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  1. Lightning

Lightning's rare loss produces reality check

TAMPA — Jon Cooper stood at the podium late Saturday night to address the media after a regulation loss for only the third time this season.

"Let's be honest," he said, "we've had one hell of a start."

The loss, he added, was frustrating, even when you haven't experienced many in the first 20 games.

Tampa Bay's 5-3 loss to the Islanders on Saturday was just the third time the Lightning (15-3-2) failed to earn at least one point. It was the product of a slow start that undercut a three-goal third period.

"(Saturday) was definitely a reality check for us," Cooper said.

That was the case after the first two regulation losses.

The first was a 5-4 road loss to the Panthers on the second night of the season. After that, Cooper went with an 11 forward/seven defenseman lineup, and the team made a conscious effort to defend both goals.

The result was a nine-game stretch where the Lightning earned 17 points. It was interrupted midway by a 5-4 shootout loss at New Jersey.

The next regulation loss came Oct.?28 to the visiting Ducks, a 4-1 setback. The Lightning got caught playing the Ducks' more physical, plodding style.

The Lightning responded with a seven-game stretch in which it won six times, including a season-best five in a row. The only glitch was a 2-1 overtime loss to the Rangers where the Lightning picked up a point.

If the Lightning has showed anything this season, it is good at responding to a loss. It has yet to lose consecutive games.

"We know how good of a team we are, especially in a game like (Saturday) when we came out flat and hurt ourselves," center Brayden Point said.

The Lightning has started flat a few times, but usually gets back in the game. Against the Islanders, that didn't happen until it trailed 4-0 early in the third.

"What's that old bumper sticker say in Forrest Gump? That stuff happens," Cooper said.

The Lightning returns to Amalie Arena on Wednesday against the Blackhawks (10-8-2) before beginning a four-game road trip.

"I don't know," forward Ondrej Palat said when asked Saturday about the team's ability to bounce back. "We have to be better. There's no excuse. We have to be better than (Saturday) Wednesday night."

That's one way.