COLUMBUS, Ohio — There was no debating the turning point in the Lightning's 3-2 loss to the Blue Jackets on Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena: an almost nine-minute stretch of the third period in which Tampa Bay took four minor penalties.
The Lightning (30-34-12) was outshot 14-0 the first 15:26 of the period, allowed two goals that erased a 2-1 lead, and scored two goals or fewer for the seventh time in nine games to go 2-7-0.
It also lost rookie defenseman Victor Hedman after the first period to a lower-body injury coach Rick Tocchet called day-to-day but needs further evaluation.
Hedman uncharacteristically declined an interview request.
But it was the penalties — Zenon Konopka for elbowing at 3:00, Kurtis Foster for slashing at 7:00, Vinny Lecavalier for high-sticking at 8:04 and Steve Downie for high-sticking at 11:54 — that really irked the coach and players.
"Undisciplined, stupid penalties," Tocchet said. "Sticking people in the head, that's not tough hockey to me."
And as Blue Jackets left wing R.J. Umberger said, "If they're going to be undisciplined, you've got to make them pay."
Only one penalty resulted in a goal, but it was the winner as Rick Nash, with Foster in the box, pounced on a rebound and scored his second of the game at 7:37, 76 seconds after Fedor Tyutin's even-strength goal made it 2-2.
It wasn't until the final 4:34, and bolstered by a power play, that Tampa Bay got going and took five of the last six shots, though it still was outshot 15-5 in the period and 25-18 in the game.
No surprise, Marty St. Louis said. "They have the momentum. They feel good about themselves. They have everything going for themselves. We busted our (behinds) killing penalties. It's demanding physically."
So, goals by Mike Lundin and Lecavalier, his 23rd on a second-period power play that gave Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead, were wasted. As was a good defensive effort through two periods in which the team's neutral-zone forecheck kept the Blue Jackets bottled up and helped Tampa Bay to a 13-10 shot advantage.
Okay, so the offense seemed vanilla. But the effort was demonstrably better than Saturday's 7-1 loss to the Sabres.
"But the result's the same," center Steven Stamkos said.
"You hope guys in the room police that," Tocchet said of the penalties. "But it's on me, too. … You've got to learn how to win."
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Lundin 3 (Thompson, Meszaros), 16:50. 2, Columbus, Nash 32, 18:04. Penalties—Commodore, Clm (holding), 7:28; Dorsett, Clm (high-sticking), 14:39.
Second Period—3, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 23 (St. Louis, Foster), 8:06 (pp). Penalties—Downie, TB (hooking), 5:09; Clitsome, Clm (interference), 7:47; Ohlund, TB, served by Bochenski, minor-major (cross-checking, fighting), 11:39; Dorsett, Clm, major (fighting), 11:39.
Third Period—4, Columbus, Tyutin 6 (Vermette, Huselius), 6:21. 5, Columbus, Nash 33 (Umberger, Huselius), 7:37 (pp). Penalties—Konopka, TB, served by Bochenski, minor-major (elbowing, fighting), 3:00; Blunden, Clm, major (fighting), 3:00; Foster, TB (slashing), 7:00; Lecavalier, TB (high-sticking), 8:04; Downie, TB (high-sticking), 11:54; Dorsett, Clm (slashing), 15:26. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 8-5-5—18. Columbus 4-6-15—25. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 1 of 4; Columbus 1 of 6. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Niittymaki 20-18-5 (25 shots-22 saves). Columbus, Mason 20-23-8 (18-16). A—15,760 (18,144). T—2:15. Referees—Frederick L'Ecuyer, Dan O'Halloran. Linesmen—Greg Devorski, Steve Miller.