Sunday, 3 a.m.
The effort was better. The offense was faster. The energy was higher.
The result, however, was familiar.
The Tampa Bay Lightning lost another one.
The team's worst slump of the last few years continued Saturday night as the Bolts absorbed a 4-3 loss to the defending Stanley Cup champion. The Pens beat the Lightning in the Eastern Conference finals a year ago. Three power play goals — and 37 shots — did in the Bolts.
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It was the Bolts' seventh loss in their last eight games. Six times in that streak, the Bolts have given up at least four goals.
“You look at our effort level tonight and our battle and our compete. It was there. We did everything we could to win the game. Special teams cost us in the end. Even still, I think we had an open net, didn’t we? Give him that 1,000 times and he probably puts it in 999, and there’s the one time it didn’t go in for us. You’ve got to feel for the guys who’d probably still be playing right now, but they’re a really good team too. You can’t take anything away from them. They’re the defending champs, and they pretty much have kept going from last year. So you give them credit. We gave them five power plays. They scored on three of them, and that’s where it’s kind of tough. We’ve got to kill one more of those off, and we didn’t and it cost us.”
Sidney Crosby scored twice — his 19th and 20th goals of the year. He scored in the first period to give the Pens a 1-0 lead. But Tampa Bay scored three in a row — two by Jonathan Drouin and one by Valtteri Filppula – to take a 3-1 lead.
“I liked a lot of the things we did. Again, when it kind of got down to it at the end though, we stopped shooting pucks. We stopped attacking the net, and the couple of flurries we
had we were really attacking the net. We were going for it. Then it felt, again, we were trying to make the extra pass, trying to place the puck into the net instead of just getting it to the net and driving when we had guys doing that. That’s the tough part when at the end there we had things going, we just didn’t shoot enough. But Pittsburgh also puts you in those positions, so you’ve got to fight through that kind of stuff. Ultimately we had a 3-1 lead, and we blew it at home and those are tough to swallow because that doesn’t happen to us too often.”
Pittsburgh came back with two goals by Evgeni Malkin and one by Crosby. In all, the Penguins got off 37 shots against Tampa Bay.
“You can't win if you're going to give up 4-5 goals a night.” Cooper said. “And we are. Clearly, it's tough to win games when that happens.”
Anton Stralman noted that the Bolts did play better and looked for a glimmer of hope in that.
“I think it’s about what the games look like. I though tonight was a step forward. I thought we played pretty well. Penalty kill let us down a little bit and those are the things you look for. Obviously the result sucks, but if you look at the whole picture I thought it was a big step forward from the Vancouver game. We played some good D-Zone. They’re a really, really good team too. You’ve got to put that into effect too. We held up pretty good in a time where we’re obviously struggling.”
The Lightning now goes on the road, facing Calgary Wednesday night.