The Tampa Bay Lightning need wins to stay in the Eastern Conference playoff chase.
Saturday's 4-2 loss in Philadelphia certainly didn't help a team scrapping to collect as many points as it can at the season's midpoint.
The fact the defeat came to the Flyers was another difficult blow for the Bolts.
Tampa Bay entered Philadelphia just three points behind the Flyers for the final wild card spot in the East. A win would have been a much-needed boost to the Bolts' playoff chances.
But it's back to the drawing board for a Lightning team that has lost three in a row now.
"The time is now, that's it," Bolts head coach Jon Cooper said succinctly after the game, referring to his team's need to quickly pick up its play.
We'll break down the Bolts difficult loss in 3 Things from Philadelphia.
Video: Cooper on 4-2 loss to PHI
1. IN-GAME INCONSISTENCY CONTINUES
For whatever reason, the Lightning just cannot put together a full 60-minute effort this season.
The Bolts started well in Philadelphia, despite getting outshot 14-7 through the first period. Ryan Callahan set the tone early, drilling former Bolt Radko Gudas into the corner twice and nearly dumping Michael Raffl into the Flyers' bench on the game's opening shift.
The Lightning started with a purpose and passion that had been missing of late, and their effort paid off at just over five minutes into the game when Nikita Kucherov finished off a pretty 2-on-1 with Vladislav Namestnikov to score the opening goal, only the second time in the last eight games the Bolts scored first.
But then the wheels fell off in the second period.
The Flyers scored four times, tying a season high for most goals allowed by the Bolts in a period. After Travis Konecny leveled the score 1-1 just 1:15 into the middle frame, the Flyers netted a pair of goals within a 1:09 span midway through the second to take control.
The Lightning trailed by two goals for the seventh time in their last eight games.
One good period followed by a bad period.
It's been the story of the Lightning season so far.
Video: Killorn on loss to Flyers
2. TURNOVERS A MAJOR ISSUE
The Lightning continue to give the puck away at an alarming rate.
In Thursday's 6-1 home loss to Nashville, Tampa Bay turned the puck over 11 times to the Predators' four. Two days prior, the Bolts gave the puck away 16 times to fall to Winnipeg.
And again on Saturday, too many turnovers led to too many scoring opportunities for the opponent. Tampa Bay had 12 giveaways to Philadelphia's six, one of the main reasons the Flyers were able to fire 44 shots at Andrei Vasilevskiy, a season high for shots for a Lightning opponent (previous high: 43 on Oct. 25 at Toronto).
"It was turnovers and lost battles pretty much all night," Cooper said. "When you're going to do that, you don't really have much of a chance of winning."
The Lightning have switched defensive personnel in recent games, in part to generate more solid, consistent play in the back end. On Thursday, Andrej Sustr was a healthy scratch, missing his first game of the season. Against Philadelphia, Slater Koekkoek sat while Sustr was back in. So was Luke Witkowski, recalled from AHL Syracuse a day earlier.
The result, however, was more of the same, uneven coverage in the back at times and untimely turnovers leading to opponent scoring chances.
"It starts with turnovers," Cooper said. "When you're turning pucks over, now you're on your heels a little bit and now you've got to win battles to get them back. And (the Flyers) just, to me, won a few more battles than we did tonight."
Video: TBL@PHI: Kucherov tallies off of Namestnikov's feed
3. THE TIME IS NOW
Part of Cooper's message to the media in his post-game press scrum centered around the Bolts' need to start finding its way and playing more like the team we've come to expect the past two seasons.
Otherwise, 2016-17 could get away from the Lightning in a hurry.
"The time is now, that's it," he said.
The Lightning gave away a chance to gain ground in the Wild Card race with their loss in Philadelphia. Now they hit the road to take on the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the second half of a back-to-back set. The Bolts have had little regular season success in the Steel City, going 1-8-1 over their last 10 games, the only victory coming last season in a 4-2 win on February 20.
With each mounting loss, chances to gain ground and secure a playoff spot continue to slip for Tampa Bay.
"It's too bad because everybody's losing all around us," Cooper said. "That's not going to happen forever, and we're scrambling to find our way back into the mix, which we did over the break. And now in one short week, we're right back where we started with a long road trip, and a back-to-back coming tomorrow and then a six-gamer on the road."