For the Lightning, the worst part of Wednesday night’s 4-2 loss to the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena was the game was there for the taking.
But Detroit scored timely goals in the third period while Tampa Bay did not.
Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard made timely saves while the Lightning’s Dwayne Roloson a couple of times did not.
Detroit capitalized on defensive blunders while Tampa Bay needed perfect plays to score.
“They know how to win,” Lightning center Steven Stamkos said.
And the Lightning (11-11-2) is finding ways to lose.
Against the Red Wings, who won their sixth straight overall and seventh straight at home, Tampa Bay overcame a 2-0 first-period deficit with second-period goals by Marty St. Louis and Stamkos, whose 16th goal tied the score with 14 seconds left and tied Toronto’s Phil Kessel for the league lead.
But that was as good as it got for the Lightning as Detroit scored twice in the third period to extend its unbeaten streak at home against Tampa Bay to 11 games (0-10 with a tie).
Tomas Holmstrom’s power-play goal was lucky as he batted in a floating puck with his stick shaft. Darren Helm’s short-side goal with 6:46 left was the insurance.
“To me, this is a top-notch, Stanley Cup contending team,” Lightning coach Guy Boucher said of the structured and defensively sound Red Wings, who had a 35-23 shot advantage.
The Lightning, on the other hand, has lost six of nine, a stretch that has featured some well-worn themes.
After Detroit’s two first-period goals, the Lightning has been outscored 26-14 in first periods.
“We can’t keep on getting into holes and trying to battle back,” Roloson said. “We can’t make miracles every day.”
Defensive mistakes led to at least two goals. Defenseman Victor Hedman turned the puck over, and St. Louis and Steve Downie blew the defensive zone before Pavel Datsyuk scored in the first period. Tampa Bay gave way too much skating room before Helm’s goal.
Roloson was a stalwart at the end of the first period, but he probably should have stopped Datsyuk’s and Helm’s goal.
The struggling road power play was 1-for-4 but 0-for-2 in the crucial third period. Missed opportunities also continued to hurt. The most dramatic was Matt Gilroy’s third-period breakaway thwarted by Howard’s glove save.
“If we’re generating all these chances, we have to be doing something right,” Boucher said.
“We played well enough to be in this game,” Stamkos said.
“We didn’t play well enough to win it.”
St. Petersburg Times