TAMPA — Three straight losses. Three straight one-goal games. The Lightning are playing at a tight margin, and they’ve been ending up on the wrong side of it recently.
The Lightning fell to the Hurricanes 3-2 on Saturday night at Amalie Arena. That’s after a 4-3 overtime loss to the Capitals and one by the same score to the Blues in regulation.
Coach Jon Cooper looks at these games from a defensive perspective: The Lightning (12-9-3) are giving up one too many goals a game. Steven Stamkos said they have too many offensive chances to not score more.
Both things might be true.
Cooper broke it down thusly: Four goals against is probably going to mean trouble. Three and the game could go either way. One or two and you’ve put yourself in a good position to win.
“You just can’t keep giving up that number of goals, and we are,” he said. “It’s costing us, even a team that can score goals, so we have to limit that extra goal.”
Scoring may be fun, he said, but “in this league, it’s not how many you score, it’s how many you keep out.”
His logic checks out. The Lightning have won all seven games in which they’ve allowed one or two goals. They’ve won four of six games in which they allowed three. When giving up four or more goals, they’re 1-8-2.
Too many of those goals against have come on avoidable mistakes. Carolina’s first goal — from Sebastian Aho on a shot that goalie Curtis McElhinney couldn’t get all of — came after a Lightning too-many-men penalty early in the first period. The second goal — by Justin Martinook on a rush — came off a turnover on a slow line change not three minutes after the first goal.
“It’s in the details,” Stamkos said. “There’s only so much we can talk about, and we’re sick of talking about it. We have to do it out there. We weren’t ready to start the game.”
He put it on himself: As the captain, he said, he needs to lead the way as far as doing the right things.
The Lightning gave up all three Hurricanes goals in the first, then faced an uphill climb as they turned in two of the better periods they’ve played this season. They had strong scoring chances. Again, Stamkos put it on himself first.
“I should have had probably two or three (Saturday), so I have to put that on myself,” he said. “I had too many Grade A’s not to score. We had enough chances to win the game.”
Stamkos led the team with eight shots on net, but he didn’t score. He hasn’t scored in his past three games in which he has played. (He sat out the three before Friday with an injury.)
Tyler Johnson finally broke his goal-less streak. He hadn’t scored in 11 games when he wristed the puck past goalie James Reimer to make it 3-1 8:50 into the third. The forward said he couldn’t remember a stretch in which had had so many Grade A chances without a goal. He was “ticked off” he hadn’t scored more.
The Lightning should expect to see more of these close, one-goal games rather than fewer. In the past month, they have played only one game against a team in playoff contention that has been decided by more than a single goal, the Nov. 1 5-2 loss to the Islanders.
“That’s what it’s going to be when you’re playing against good teams,” Johnson said. “Most of the time (the games are) not going to be 5-2. It’s going to be a one-goal game, so you have to find a way to win those.”
First Period—1, Carolina, Aho 13 (Hamilton, Svechnikov), 4:49 (pp). 2, Carolina, Martinook 1 (Slavin, Bishop), 7:30. 3, Carolina, Slavin 3 (Aho, Hamilton), 19:53. Penalties—Tampa Bay bench, served by Verhaeghe (too many men on the ice), 4:11 van Riemsdyk, CAR, (holding), 16:58.
Second Period—None. Penalties—McGinn, CAR, (roughing), 0:39 Bishop, CAR, (tripping), 3:46.
Third Period—4, Tampa Bay, Point 10 (Hedman, Kucherov), 3:26 (pp). 5, Tampa Bay, Johnson 5 (Sergachev, Cirelli), 8:50. Penalties—Gardiner, CAR, (holding), 2:39 Edmundson, CAR, (high sticking), 5:50 Gourde, TB, (tripping), 10:02 Dzingel, CAR, (hooking), 10:09 Stamkos, TB, (hooking), 14:34 Hedman, TB, (slashing), 19:25 Maroon, TB, Misconduct (misconduct), 19:25.
Shots on Goal—Carolina 12-10-3_25. Tampa Bay 9-14-15_38. Power-play opportunities—Carolina 1 of 4 Tampa Bay 1 of 6. Goalies—Carolina, Reimer 5-4-0 (38 shots-36 saves). Tampa Bay, McElhinney 3-2-2 (24-21).
A—19,092 (19,092). T—2:29.
Referees—Garrett Rank, Francois St Laurent. Linesmen—Bevan Mills, Jonny Murray.