TAMPA — Coach Rick Tocchet said before Monday's game that C Steven Stamkos needed to shoot more and regain his "gunslinger" mentality to get out of a recent rut.
But in the Lightning's 3-0 loss to the Capitals, Stamkos did the opposite, finishing with zero shots on goal for the first time this season. And Stamkos, the Lightning's leading scorer, was benched for the final seven minutes of the third along with the rest of the top two lines. Marty St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier also had limited ice time in the final period.
Stamkos said he wasn't given a reason but admitted he was disappointed. He has no goals and one assist in his past five games and is a minus-5 in that stretch.
"Obviously everyone wants to contribute, wants to get on the ice," said Stamkos, who has a team-high 17 goals. "It's just a coach's decision, and you have to respect that."
Stamkos admitted he didn't shoot the puck Monday on the couple of opportunities he had and took responsibility.
"If you're gonna score, you've got to shoot it," Stamkos said. "So it's obviously on my part. The skating is there. I've just got to find ways to create some offense."
It is Stamkos' longest goalless streak this season.
"In the beginning of the year, he had the shooters mentality," Tocchet said before the game. "The last couple of weeks, he's been passing off shots. He has to have the gunslinger mentality because he has such a good shot."
Tocchet has said Stamkos has been turning the puck over too much in the offensive zone. But getting more shots is the key, Tocchet said: "All I know is, when you start passing off shots, it kind of gets into your game for a few games."
Ranger watch: Still no word from D Paul Ranger, out of the lineup since Oct. 24, away from the team on a personal leave and continuing to decline interview requests. His former road roommate, D Kurtis Foster, said Ranger texted him "a few days ago."
"He says he's doing okay, but he just needs some privacy," Foster said. "Whatever he's dealing with, he's still working on it."
Ovechkin okay: Since Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin was hit with a two-game suspension for a knee-to-knee hit on Carolina's Tim Gleason, the debate has been whether he is a reckless player.
"He can play on the edge, and I don't mind that," Tocchet said. "For me, it would be great to have him on your team, a player of that stature to play like that. I think it keeps people off balance.
"I don't think Ovechkin is the type of guy who talks to the other team's best players and says, 'How you doing?' and all that other stuff. He means business, and I love that. You play on the edge, every now and then something like that is going to happen. The only difference is if he plays dirty he has to answer the bell."
Meszaros okay: Though D Andrej Meszaros appeared to hunch over in pain on the bench late in the third period, he said afterward he was fine. "I'll be all right. Nothing major."
Odds and ends: LW Todd Fedoruk was scratched for the ninth straight game. … LW Alex Tanguay has 26 shots in 29 games. "He passes too much," Tocchet said. "He's a tough guy to break of that habit." … F Paul Szczechura played after missing one game with an upper-body injury. … D Matt Smaby also was scratched.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com.