A lack of concentration over a two-to-three-minute span Saturday night for the Tampa Bay Lightning led to an ugly 6-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche.
The Lightning are determined not to let a similar lapse in focus happen again.
They'll get their first chance to show they've learned from their mistakes tonight when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins at AMALIE Arena (8 p.m. puck drop).
"It was just little mental mistakes," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. "We're trying to pay attention to the details of the game and for that lapse we weren't really detail oriented and it was just easy execution plays that ended up costing us, being on the wrong side of guys, trying to make an extra play. It's tough. Especially when you have a team with the transition like Colorado, they've got some fast forwards, they pounced, they had an opportunistic game and the puck was in the back of our net. We've learned, we've had a couple hard practices here and we're ready to compete tonight."
Video: Stamkos on Bolts mentality tonight
The Lightning conducted one of their most demanding practices since training camp the day after that Colorado loss, Ryan McDonagh saying a video review session earlier that morning showed the team had fooled itself into thinking it'd done enough to win the game the night before. The Bolts didn't battle hard enough, weren't playing to their system and stopped paying attention to the details of their game, especially in the defensive zone. The ensuing practice featured numerous battle drills and plenty of physicality, the players taking their frustration out during the nearly hour-and-a-half long session.
Following a day off Monday, the Lightning were back at it Tuesday with another hard-nosed, battle-focused practice at the Ice Sports Forum.
The failures from the Colorado loss certainly got the attention of the team, coaches and players alike.
"We knew we were playing a really good offensive team, and we made a lot of turnovers in the neutral zone that led to their offense and they were great off the rush," Lightning defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "We're playing another team that is fully capable of doing that to us tonight. Want to make sure that we're cleaning those up. When one mistake happens, if a team scores a goal against us, we've got to make sure we don't let that snowball into two or three. It's going to happen during games, let up a goal here or there, but we can't have those big lulls like we've had so far in our losses. If we can correct that, then we'll be in good shape."
The Lightning have shown an ability to bounce back early in the 2019-20 campaign. A 4-3 loss at Carolina, one in which Tampa Bay was held to 13 shots overall and zero in the second period, was followed by a 7-3 runaway win in Toronto. A lackluster performance in Ottawa that saw the Senators pick up their first and only win to date spurred a defensive-minded outing three nights later in Montreal, the Bolts prevailing 3-1.
The Lightning hope a similar pattern follows tonight against the Penguins.
Video: Cooper on match-up with Penguins
"Since training camp we've tried to improve on some areas of our game," Stamkos said. "We're getting there. It's just more disappointing when we thought we played for the most part a decent game and then you kind of get behind the eight ball and then it's too little too late. That's the beauty of this sport is you usually in the regular season anyways have another game to make up for some mistakes, and we move on pretty quick here with the amount of games we play. We've certainly learned from that, and we'll look to be better tonight."
The Lightning will face a depleted Pittsburgh team tonight without superstar Evgeni Malkin as well as top forwards Alex Galchenyuk and Nick Bjugstad. But no matter who's in the lineup, the Penguins are always a dangerous opponent, especially as long as Sidney Crosby is on the ice. The Bolts can't get caught up in who's in or out of the Pittsburgh lineup. They need to focus on their game and, in particular, make sure the same mistakes that led to the Colorado blowout loss aren't made again.
"I think sometimes you get some(new) guys in (the lineup) who come in hungry and they're looking for something to prove," Shattenkirk said of Pittsburgh missing some of its top players. "You don't take them lightly at all. They're a team who's always got their structure in place no matter who's in the lineup and that's something they pride themselves on. Because of that you have to be ready for them no matter who's playing."