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Lightning gets stomped by Coyotes

Derek Stepan, left, gets a kick out of his first-period goal that gives the Coyotes a 3-0 lead. Not enjoying the moment is the Lightning's Ryan Callahan. (Associated Press)
Derek Stepan, left, gets a kick out of his first-period goal that gives the Coyotes a 3-0 lead. Not enjoying the moment is the Lightning's Ryan Callahan. (Associated Press)
Published Oct. 28, 2018

GLENDALE, Ariz. – You could see this one coming a mile away.

Last game of a nine-day, five-game road trip in three time zones. The second half of a back-to-back. The third game in four nights in three different cities. And missing one of its best players.

Yep, this had all the makings of being a big, fat clunker. And, indeed, that's exactly what it was for the Lightning. Tampa Bay never had a chance as it wrapped up the road trip with a 7-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes.

Woof. It certainly was one dog of a game.

"When you look at your schedule, this probably sets up as a tough one for us,'' Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "(But) can't predict it was going to be a 7-1 tough one for us.''

Perhaps the loss was not a surprise. But the lopsided score was and it certainly put the Lightning in a sour mood.

"It's a tough schedule, but at the same time, it's not good enough,'' Lightning forward Ryan Callahan said. "You can't come in here and lose that game like that. All around, it's not good enough. We have to be better than that.''

Just 24 hours earlier, it was way better than that. The Lightning beat the Golden Knights in a grueling, tight-checking affair. But the game had a serious cost. The Lightning defense burned up plenty of fuel after losing Norris Trophy winner Victor Hedman to injury midway through the game.

So it's no wonder that the Lightning defense, as well as the team's psyche, was running on fumes heading into Saturday night. And while the jet-lagged Lightning gave an honest effort, you could tell early on that it didn't have much of a chance in this one.

Arizona scored only 6:55 into the game on a Jordan Oesterle's seeing-eye shot from the point. The Lightning challenged the goal because it felt – and for good reason, it appeared – that goalie Louis Domingue was interfered with. But the goal stood and, right then and there, you figured it was just going to be one of those nights for the Lightning.

By the end of the first period, Arizona had stacked up a 3-0 lead. By the end of two, it was 5-0.

The details were ugly. The Lightning allowed two shorthanded goals. Defenseman Mikhail Sergachev was a minus-6 for the game. J.T. Miller was a minus-4. In fact, 14 Lightning players finished the night as minus players. Tampa Bay's lone goal (Adam Erne's first of the season) was pure luck as he shot the equivalent of a baseball pop-up that Arizona goalie Antti Raanta never even saw.

Hey, games like this happen, right?

"Nah,'' Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman said. "It doesn't just happen.''

Stralman was having no part of the tough schedule excuse.

"The whole season is tough,'' Stralman said. "I just don't think we had it tonight, for whatever reason. … It's not good, obviously, and I'm very disappointed.''

The Lightning will try to look back without regrets. You know, the whole "let's forget about this one and move on to the next game'' frame of mind. But there was one aspect that does sting. Domingue, a former Coyote, was on the receiving end of the onslaught and had little help from his teammates.

"He has been great for us and to hang him out to dry there,'' Callahan said, shaking his head. "By no means were the goals his fault.''

"It (stinks) for him, let's be honest,'' Cooper said. "You have a job to do and he is battling as hard as he can, especially in the building he use to play in. He has got a lot of pride, but we're not hanging this on him.''

Yet for all the rot in this one, it's hard to be critical of the Lightning considering what it did on the road trip.

The old adage is that a good road trip is getting one more point than games played. By that measure, it was an excellent trip for Tampa Bay. It went 3-1-1, picking up seven points in the five games. And it comes home with a 7-2-1 record on the season.

"Big thing is to see how we respond in our next one,'' Cooper said.

That will be Tuesday when the Lightning host the Devils.

"You got to move on,'' Callahan said.

Especially after a game such as Saturday night. Even if you could see it coming.


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