The easy story of the Lightning's 2-1 loss to the Hurricanes is another shootout failure.
It's been an annoyance since last season, when Tampa Bay lost 10 of 13 of the tiebreaking gimmicks. Coach Rick Tocchet called it "a little mental right now."
But the real cause of Tuesday night's frustration at the RBC Center, where the Lightning has lost seven straight, was on display well before. Missed chances. Lots of them.
From a 1-for-8 power play to center Steven Stamkos hitting the crossbar with the score tied in the third period to Steve Downie missing the net from in front during a late third-period power play, Tampa Bay (0-1-1) could not finish at crucial moments.
"Well, yeah," Tocchet said. "That's why in practice we're on guys to, when you're in front of the net, bear down, put two hands on the stick and bury the puck."
"It's just not coming together right now," Stamkos said.
"But I feel better where we're going as a team," right wing Marty St. Louis said. "We played hard. We keep playing like that, I like our chances."
The Lightning, which got a point for a regulation tie, had a 30-28 shot advantage, the second straight game it has outshot an opponent. Neutral- and defensive-zone coverages also tightened considerably.
Goalie Mike Smith was strong, though he gave away two pucks that resulted in scoring chances and took a second-period roughing penalty by putting Stephane Yelle in a headlock after Yelle bumped him behind the net.
But in total, Tocchet said, "I'll take this every time. Guys worked their (butts) off."
Ryan Malone scored on a five-on-three power play six minutes into the second to make the score 1-1. But the unit that seemed so strong in preseason is 2-for-11 and against Carolina had just nine shots in 13:02 of power-play time.
"There were times we couldn't even get the puck in the zone to set up," Stamkos said.
Credit the Hurricanes, who aggressively forechecked, but as St. Louis said, "We didn't win enough battles to retrieve pucks. They did a good job at that and that's why pucks got back out."
"We've got to get better at puck possession," Tocchet said.
And shootouts. St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier misfired while Smith stopped one of three shots.
"It's in our mind," Tocchet said. "We lost a lot last year and the second game of the year we're right back at it. But it's one of those things where you have to stick with it; free your mind, I guess."
And bury the puck.
Damian Cristodero can be reachedat firstname.lastname@example.org