Not even the energy of a fired up home sellout crowd of 19,204 could help overturn the Tampa Bay Lightning’s recent struggles.
Martin St. Louis, Teddy Purcell and Nate Thompson each had goals for Tampa Bay, and Mathieu Garon made 35 saves, but in a 4-3 loss to the Washington Capitals at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Thursday night.
The loss brought the Lightning’s winless streak to a season-high six games, while Washington won its third straight.
“It wasn’t a lack of focus or a lack of positive vibes or anything like that,” Lightning head coach Guy Boucher said. “You can’t go pointing fingers, it’s just the reality is you can’t re-create that sense of urgency at the beginning of the game at the end of the game. So, it’s tough.”
In similar fashion to Tuesday night’s valiant comeback effort that forced overtime and allowed the Bolts to collect a crucial standings point after erasing a three-goal deficit, it appeared that Tampa Bay was in a position to give an encore performance.
With the Capitals out to a commanding 4-1 lead with approximately eight minutes to play, Purcell cut the deficit to two after he threw a puck on net from the side of the cage at 12:02 of the final frame.
Thompson then beat Braden Holtby, who was out of position, just 4:45 later by making a nifty backhand move and converting on a breakaway to bring the Lightning to within one.
The Lightning controlled possession in the offensive zone within the game’s final minute, and even had the extra attacker on after Garon skated to the bench, but Tampa Bay couldn’t find the equalizer to send the game into overtime for a second time in as many tries.
Eric Fehr had two goals for Washington, and Troy Brouwer and Jay Beagle also scored for the Capitals, which improved to 5-8-1.
Mathieu Perreault added three assists in the win, while Hotlby made 27 saves.
“It was a good start for our team,” Brouwer said. “We gave them some opportunities at the end, but overall I thought all our guys played hard.”
Brouwer didn’t take long to open the scoring, tapping home a feed from Perreault while on the power play to put Washington up 1-0 just 2:40 following the opening puck drop.
St. Louis tied it when he whacked home a puck past Holtby’s pad from the side of the net that made it 1-1 approximately midway through the period.
The Capitals went on though to score three times unanswered, getting a goal from Fehr in the second period before a pair of additional tallies in the final frame gave Washington a 4-1 lead.
“Right now we’re fighting mentally and emotionally,” Boucher added. “But our dedication, and our work ethic, it’s there.”