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What do the Lightning’s three losses have in common?

Three times, Tampa Bay has dug a hole it can’t get out of. But they have been different holes.
St. Louis Blues, shown celebrating a goal on Saturday, March 23, are one of three teams to beat the Lightning in the last five weeks. [Tom Gannam | AP Photo]
St. Louis Blues, shown celebrating a goal on Saturday, March 23, are one of three teams to beat the Lightning in the last five weeks. [Tom Gannam | AP Photo]
Published Mar. 24, 2019
Updated Mar. 25, 2019

TAMPA — The Lightning’s shovels don’t get too much use. The team has mostly avoided digging holes in the latter half of the season.

Thrice in the last five weeks, however, Tampa Bay has ended up down three goals and unable to come back. Those three games have also been the only losses in that time frame.

Each of those losses has come differently, and the Lightning also came back from a 3-0 deficit to Detroit in that span, but it bears looking at the three games.

St Louis: The Lightning gave up three goals in the span of 1:15 and lost 4-3 on Saturday.

Tampa Bay did not play a bad game. It played a bad 75 seconds. This game is not reason to sound the alarm, but is a reminder of how a short-term breakdown can compound quickly.

Boston: The Lightning allowed one goal in the second period and then three goals in 1:28 in the third and lost 4-1 on Feb. 28.

Tampa Bay made bad decisions with the puck and looked sluggish on the second half of a back-to-back. The Lightning was completely out-played by the Bruins in all facets.

Minnesota:The Lightning gave up one goal in the first period but not another until early in the third. An empty-netter in the final two minutes gave Minnesota a 3-0 shutout on March 7. (This one is a weaker three-goal deficit but fits the spirit).

The Wild came in with a game plan to play the Lightning tight and executed. Tampa Bay didn’t play poorly, or do anything wrong, but Minnesota was even better.

Detroit: The Red Wings scored twice in the first period and once in the second before the Lightning mounted a comeback, sparked by Steven Stamkos’ record-tying goal, to win 5-4 on March 14.

The takeaways:The obvious difference between the comeback and the three losses is quality of opponent. Detroit is languishing at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, while the others are in or competing for a spot in the playoffs. That’s over-simplifying matters, though.

The manner in which the Lightning ended up in a hole was different in each of the four games.

On Saturday, the Lightning did match those three allowed goals, but St. Louis got one more. Against Boston, Tampa Bay just couldn’t get anything to go right until late. Against Minnesota, the Lightning couldn’t solve a tight defense.

In Detroit, the Lightning dominated the third period in the comeback. That’s something Tampa Bay has done before. It’s second in the league with eight wins having come back from multi-goal deficits.