The Tampa Bay Lightning lost for the second game in a row, falling 3-1 to the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center, ending their five-game win streak against the Devils in the process.
In what has become an all-too-familiar theme, the Lightning going down early. But unlike the second game of the season when they fell behind 2-0 in the first period to New Jersey only to rally for a 3-2 victory, the Lightning were unable to dig themselves out of their deep hole in New Jersey.
The Bolts will try to keep the hemorrhaging to a minimum Sunday when they take on the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. It won't be easy, however, as the Lightning will be playing the second half of a back-to-back for the first time this season.
So where did the Bolts falter in New Jersey?
We'll break down the loss with 3 Things that prevented the Lightning from prevailing.
1. SLOW START DOOMS BOLTS (AGAIN)
Video: Cooper on loss to New Jersey Devils
For the second-straight game this season against New Jersey, the Lightning surrendered two first-period goals to the Devils and trailed 2-0 after 20 minutes.
Unlike the first time the two teams hooked up, the Bolts had little in the tank to rally.
In the second game of the season, the Lightning netted three-consecutive goals for a come-from-behind victory that gave them their fifth-straight win in the regular season over New Jersey.
But on Saturday, once the Devils jumped into the lead early, they were determined not to give it up.
"If we want to have long-term success in this league, you can't fall behind," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "On our home stand, we found ways to come back, but it's just a recipe for disaster. I look back, I think we've only scored once in the first period all year. You're not going to win too many hockey games if you're always chasing the game.
"Our urgency has not been there for whatever reason in the third period against Montreal, and it just carried into tonight. That's too bad because that's a team you catch on a back-to-back. It's a little tough for us too because we've been on the road for a week and more than that, so both teams have wear and tear on them a little bit but we've got to be better for us to win tonight."
The Lightning should have been able to take advantage of a New Jersey team playing its second game in two nights, especially since the Devils went into overtime a night earlier against Chicago before falling 3-2.
Instead, it was Tampa Bay who looked tired and out of sorts.
2. THE BACKBREAKER
After falling behind 2-0 through 20 minutes, the Lightning came out with more purpose to start the second period. Cooper sent out the blue-collar fourth line to spark the Bolts with physical play, and the grouping of Cedric Paquette, Brian Boyle and J.T. Brown went to work, hitting everything that moved and outworking the Devils to start the second.
Paquette even got into a fight with Sergey Kalinen to try to get the Bolts going.
Roughly two minutes into the period, the Lightning earned a power play when Adam Henrique was sent to the box for cross-checking. The Bolts spent the subsequent man advantage with the puck buried deep in the New Jersey zone and set up chance after chance but couldn't convert against Devils goaltender Cory Schneider.
About a minute-and-a-half after the power play expired, the Devils went up 3-0 when Nick Lappin threw a puck from the boards at the net, and Devante Smith-Pelly was net-front to tip the shot past
Andrei Vasilevskiy, a deflating goal for the Bolts considering all the hard work they put in to start the period.
"We had some good movement on that particular (power play)," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. "We had some shots, but you've got to find a way in tight games. Special teams (are) usually sometimes a difference maker. But, like I said, you get down by three goals in this league, it's tough to win."
Up 3-0, the Devils could afford to sit back and play a more defensive game to limit the Bolts' chances.
Had Tampa Bay been able to convert on that early second-period power play, however, the outcome might have been different.
3. SHOTS NOT GETTING THROUGH
Video: Stamkos on 3-1 loss to New Jersey
The Lightning outshot New Jersey 33-23, including a 12-8 advantage after the first period.
But, despite throwing more pucks at Schneider, there were many more pucks that never made their way through.
That's because the Devils did a spectacular job of getting in shooting lanes and keeping good scoring chances from ever reaching the All-Star goalie.
And when it looked like the Lightning were about to set up a decent opportunity, the Devils were able to deflect the puck or interrupt the pass to prevent the chance from ever developing.
The final stat sheet showed New Jersey had eight blocked shots to the Bolts' two.
"They blocked shots, but we had 30-something shots. It's just a matter of doing what it takes to score goals," Stamkos reasoned. "You've got to go to the dirty areas. You've got to go to the net. You've got to find a way to get shots through, little things that we're not doing that it's no wonder why we're not seeing the results. We've got to get back to the things that are sometimes tough to do in this league but they're effective when you do."
After losing 3-2 in overtime to the Blackhawks on Friday, New Jersey came out ready to do whatever it took to win on Saturday against Tampa Bay.
The Lightning would be well-served to follow suit against the Rangers on Sunday.