Guy Boucher can understand losing a game. It’s going to happen. What the Lightning coach cannot abide is giving one away.
That is what happened Saturday night in Tampa Bay’s 4-2 loss to the Rangers at the St. Pete Times Forum.
“We wasted a game,” Boucher said. “It’s a question of urgency, reliability, sticking with the game, and it’s not there.”
The Lightning (11-12-2) lost its third straight by allowing three third-period goals — one by former Lightning Brad Richards was an empty-netter — that overcame a 2-1 lead provided by goals from Steve Downie and Tom Pyatt.
This was a game the Lightning needed; Monday the team begins a stretch of seven games in nine on the road, where it is 4-8-2.
But defensive mistakes led to New York’s tying and winning goals, and a general lack of urgency on offense in the final two periods — in which Tampa Bay was outshot 27-16 on its way to 36-26 in the game — didn’t help.
It all led to an agitated Boucher alternately threatening to bench players and “build them up.”
“There’s always a team that decides to lose before one that decides to win,” Boucher said. “What I mean by that is there is always a team that changes the way of playing either because they’re soft or they cheat or whatever.”
“It just shows you the focus is on and it’s off.”
In the third period, defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron coughed up the puck in the defensive zone after a Ryan Callahan check. Artem Anisimov scored, and the score was 2-2 6:16 in.
“We got a puck around our blue line with full pressure, and we don’t put the puck forward, and we’re soft,” Boucher said. “There’s no excuse for that.”
“I tried to make a play. It wasn’t there,” Bergeron said. “I turned around and got stripped of the puck, and they scored, and that was it.”
Not quite. Derek Stepan scored with 3:19 left — giving the Rangers 12 wins in their past 14 games — after he was left alone in front of the net.
Both goals came on rebounds after terrific stops by goalie Mathieu Garon.
“It’s a game of errors, but those ones, you can’t excuse,” Boucher said.
There was no excuse, either, for the disappearance of Steven Stamkos (zero shots), Marty St. Louis (zero) and Vinny Lecavalier (two).
Boucher said the whole team “stopped shooting” and “played the perimeter.”
“It’s frustrating,” Pyatt said, speaking generally. “We have to figure this out, and we have to figure it out soon.”
The road awaits.