NEW YORK -- Steven Stamkos' frustrations were already building before he got to New York City. The effort he witnessed from the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden sent him over the edge.
Stamkos pulled no punches with his comments about the way his team played in a 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers, its third straight defeat, fourth in the past five games and ninth in regulation over the past 13 games.
The Lightning were outshot 20-3 in the first period, 35-11 after two and 42-25 overall.
"It's embarrassing, the first 20 minutes," Stamkos told NHL.com seconds after tossing the final scoresheet out of his hands. "I mean, 20-3 in shots, we need to wake up. There's really nothing else. Our goalie kept us in the game, thank God, but it's embarrassing."
Stamkos has tried to stay positive through this brutal stretch. He's tried to believe the Lightning will eventually pull out of their slump and start playing like they did when they opened the season 6-1-0.
He's held on to the belief they will wake up and start putting points in the bank to get comfortable in a winnable Southeast Division.
It's hard for him to believe any of that now -- not after the way the Rangers outhit, outhustled, outsmarted and outmanned his team Thursday.
"We're not playing with enough desperation," said Stamkos, who assisted on Tampa Bay's goal but won five of 20 faceoffs, contributing to the Lightning losing 66 percent to the Rangers.
"I mean, we didn't hit anyone," Stamkos continued. "We didn't make any plays. We didn't put the puck in deep. It was so easy for them [the Rangers] in the first and we dig ourselves a hole again. Every game is the same thing."
Stamkos is not alone in his frustrations.
Defenseman Victor Hedman also used the word "embarrassing" to describe the way the Lightning played.
"We weren't there," Hedman said.
Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher said New York basically had no opponent for the first two periods. When the Lightning finally came to play in the third (they outshot the Rangers 14-7 and had several quality scoring chances on goalie Henrik Lundqvist), they still offered nothing in the way of tangible production.
Their overall effort was way too late anyway.
"You can't win on the road or at home if you show up in the third period," Boucher said.
A reflective Martin St. Louis, who was shocked the Lightning were trailing only 2-1 despite being outshot 35-8 at one point in the second period, talked about commitment to each other as teammates, playing for one another, and masking another guy's mistake by making a good play of your own.
The Lightning are getting none of that now. It shows in their play and it translates to their 3-9-1 record over the past 13 games.
"You have to look at yourself in the mirror and be honest about your game," St. Louis said. "To be positive is one thing, but being honest with yourself is a lot more important than being positive."
There were no positives to take from Thursday's game. As Stamkos said, it was more of the same for the struggling Lightning.
They have enough firepower to come back in a lot of games, but in six of their 11 losses this season (shootout included) they have trailed by three goals or more.
It's catching up to them.
"Talk about work ethic before, it's not there right now. Guys aren't making any plays," Stamkos said, this time to a group of reporters. "We want to be hungry for the puck. We're in the NHL. We want guys to make a play, but make the right play. Go in, get a forecheck on, get a hit, get pucks to the net.
"It's at a point right now where we need to step up, the leadership, and we need to make it happen. We can't wait around for guys to get going here. It's 20 games into a season that is only 48 games.
"There is enough talking going on. We need action."