The Tampa Bay Lightning still would like to think of itself as one of the elite teams of the NHL.
Frankly, it’s getting more difficult.
The Lightning fell once again Wednesday night, losing 5-2 to a New York Rangers team that had lost eight in a row on the road. The defeat left Tampa Bay at 18-16-4, in 10th place in the East and three points out of the playoffs. It also lowered the Bolts’ home record to 9-8-2, equalling as many losses as all of last season.
“I don’t know what to say, there is no magic answer,” said Steven Stamkos. “These close games, last year we were finding a way to win. Now we’re the team sitting back on our heels. I don’t know if it’s lack of confidence or lack of execution, but there is really no consistency to our game right now.”
The Bolts gave up the first goal (to former Lightning player Dan Boyle), the fourth time in five games it has given up the first goal. Tampa Bay is 4-12-4 when giving up the first goal.
“We just didn’t generate tonight, but if you really look at this game, we didn’t really give them anything,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “And when we did, it was our blunders that, you look at that winning goal, we turned the puck over three times in harmless situations. And when you’re going to do that against a good team, you’re playing with fire.
“And what’s a little frustrating I guess is we’re kind of humming there at the beginning of the third and the old game of inches. That puck crosses the line, it’s 3-2. Who knows how this goes? A couple minutes later, all of a sudden it’s 3-2 the other way. But we have to show some fight when that goal goes in. You’ve got to pull up your socks and go to work.”
Tampa Bay scored goals by Jonathan Marchessault and Anton Stralman. The Rangers outscored the Bolts 3-0 in the third period, two of them on empty-netters.
For Tampa Bay, this six-game homestand was supposed to be an opportunity to get back in the race. Instead, the Bolts have lost three of five.
“This has been a really tough place for teams to play,” said Cooper. “It’s been a mandate for us to make it tough for teams to play and come in here and win games. For this year, it hasn’t been that tough.”
The Lightning plays against Minnesota Saturday night at Amalie Arena.