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Tampa Bay Lightning went on road trip without offense, power play

The Sharks’ Logan Couture, right, beats goalie Mike Smith, second from left, during Tampa Bay’s 5-2 loss Saturday. The Lightning scored just seven goals in the four-game trip.

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The Sharks’ Logan Couture, right, beats goalie Mike Smith, second from left, during Tampa Bay’s 5-2 loss Saturday. The Lightning scored just seven goals in the four-game trip.

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Before the Lightning began a four-game, nine-day road trip, it averaged 3.6 goals.

At the end of the 1-2-1 trip in which it scored just seven times, was shut out once and only once scored more than two goals, its average was down to 3.

Tampa Bay had its chances. It just had trouble converting.

Even the power play, which entered Sunday seventh in the league at 22.8 percent, hit a skid with three goals on 23 chances (13 percent) in its past six games.

No reason to panic, coach Guy Boucher said. And it is understandable, to an extent, given the number of injures and illnesses that have kept players from optimum performance.

Still, the drought is nothing to dismiss, especially when Boucher's system, though rooted in stout defense, is designed to create offense with a quick transition, and the power play has the personnel to be one of the best.

"I always say goals are like bananas," Boucher said. "We've had the same opportunities, we just need to bury them."

Actually, what Tampa Bay (7-4-2) needs is to stop blunting its own momentum.

The Lightning faced 18 power plays on the road trip compared to 12 of its own.

In the second period of Saturday's 5-2 loss to the Sharks at HP Pavilion, left wing Sean Bergenheim was whistled twice in the first three minutes for holding and tripping, respectively. Right wing Ryan Malone was called for a double-minor high stick.

That's eight minutes to kill. And while the Lightning's penalty kill, third in the league entering Sunday at 89.8 percent, did the job, the effort kept the team on its heels and drained energy.

Add defensive mistakes and San Jose scored twice in the second period for a 4-1 lead while outshooting Tampa Bay 20-6. It was the most shots the team allowed in a period this season. The 39 shots allowed in the game also were a season high, and if not for goalie Mike Smith the damage would have been worse.

"They were doing what we're supposed to do, that we used to do, crash that net and get a lot of rebounds," center Vinny Lecavalier said. "He made some big saves, but we weren't there for the rebounds. We left a couple of guys alone, so it definitely was tough for him."

Tough to watch at times has been the power play, which has trouble entering the offensive zone when it tries to be fancy at the blue line, players and coaches said. Steven Stamkos scored his 11th goal, and fifth on the power play, against San Jose, but it came late in the third period.

More critical was Stamkos' breakaway with 15 seconds left in the first. Had he converted to tie the score 2-2, the vibe of the game would have changed. But Sharks and former Lightning goalie Antero Niittymaki stopped the backhand. He also stopped 18 of 19 third-period shots as Tampa Bay finally found its footing.

"Had (Stamkos) made it 2-2, it still doesn't solve the problem of our penalties," Boucher said. "If it is 2-2 and we take that many penalties, there's no way we can win that game."

"At the end of the day, it's tough playing shorthanded," Stamkos said. "We have to be a lot more disciplined."

And a lot more opportunistic.

MINOR MOVES: With defenseman Matt Smaby (ankle) and center Dominic Moore (groin) ready for action, forwards Blair Jones and defenseman Matt Roy were reassigned to AHL Norfolk.

Tampa Bay Lightning went on road trip without offense, power play 11/07/10 [Last modified: Sunday, November 7, 2010 10:43pm]
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