're quick," Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said. "We've got some D back there banged up and it's tough on them. The forwards are trying to play five-man units. It's tough. You can tell Chicago was coming and coming."
As a result, Tampa Bay had much trouble getting out of its own end.
On Dan Bolland's winner with 7:14 left, defenseman Matt Smaby, with a painful right foot, could not get the puck away from shifty Martin Havlat behind the net.
Tampa Bay also put itself in precarious positions.
Steve Downie's instigator penalty led to Jonathan Toews' power-play goal with 47.6 seconds left in the second, off the skate of Lightning defenseman Lukas Krajicek, that made the score 3-2. Krajicek's interference penalty resulted in Patrick Kane's power-play goal 1:46 into the third to make it 3-3.
"They're a real fast team top to bottom," Smaby said. "When they come flying, they can really come. When they put the puck behind us, they can attack."
So can Stamkos, 19, who has 10 goals after scoring in three styles.
He went to the net to tie the score 1-1 in the first. He scored twice in 70 seconds on a four-minute power play; with a wrist shot over the right shoulder of Cristobal Huet from the faceoff circle to the goalie's right, and with a one-timer from the same spot that beat Huet short side for a 3-1 lead with 8:22 left in the second.
"It's all about confidence," said Stamkos, adding that a buddy's father, at the game, predicted he would get the hat trick. "I'm starting to get it. I'm starting to get a lot more comfortable. I'm starting to make some moves and plays, and the shots are starting to go in."
Still, he said, "I'd much rather have the win."
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com.
First Period—1, Chicago, Keith 7 (Havlat, Seabrook), 11:53. 2, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 8 (Melichar, Krajicek), 12:58. Penalties—Ladd, Chi (interference), :24; Eminger, TB (hooking), 5:21; Brouwer, Chi (slashing), 10:59; Roberts, TB (slashing), 10:59; Krajicek, TB (hooking), 16:40.
Second Period—3, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 9 (Prospal, Roberts), 10:28 (pp). 4, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 10 (Eminger, Prospal), 11:38 (pp). 5, Chicago, Toews 19 (Kane, Barker), 19:12 (pp). Penalties—Toews, Chi (holding), 2:08; C.Adams, Chi, double minor (high-sticking), 9:45; Burish, Chi, major (fighting), 18:15; Hall, TB, major (fighting), 18:15; Byfuglien, Chi, major (fighting), 18:46; Downie, TB, served by Roberts, minor-major-misconduct (instigator, fighting), 18:46.
Third Period—6, Chicago, Kane 18 (Campbell, Toews), 1:46 (pp). 7, Chicago, Bolland 13 (Havlat, Keith), 12:46. 8, Chicago, Toews 20 (Brouwer, Kane), 15:59. Penalties—Krajicek, TB (interference), :29; Prospal, TB (slashing), 11:00; Byfuglien, Chi (tripping), 12:05; Campbell, Chi (holding), 18:10. Shots on Goal—Chicago 19-15-15—49. Tampa Bay 3-13-7—23. Power-play opportunities—Chicago 2 of 5; Tampa Bay 2 of 6. Goalies—Chicago, Huet 15-10-3 (23 shots-20 saves). Tampa Bay, Ramo 1-3-0 (49-44). A—15,431 (19,758). T—2:25. Referees—Justin St. Pierre, Dennis LaRue. Linesmen—Derek Amell, Jonny Murray.