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Lightning says 'compete level' must improve

Lightning defenseman Nikita Nesterov clears the puck from the goal line against the Red Wings on Saturday in a 4-0 loss, Tampa Bay’s second straight. The Lightning is the only team that hasn’t lost three in a row this season.
Lightning defenseman Nikita Nesterov clears the puck from the goal line against the Red Wings on Saturday in a 4-0 loss, Tampa Bay’s second straight. The Lightning is the only team that hasn’t lost three in a row this season.
Published Mar. 30, 2015

MONTREAL — After the Lightning lost its second straight game Saturday — with an uncharacteristically low compete level — veteran center Brain Boyle put it simply:

"We've got to right the ship quick."

The Lightning typically does. It is the only team in the NHL to have not lost three in a row all season. And Tampa Bay needs that kind of resiliency tonight in a Bell Centre showdown with Eastern Conference-leading Montreal, which is three points ahead of the Lightning for first place in the Atlantic Division with each team having six games to play.

"We always respond after games like (Saturday's 4-0 loss to the Red Wings)," veteran wing Ryan Callahan said. "We have the character in here to do that. We know who's coming up next, and that's a pretty big one, too. So it's going to be easy to get up for that one."

Tampa Bay has always gotten up for the Canadiens, beating them in all four previous meetings this season, including both at the Bell Centre. The Lightning's problems arise when its battle level and effort are not up to par.

Captain Steven Stamkos said the key is what it has been all season: to not panic.

"We have to realize that when we don't have our compete level first and foremost, our skill can't take over the game," Stamkos said. "If we have the compete level, we know we have the ability to play with anyone. When we don't, that's when we get ourselves in trouble. We're trying to make cute plays in the neutral zone, turn pucks over. We have to be better."

Goalie Ben Bishop said the Lightning's goal is to win the Presidents' Trophy, given to the team with the most points in the league. Tampa Bay is six points behind the league-leading Ducks, so it needs a strong rest of the road trip, which also includes stops in Toronto, Ottawa and Sunrise.

"We have a long road trip (five games), so we can't get on the wrong side of things too early," Bishop said.

The Lightning got encouraging news on the injury front Sunday. Center Cedric Paquette, whose left leg bent awkwardly around a goal post late in Saturday's game, is considered day to day. Defenseman Jason Garrison, who left the game early with an upper-body injury after getting checked hard into the boards, was evaluated by doctors in Tampa on Sunday. The team likely would know more today, general manager Steve Yzerman said.

Meantime, the Lightning recalled forward Jonathan Marchessault and defenseman Luke Witkowski from AHL Syracuse.

The Lightning has overcome injuries often this season and says its ability to rebound after losses comes down to self-awareness and determination.

"It's accountability," Callahan said. "We look at each other in the room and hold ourselves accountable. We know when we're not playing our best. We know when the compete level, the effort is not where it needs to be.

"We have all the skill in the room here. But when we go out there and don't compete, it doesn't translate. But when we're competing, working hard, you can see how good of a team we are."