The Tampa Bay Lightning have struggled to find any consistency this season. A home loss to the league's worst team indicates their problems may be much worse.
The Lightning hope to rebound from their most disappointing defeat of the season Saturday when they host the Montreal Canadiens in the opener of a home-and-home series.
With several star players on their roster and only two seasons removed from a Stanley Cup, expectations were high for the Lightning (17-19-2), but they have lost 10 of 14 and are 14th in the Eastern Conference.
Tampa Bay appeared to be turning the corner when it scored four third-period goals in an improbable 4-3 victory Saturday over the New York Rangers for its third straight win. Since then, however, the Lightning lost 2-1 to Atlanta on Tuesday before a 4-3 defeat Thursday to Philadelphia, which had dropped a franchise-record 10 straight.
"It's a game we've got to win at this time of the year against a team that's struggling," defenseman Dan Boyle said.
The Flyers held a 4-1 lead after two periods before goals from Filip Kuba and Ruslan Fedotenko in the third made it close. Tampa Bay outshot Philadelphia 46-25, but again was let down by its goaltending, which has been a sore spot all season.
Marc Denis began the season as Tampa's top goalie, but has been a disappointment with an 8-11-2 record and a 3.16 goals-against average, one of the league's worst totals. Johan Holmqvist has been better at 9-8-0 and a 2.99 GAA, but hasn't established himself as the team's undisputed starter.
"We have to continue to stay together and work through this," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "At times we look like we are just about there ready to break through and we stutter with our consistency. To fluctuate the way we do, that needs to be corrected."
Although it hasn't translated into wins on a consistent basis, Tampa Bay does have two of the league's top scorers with Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier.
St. Louis is tied for the league lead with 25 goals, tallying eight in his last eight games. Lecavalier is fifth in the NHL with 49 points, including three goals and five assists during a five-game point streak.
This is the final stop on a four-game road trip for Montreal (22-10-5), which is coming off a 3-1 loss Friday at Florida.
Defenseman Mark Streit scored the lone goal for the Canadiens, losers of two of three following a season-high, five-game win streak.
"During the first 40 minutes, we made the strong plays in our zone and didn't give them second chances," Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau said. "On both goals in the third period, we had the puck and just lost it."
With an assist Friday, captain Saku Koivu has seven goals and 13 points in his last 10 games.
Carbonneau could stay with No. 1 goalie Cristobal Huet on Saturday or may turn to backup David Aebischer.
Huet has been very good against the Lightning, winning three of four career starts while stopping 119 of 126 shots. Aebischer has won his last two starts after going winless in his previous five.
The Canadiens have won the first two meetings this season and five of the last six against the Lightning.