The Tampa Bay Lightning have been so good as of late, that not even a rare loss at home was enough to set the team back in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Steven Stamkos notched his league-best 48th goal of the season and Dwayne Roloson made 25 saves in relief of the injured Mathieu Garon, but the Lightning fell 7-3 to the Ottawa Senators at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Tuesday night.
The defeat marked just the first in the past five games for Tampa Bay, which had its four-game win streak come to an end.
Ryan Shannon and Tim Wallace also had goals for the Lightning, which following Tuesday’s contest, found itself in the same position as it did just 60 minutes earlier, four points behind division-rival Winnipeg for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
Garon left the game just 3:54 into the opening period due to a lower body injury and did not return. He sustained the injury after he made a full extension to stop a slap shot in the early stages. Garon had won 12 of his past 17 starts in net for the Lightning, including six of the past seven.
“That was tough,” Stamkos said. “He’s been playing well for us all year and he’s given us a chance to win a lot of hockey games recently, so when he went down, obviously that was a blow.”
Sergei Gonchar, Colin Greening and Kyle Turris each scored in the opening frame for Ottawa, which took a 3-0 lead into the second period.
“We can’t have starts like that,” Lightning forward Tom Pyatt said. “We need to play the full 60 minutes. Playing 40 minutes just isn’t good enough.”
Milan Michalek also scored three third-period goals, including two into an empty net to complete his second career hat trick.
With Ottawa up by three to start the middle frame, Wallace cut the deficit to one nearly six minutes after Shannon made it 3-1 by putting home a centering feed from Brett Connolly at 1:24.
Ottawa, though, re-established its two-goal lead when Erik Karlsson, the NHL’s leading point-getter among defensemen, scored an unassisted power-play goal at 11:58 of the middle frame.
The Lightning had won each of their past two games after trailing through two periods, and didn’t cease to make it exciting again as Stamkos scored on the power play at 5:41 of the final period to make it 4-3.
Teddy Purcell was credited with an assist on the goal to extend his points streak to 10 games, a team-high for a Lightning player this season.
But just when it seemed the Lightning were in position to mount another thrilling comeback, Stamkos got called for goaltender interference which resulted in Michalek’s power-play goal at 12:12 of the third that made it 5-3, as well as a shift in momentum.
“I thought there were a couple of times when there was contact with our goalie too,” Stamkos added. “I didn’t even think there was any contact on that play, so I don’t know what the ref saw. The puck was there and I actually had a pretty good scoring opportunity and actually thought it was in the net.”
The Senators forward completed the hat trick in the final two minutes, scoring the 31st and 32nd goals of the season to put the game away.