With 18 wins through 28 games, the Tampa Bay Lightning have become accustomed to winning during the 2014-15 season.
So, when the Lightning lose, especially to one of the teams at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings like Saturday’s 3-1 home defeat to Columbus, it can be a shock.
It can also serve as a rallying point for the Bolts.
At Monday’s morning skate, a determined and focused Tampa Bay squad took the ice looking to turn the page from an underwhelming performance two days ago.
“I think I’ve seen this with teams in the past that I’ve coached, when you lose games and there’s almost that I can’t believe we just lost game, blown away that we lost the game,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “Guys are genuinely irritated and pissed that we lost. You like that from your group.”
The Lightning have been exceptional at not letting defeats pile up and turn into a losing streak. The Bolts haven’t lost more than two games in a row this season.
Conversely, they’ve had win streaks of four and six games.
“We like to say good teams don’t lose two in a row,” Lightning forward Tyler Johnson said. “So, we really try to emphasize that, try to get motivated to not let that happen.”
Tampa Bay will try to bounce back Tuesday when they host the Washington Capitals. The Bolts have lost two of three but are 11-3-1 at Amalie Arena this season.
“It’s easier to stay on a roll than to get on a roll,” Johnson said. “You don’t want to get on a [losing] roll. It’s a hard habit to break. You just try to nip it in the bud right away and we’ve done a good job of that.”
Despite falling in two of their last three, the Lightning gave up less than 25 shots in each contest.
In a shootout loss to Buffalo, the Sabres only had 22 shots.
Two days later, Buffalo could only muster 13, a season low for Tampa Bay opponents.
Saturday, Columbus put just 20 shots on Ben Bishop’s goal.
“There are some positives you can take out of a loss, and, I thought overall, we gave (Buffalo), I think we gave them four, five scoring chances [Saturday],” Cooper said. “They just scored on three of them, although I don’t even know if the goals they scored you can consider scoring chances. They were just seeing-eye singles that found a way to go in.
“And if those are going to go in, you just might as well get them all out of the way in one game.”
The Lightning are allowing an average of 27 shots a game, the third-best mark in the NHL. That total is over two shots below (29.2) what the Bolts were surrendering last season.
“As we get better as a defensive unit…we’ve watched our goals against drop consistently now for the last three or four weeks because we’re playing better defense,” Cooper said.
POWER PLAY DROUGHT
Since scoring five power-play goals over a four-game stretch versus Minnesota, Ottawa and two games against the New York Rangers, the Lightning haven’t been able to get much going with the man-advantage since.
During the last three games, the Bolts have gone just 1-of-10 on the power play, their only power-play goal coming with a 5-on-3 advantage late in a 5-0 shutout of Buffalo with the outcome already decided.
One of the major issues for Tampa Bay of late has been advancing the puck into the offensive zone on the power play. Too many passes are getting intercepted at center ice, which hasn’t allowed the power play much time to set up.
“I think it’s just execution,” Johnson said. “We haven’t really done what we’ve wanted to do. We’re not coming in with a lot of speed, and you just need that on the power play. The good thing is you can adjust and change that pretty quickly.”
Despite the recent struggles, Tampa Bay’s power play still ranks among the league’s best. Entering Monday, the Lightning were tied for fifth in the league with 22 power-play goals in 97 opportunities, a success rate of 22.7 percent.