Lightning goaltender Marc Denis - one burden relieved from his shoulders - voluntarily took the brunt of another one Saturday night.
Denis earlier found out the work visa issue that had kept him from playing in Canada this season had finally come to a positive resolution. But after the Lightning's 4-3 loss to the Ducks at the St. Pete Times Forum, all Denis could think about was the winning goal, a shot from behind the net by Chris Kunitz that hit Denis' left skate blade and trickled into the net.
"I feel terrible," Denis said. "It's a terrible goal. It was unacceptable. I'm not trying to hide from it. I take full responsibility. These guys battled back ... in a tough situation, being down by two. Who knows, we might still be playing; going into overtime or a shootout right now."
Perhaps Denis was being too hard on himself, especially considering the Ducks' current place as the league's best - and hottest - team. Anaheim owns the most wins (23) and points (52) and has won eight of nine, including its past four on the road.
No matter who took the blame, the Lightning (14-14-2) had its opportunities. Tampa Bay was 0-for-5 on the power play. The glaring lowlight was an unsuccessful five-on-three for 1:45 midway through the third.
"We needed to capitalize on the five-on-three, and we did not," said Lightning coach John Tortorella, whose postgame comments were short and blunt.
Four members of the Lightning's power-play unit logged more than 25 minutes: Dan Boyle (30:15), Marty St. Louis (29:29), Vinny Lecavalier (27:30) and Eric Perrin (25:43).
The Ducks defense dictated the pace, controlling the puck throughout and limiting the Lightning's scoring chances.
"They did a good job of keeping us from getting those golden opportunities around the net," said Perrin, who tied the score at 1 in the first with his eighth goal of the season. "I don't think we tested (Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien) Giguere the way we liked, and I think part of the reason was their defense."
Anaheim center Dustin Penner scored a pair of goals, including the first of two that came in a span of 1:50 in the second and gave the Ducks a 3-1 lead.
Tampa Bay rebounded with a goal with 2:35 left in the second on Ruslan Fedotenko's second in as many games, a wrister from just inside the right circle right after Lecavalier won the faceoff.
But Anaheim quieted the announced crowd of 18,719 just 2:26 into the third on Kunitz's goal. The Lightning scored their final goal with 9:50 left, when Brad Richards' rebounded St. Louis' shot from the left circle. But Tampa Bay later couldn't capitalize on the five-on-three.
"I think they're a team that's riding high on confidence right now," Perrin said. "That's all you need. A hockey club needs that confidence to win every night. And once you've got that, you find ways to win."
The Lightning just couldn't find its way.