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Lightning loses fourth in five games, falls out of playoff spot

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At a crucial time of the season, the Tampa Bay Lightning are going in the wrong direction.

The Lightning, in second place only days ago, lost their fourth game of five Friday night when the San Jose Sharks took over a tied game in the final period and won 4-2.

“We’re cheating the game a little bit right now,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “It’s what we’re doing. Things on the defensive side of the puck we’ve done for 2 ½ years, we’re going through a stretch we’re not doing those things. We’re on the wrong side of pucks and we’re trying to do too many things, thinking we should go and win a game 6-5. It’s not how many you score, it’s how many you keep out. We’re not there right now.”

For instance, the Lightning is suddenly giving up goals on breakaways and on sloppy line changes. Yes, the Bolts are missing defenseman Jason Garrison, but that’s little excuse.

“There’s a little bit of a trickle down,” Cooper said. “I guess it’s a coincidence, or is he that much of an impact? You can weigh them both. I thought it would have an impact, but not like this.”

The defeat knocked the Lightning out of playoff contention to the ninth spot in the Eastern Conference. Tampa Bay has 26 games left, but only 11 of them at home.

“We’ve got to have more urgency, more compete,” said forward Ryan Callahan. “This isn’t good enough.”

Callahan, too, said the regathering of the Bolts would have to start on defense. “We’re used to playing that way,” he said.

Tampa Bay is home Thursday against Winnipeg and starts a long road streak.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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