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.