Advertisement

5 defining moments in Lightning’s 10-game skid

A lot has gone wrong for Tampa Bay over the past three weeks. Here’s a look at how a championship-caliber team seemingly has lost its way.
 
The Carolina Hurricanes celebrate after Teuvo Teravainen's completes his hat trick as the Lightning's Alex Killorn (17) looks on during the third period of Sunday's game in Raleigh, North Carolina.
The Carolina Hurricanes celebrate after Teuvo Teravainen's completes his hat trick as the Lightning's Alex Killorn (17) looks on during the third period of Sunday's game in Raleigh, North Carolina. [ KARL B DEBLAKER | AP ]
Published March 6, 2023|Updated March 6, 2023

RALEIGH, N.C. — Teams going through slumps like the Lightning’s current slide isn’t uncommon at this point in the NHL season. The grind of the regular season hits players both physically and mentally. For a team like Tampa Bay, which has put itself in a favorable position to make the playoffs, the postseason is just far enough out of view. And as teams acquire players at the trade deadline, coaching staffs have to experiment with where they fit best in the lineup. Sometimes, there’s no quick formula.

But there is something different about what the Lightning are going through right now. After their 6-0 loss Sunday at Carolina, their losing streak reached five games, their longest since 2014. The signs of holes in their ship go back farther, but over their last 10 games, bad results (2-5-3) have followed. Their worst moments have come on the road, where they are below .500 (15-16-1).

“We’ll look to get that (confidence) back,” captain Steven Stamkos said. ”We’ve got a couple home games here. Hopefully, we can get some energy from our fans. This is when you need those types of things to go your way. So we’ll look forward to that. ... Right now, I think it’s more of a mindset. We just have to believe again that we can put some positive periods together and go from there.”

On top of everything else, the Lightning could be without top defenseman Victor Hedman for an extended period after he left Sunday’s game holding his lower back with an undisclosed injury.

How did the Lightning get here? Here’s a look at five defining moments over their past 10 games.

Feb. 15 at Coyotes: Disillusion in the desert

Arizona Coyotes goaltender Connor Ingram celebrates with left wing Lawson Crouse (67) after the team's win over the Lightning on Feb. 15 in Tempe, Arizona.
Arizona Coyotes goaltender Connor Ingram celebrates with left wing Lawson Crouse (67) after the team's win over the Lightning on Feb. 15 in Tempe, Arizona. [ RICK SCUTERI | AP ]

The Lightning went to Arizona feeling good about themselves, coming off one of their best all-around games in a Feb. 11 win at Dallas, sandwiched between a pair of victories over the defending-champion Avalanche (Feb. 9, 14). But then former Tampa Bay farmhand Connor Ingram became Ken Dryden for a night, stopping all 47 shots he faced in the Coyotes’ 1-0 shootout win. The more the Lightning shot, the more frustrating things got. They had 82 attempts on the night, including a 12-1 advantage (5-0 on goal) in overtime. This was when doubt started to creep in.

Feb. 25 at Red Wings: A win by score only

Detroit Red Wings defenseman Ben Chiarot, left, and Lightning center Steven Stamkos battle Feb. 25 in Detroit.
Detroit Red Wings defenseman Ben Chiarot, left, and Lightning center Steven Stamkos battle Feb. 25 in Detroit. [ AL GOLDIS | AP ]

Even though the Lightning won 3-0, the mood in the locker room after beating the Red Wings was not one of satisfaction. Tampa Bay was outplayed in many aspects of the game and only won because Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped all 45 shots he faced. The Lightning weren’t proud of their defensive game and chalked this one up to good fortune, though it might have given them a false sense of security after alowing numerous odd-man rushes in their previous game, an overtime loss to the Sabres.

Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene

Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene

Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter

We’ll send you news and analysis on the Bucs, Lightning, Rays and Florida’s college football teams every day.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

Feb. 26 at Penguins: Flood gates open in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Jason Zucker (16) celebrates after a goal against the Lightning on Feb. 26  in Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Jason Zucker (16) celebrates after a goal against the Lightning on Feb. 26 in Pittsburgh. [ PHILIP G. PAVELY | AP ]

The Lightning and Penguins went into the final five minutes of the second period at PPG Paints Arena locked in a 2-2 tie. Stamkos took a hooking penalty and Tampa Bay left Sidney Crosby (of all people) wide open in front of the net on the power play, starting a run of five straight Pittsburgh goals over the final 4:32 of the period. Backup goaltender Brian Elliott struggled , but the Lightning didn’t little to protect the front of the net. The defensive lapses were glaring, as Tampa Bay twice overloaded to one side during puck battles against the wall, and when it lost them open shots in front were gift-wrapped to the Penguins. There was little Elliott could do in the eventual 7-3 loss.

March 4 at Sabres: The Benching in Buffalo

Buffalo Sabres left wing Victor Olofsson (71) is stick checked by Lightning forward Michael Eyssimont (23) March 4 in Buffalo.
Buffalo Sabres left wing Victor Olofsson (71) is stick checked by Lightning forward Michael Eyssimont (23) March 4 in Buffalo. [ JEFFREY T. BARNES | AP ]

Few would remember that the Lightning actually led early, because the Sabres scored four straight goals after Brayden Point’s game opener, including three in an ugly second period that put Tampa Bay down 4-1 and prompted Jon Cooper to bench Stamkos, Point and Nikita Kucherov for the entire third period. With the Lightning in the midst of another poor defensive game and his top stars partly responsible for the mess, Cooper sent a message not only to the big three, but the entire room that they needed to be better. With the team incorporating new acquisitions Tanner Jeannot and Michael Eyssimont into the lineup, effort can’t be in question at this stage of the season. It was in the 5-3 loss.

March 5 at Hurricanes: Disappearing offense

The Carolina Hurricanes' Shayne Gostisbehere (41) passes the puck around the Lightning's Steven Stamkos (91) March 5 in Raleigh, North Carolina.
The Carolina Hurricanes' Shayne Gostisbehere (41) passes the puck around the Lightning's Steven Stamkos (91) March 5 in Raleigh, North Carolina. [ KARL B DEBLAKER | AP ]

The second period continued to haunt the Lightning, as they didn’t manage a shot on goal for the entire 20 minutes against Carolina, marking the first time since Oct. 6, 2109 that they’ve had zero shots in a period. The Hurricanes make life hard on everyone, as they allow the fewest shots on average for any team in the league. But Tampa Bay simply failed to sustain anything in the offensive zone. The Lightning learned that when you get stuck trailing and locked in your own end, penalties result. A penalty kill in transition started leaking oil, allowing the Hurricanes to convert on four of five power-play opportunities. Also in the second period: Hedman hobbled off, a Vasilevskiy turnover made it 3-0, and Brandon Hagel hit the post on a shorthanded breakaway opportunity.

• • •

Sign up for Lightning Strikes, a weekly newsletter from Bolts beat writer Eduardo A. Encina that brings you closer to the ice.

Never miss out on the latest with the Bucs, Rays, Lightning, Florida college sports and more. Follow our Tampa Bay Times sports team on Twitter and Facebook.