RALEIGH, N.C. — The Lightning couldn’t find the net. That’s not a euphemism to say they couldn’t score. The Lightning couldn’t get a shot.
This wasn’t just for a few minutes, either. Tampa Bay did not put a shot on net for the entire second period of a 4-3 overtime loss to the Hurricanes on Sunday.
To be exact, the Lightning went 25 minutes, 52 seconds between Steven Stamkos’ goal at 17:44 of the first period and a shot by him early in the third. That’s not a winning recipe.
Stamkos, with an eye on last season’s playoff exit, ripped into the team for habits it can’t seem to break.
“We just continue to be the freewheeling team that thinks we can just come into games and win because we’re skilled,” Stamkos said. “We keep falling back into the same old bad habits that we’ve been doing, that cost us the season we had last year.
“Unless we change things, it’s going to be a really, really, really long year.”
Tampa Bay (1-1-1) started training camp talking about the need to be more responsible defensively and to rely less on its goaltending. They did neither of those things Sunday.
Why couldn’t the Lightning put shots on net? Because they didn’t have the puck. The Hurricanes dominated possession so much that on the their way to putting 44 shots on goal in the game, they missed more shots (21) than the Lightning put on net, 13.
The Lightning didn’t exactly light up the net in the first period, but they were productive, with three goals on 11 shots. Then in their shotless span, they went from being in relative control of the game leading 3-1 to leading 3-2 and being caught in an offensive spiral.
And then it got worse. The Lightning put only two shots on net in the third period while giving up that narrow lead on Carolina’s second power-play goal of the game at 12:48.
The Lightning didn’t put on shot on net in overtime while Carolina added three to its total, including the goal to win it all, by Jaccob Slavin 1:53 in.
The Lightning ended up leaving Curtis McElhinney out to dry against his former team. McElhinney, making his Lightning debut, made save after save, doing his best to keep them in it.
The four goals he gave up don’t seem like that many given the shot total he faced. The Lightning never gave him a chance to catch his breath by not sustaining pressure in the other end. Coach Jon Cooper said McElhinney was the only player to “show up” in the latter two periods.
“Our goaltender was outstanding,” Stamkos said, “and I feel bad for him that he had that effort and we had the effort we had.”
Tyler Johnson agreed with Stamkos that this is a mental issue for the Lightning.
“We have skill, but you don’t always need to use that skill,” he said. “We try to make those cute plays. We try to make almost Globetrotter plays. In reality, that doesn’t win games.”
He said the solution is for the Lightning to simplify their game. They have gotten away from basics and the Hurricanes beat them playing a simple game.
“We do it to ourselves,” Stamkos said.
As Stamkos continued on about the Lightning’s issues, he stopped himself and said the good news is this was only the third game of the season. There’s plenty of time for the Lightning to change things.
Cooper said a team has two or three dud games a year and maybe the lesson for the Lightning is something about taking one step backward to take two steps forward.
Stamkos is about ready to be done learning these lessons, though.
“Everyone is sick of talking about it and not doing it,” he said. “Let’s go do it.”
Contact Diana C. Nearhos at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @dianacnearhos.
Hurricanes 1 1 1 1 4
Lightning 3 0 0 0 3
First Period—1, Carolina, Pesce 1 (McGinn, Svechnikov), 1:14. 2, Tampa Bay, Johnson 1 (Hedman), 2:22. 3, Tampa Bay, Shattenkirk 2 (Sergachev, Gourde), 9:53 (pp). 4, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 2, 17:44. Penalties—Edmundson, CAR, (interference), 9:48 Cirelli, TB, (hooking), 15:03.
Second Period—5, Carolina, Haula 3 (Teravainen, Hamilton), 13:49 (pp). Penalties—Hamilton, CAR, (tripping), 0:55 Hedman, TB, (hooking), 12:31 Stamkos, TB, (hooking), 15:40 Teravainen, CAR, (tripping), 15:50.
Third Period—6, Carolina, Hamilton 1 (Teravainen, Svechnikov), 12:48 (pp). Penalties—Foegele, CAR, (hooking), 5:33 Coburn, TB, (hooking), 12:26. Shattenkirk, TB, (interference), 19:15.
Overtime—7, Carolina, Slavin 2 (Staal), 1:53. Penalties—None.
Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 11-2_13. Carolina 17-16-8-3_44. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 1 of 4. Carolina 2 of 5. Goalies—Tampa Bay, McElhinney 0-0-1 (44 shots-40 saves). Carolina, Mrazek 2-0-0 (13-10).