TAMPA – One thing the Tampa Bay Lightning have not been able to overcome of late is giving up two-goal leads. That story was replayed Saturday in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
"It was definitely a step," head coach Jon Cooper said.
The loss that stretched to the seventh round of a shootout began with the Bolts spending extensive time in the offensive zone and killing off penalties when they needed, but momentum slowly steered in the other direction by the final 20 minutes of play.
"Our only issue is that we were a little bit one-and-done in our rushes, instead of keeping a little zone time as we were in the first two periods," Cooper said.
Boston took advantage of Tampa Bay's tired bodies to tie the game midway through the third and force overtime.
"We got a point out of it," Steven Stamkos said. "But we keep giving up these leads."
It was the Lightning's fourth straight loss and ninth in their last 12.
"When we're in a slide like this, you take any points you can get," Stamkos said. "We obviously want two, but we'll start with one and keep progressing."
The Bolts prevented a single shot on net from Boston through the first 14 minutes of play, but by the final minute and a half, while on the power play, the Bruins regrouped and nearly squeaked out a goal at the buzzer on a wide-open net. Yet the Lightning came out of the period unscathed and held Boston to their fewest amount of shots (five) since October 31.
Boston started the second period with 33 seconds left on the power play, but Tyler Johnson hustled with the puck into the offensive zone. Goaltender Tuukka Rask came out of the crease to play the puck on Johnson, but Ondrej Palat picked up the rebound and buried it shorthanded at the 27 second mark.
Mark Barberio then added the Lightning's second marker of the game.
Taking a shot from the top of the slot, the puck was deflected off a Boston blueliner, through Nate Thompson's legs and finally five-hole on Rask. Ryan Callahan picked up the secondary assist on the goal for his first point as a Bolt.
"We really emphasized being at the net front," Cooper said. "There was Thompson and it's a classic goal. You get one of those a game and who knows what's going to happen.
"I thought we did that exceptionally tonight."
Less than two minutes after the Bolts gained a 2-0 advantage the Bruins knotted the game at two. The first of the pair came when Daniel Paille battled his way around Johnson and the crease. He finished with a backhander on netminder BenBishop stick side.
A bad line change led to Carl Soderberg's breakaway that tied the game with less than 12 minutes left in the middle frame.
"For that to happen, inexcusable," Cooper said.
Valtteri Filppula immediately helped Tampa Bay regain the lead one minute later off of a face-off win in the offensive zone that got the puck to Palat. Palat then sent a nice pass back to Filppula for his 21st goal of the season and a 3-2 lead.
The Bruins entered the third reinvigorated however, outshooting the Lightning 13-4 and scoring the lone goal of the period to send the game into overtime.
"They had a push in the third," Cooper said. "No question."
Soderberg passed from behind the net to Boychuk at the right face-off circle lasering a wrist shot past Bishop, who seemed to not see the goal coming at all.
"I thought the puck was in the corner," Bishop said. "I never saw it go to the point. All I heard was him take a slapshot and then it was in the net.
"The third one was my fault. You can't lose sight of the puck like that. We should of won that game, it's my fault."
With a scoreless extra frame the game lasted until the seventh round of a shootout after Callahan's shot hit the top of Rask stick in an earlier round. Then Richard Panik nearly scored for the Bolts as his shot grazed the post in the seventh, but Reilly Smith finished it off on the ensuing chance.
UP NEXT – Tampa Bay plays the middle game of a six-game homestand Monday night at the Times Forum when the Phoenix Coyotes make their lone visit this season. The Lightning were defeated by the Coyotes 6-3 in November at Jobing.com Arena. Then after two days in between, the Bolts will face their third Atlantic Division opponent in their past four when intrastate rival, the Florida Panthers, come to town on Thursday.