TAMPA – The pieces continue to come together, but it was the second contest in a row where the Tampa Bay Lightning only managed one point in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Phoenix Coyotes Monday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Ondrej Palat, Valtteri Filppula and Ryan Callahan saw their chemistry build as the trio combined for five points (two goals, three assists) on the night, but back-to-back third period goals from the Coyotes stifled the Bolts and put them in a position to play catch-up hockey.
"Having leads going into the third period, those are the ones you need to hold onto this time of year," Callahan said. "There are spurts of better play, but we have to put it together for a full 60."
It was the fifth straight loss for the Lightning and the second straight in a shootout.
"We have to fix things," Ben Bishop said. "And we have to fix things fast."
The Bolts headed to the penalty kill midway through the first, but ended up with the upper-hand as Tyler Johnson notched his fourth shorthanded goal of the season and Phoenix netminder Mike Smith's first allowed at 11:26 of the first.
Palat sent the pass to Johnson, who then took off toward the Coyotes' zone. Keith Yandle tried to stay course with Johnson, but tripped himself up leading to a breakaway and a 1-0 lead. It was Johnson's third straight game with a shorthanded point and also extended his point streak to four games (three goals, one assist).
Phoenix added their first goal of the game one minute into the second period to even the score at one.
Mark Barberio was tangled up with Mike Ribeiro making it hard for Bishop to maneuver. Brandon McMillan took advantage by scoring on the empty side of Bishop's cage.
In the last minute of play, Callahan's persistence helped give the Bolts the lead before end of the middle frame.
Callahan grabbed the puck behind Smith's net and wrapped it around glove side and tried to backhand it in, but the Phoenix netminder made the save. Callahan tried once more with a backhander, yet when he came up empty poked the puck over to Palat, who took it home for a 2-1 score at 19:07.
"We're starting to get used to playing with each other," Callahan said. "We know where each other is in the offensive zone and as a unit we've been talking and it's helping out."
A fluky bounce of the boards again knotted the game up 2:13 into the final frame after Martin Erat stole the puck from Victor Hedman.
"I thought it was going behind the net," Bishop said. "I don't know if it took a funny bounce or what, I was just going to the other post and I guess it took a weird bounce off the boards."
Upon the takeaway, Erat tried to wrap the puck around the boards and Bishop turned his body expecting it to come around the other side, but instead the puck caromed oddly to the open side of Bishop's net as Erat dumped it in.
"We were way too lackadaisical," head coach Jon Cooper said.
Less than five minutes later, the Coyotes took the lead on a rebound of Zbynek Michalek's shot that was credited to Mikkel Boedker with 12:12 remaining in the contest.
"The third one, we've ran that coverage 1,000 times," Cooper said. "Just a blown assignment."
Remaining poised under pressure, Tampa Bay evened the score at three with 37.2 seconds remaining in regulation to send the game to overtime. Matt Carle sent a laser from the blue line that bounced off Smith's pads and to Filppula. Filppula then chipped the puck to Palat for his second goal of the game.
"We showed character coming back and tying it up late," Callahan said. "At the same time we can't find ourselves in that situation."
Yet nothing was accomplished in the extra frame and the Bolts lost their second straight shootout and their fifth straight overall.
"When you're on the other side of it, it's fun," Callahan said. "But when you're on this side of it, like the last two games, you don't like them."
UP NEXT – Tampa Bay will close out a four-game series with Atlantic Division rival, the Florida Panthers, Thursday night at the Times Forum. The Lightning have won all three matchups versus the intrastate opponent, but will be playing against newly acquired Roberto Luongo this time around. The Bolts then continue on with their six-game homestand Saturday and Monday with games against the New Jersey Devils and Vancouver Canucks.