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Lightning ends road trip with loss to Predators

Lightning center Tyler Johnson battles between Predators goalie Pekka Rinne and right wing Craig Smith. Johnson later scores in the final minute of the game.
Lightning center Tyler Johnson battles between Predators goalie Pekka Rinne and right wing Craig Smith. Johnson later scores in the final minute of the game.
Published Nov. 22, 2016

NASHVILLE — This was already going to be a telling stretch for the Lightning.

And that was before captain Steven Stamkos' knee surgery, which will sideline him about four months.

When Tampa Bay opened this five-game road trip, starting a slate of 12 of 17 away from Amalie Arena, goalie Ben Bishop insisted the team needed to play with more of an attitude. Stop waiting to get hit first. Start a streak.

And the Lightning did just that, winning four of five games on this road trip, which ended in a 3-1 loss to the Predators at Bridgestone Arena.

Despite Monday's dud, Tampa Bay (12-7-1) has put itself in a good spot as the season reached its quarter pole. And it played the entire trip without top-pair defenseman Anton Stralman, three games without Stamkos.

"It's a pretty resilient group, I'll be honest," coach Jon Cooper said. "We've liked our start. If you can win two out of every three, you're going to have a pretty good chance to make the playoffs. You take a look at the injuries we've had on the road trip, lost our captain, kept marching on.

"It's only been a couple games, but if they keep doing this, I'm going to be pretty proud of this group."

Cooper wasn't completely proud of Monday's performance, calling it a winnable game.

"We looked like a tired team," Cooper said. "It felt like we were chasing all night."

Tampa Bay was outplayed in the first period, then gave up a couple goals in the second as the Predators pulled away. After Jonathan Drouin couldn't convert a great chance that would have tied the score, the Valtteri Filppula pass bouncing off his stick, the Predators scored two second-period goals.

"Definitely (stinks)," Drouin said. "An open net. That's usually a tap-in."

The Lightning, which allowed four combined goals during its four-game winning streak, allowed three Monday. Though you can't put the full blame on birthday boy Bishop, who turned 30 Monday. The Lightning's defensive zone coverage was a little loose. The Lightning didn't score until Tyler Johnson's power-play goal with 49 seconds to go.

"We didn't answer the right way," Drouin said. "Too many passengers out there."

And this one got ugly near the end, J.T. Brown starting a line brawl by punching Ryan Ellis, who got a five-minute interference major for his hit, which Brian Boyle dubbed "extremely dirty."

"That shouldn't happen," Boyle said.

Still, Tampa Bay headed home Monday night happy after taking eight out of 10 points on its eight-day trip.

It's still been, as defenseman Victor Hedman dubs it, "an up and down" season, but the Lightning is finding ways to win.

"I think in this room we expect to win," Bishop said. "If we're down by a couple, we don't get too worked up. We handle the wins and losses pretty well, don't get too high, or too low.

"I don't know if we've learned anything (in this start), it just kind of re-assured ourselves that we're still who we think we are."