BOSTON — The Lightning's 1-0 win over the Canadiens on Tuesday might have turned into one of its biggest losses.
Three key players were hurt in that game. D Braydon Coburn is out four to six weeks with a lower-body injury. LW Ondrej Palat (lower body) is out two to three weeks, and C Cedric Paquette (upper body) is out 10 to 14 days.
"I don't know if I have ever seen three guys get hurt in one game," D Matt Carle said.
The good news is all three are expected to be back by the time playoffs start in April. But the injuries still come at a bad time for the Lightning, which is playing its best hockey of the season and before Thursday's 3-2 shootout loss to the Bruins was one point behind first-place Montreal in the Atlantic Division.
"This is a blow, no question," coach Jon Cooper said. "I guess we've hit a little adversity here, but this is a chance for other guys, and they're going to get more minutes now. They've got to step up and take the spot of some guys that are impact players with us."
Coburn, 30, was the team's main trade deadline acquisition and had fit in well since the Lightning paid a premium (injured D Radko Gudas, first- and third-round draft picks) to the Flyers to get him. Coburn said he got hurt in the third period Tuesday due to a shot; he said the injury isn't related to breaking his left foot twice this season. Coburn, on crutches, called it "bad luck."
"It's very frustrating," he said. "You try to make sense of it, but there's no real sense to be made."
That the Lightning is getting Carle (abdominal surgery) back soon, possibly Saturday against the Jets, will ease the loss. With right wing J.T. Brown (upper body) returning Thursday and LW Mike Angelidis on an emergency callup from AHL Syracuse, the Lightning had 12 healthy forwards and six healthy defensemen against the Bruins.
Replacing Palat, who was a key cog on the team's productive "Triplets" line, won't be easy. C Vladislav Namestnikov took Palat's spot Thursday and scored.
"This is a time for other guys to step up and shine," Cooper said. " 'Here you go now; you've got the stage.' "
Tampa Bay remains confident it can weather this. Captain Steven Stamkos said nobody is going to feel sorry for the Lightning.
"We have to find another way," he said. "You never want to be in position where you lose three players of that caliber and how important they are to this team. But other guys are going to have to step up. They have no choice now. It's tough, but at the same time, we're not sitting here feeling sorry for ourselves. We've been through different situations like this before, where guys have been out and we found a way. This is another one."
WELCOME BACK: For Angelidis, 29, it already was an exciting time. His wife, Lenna, is expected to give birth to their second child, a son, in two weeks. But it got even better for Angelidis, the Crunch captain, on Wednesday when he received his first NHL callup in two years. "I was just waiting for an opportunity," he said.
Angelidis, who had 17 goals and 16 assists in 57 games for the Crunch, played in his eighth NHL game Thursday and his first since April 2, 2013.
"He's been a monster performer for us all year," Crunch GM Julien BriseBois said. "He might not have the traditional numbers you would expect from an MVP candidate, but I don't believe a single player has meant more to his team in the AHL all season."
MOVING ON: 2010 Lightning first-round draft pick RW Brett Connolly has settled in in Boston, saying he's ahead of schedule in coming back from a broken finger suffered a couple of days after getting traded close to the March 2 deadline, with plans to be back before the playoffs. "My goal is to prove them wrong," Connolly said of the Lightning. "I'm excited to be here. We all moved on. On to bigger and better things."