The Tampa Bay Lightning are not following one of the basic tenets of sports: You want to be playing your best as the playoffs approach.
Mired in a five-game losing streak and with a star player injured, the Lightning will try to win for the first time since Feb. 25 when the Philadelphia Flyers come to town Tuesday night.
The defending Eastern Conference champions have dropped eight of their past 10 outings (2-5-3). With 19 games left in the regular season, they hold an 11-point lead for third in the Atlantic Division over the Buffalo Sabres, Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers.
For a team accustomed to so much success, the extended failure feels foreign.
Captain Steven Stamkos failed to produce a shot in his team’s 6-0 blowout loss at the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday — his team’s second six-goal defeat in a month and second setback over the weekend.
In fact, few Lightning players had shots at all — eight produced only 14 on goal. Even worse, they didn’t send any on Carolina goaltender Frederik Andersen in the middle 20 minutes — becoming the first team this season without a shot in a period.
“We’ll look to get home and reset,” Stamkos said. “You can go the other way just as quick.”
Said Lightning coach Jon Cooper: “We’re in rut right now, and at some point you’ve just got to work your way out of it.”
The team lost defenseman Victor Hedman early in the second period on a hit by Carolina’s Andrei Svechnikov that twisted the 2018 Norris Trophy winner and sent him hard to the ice and wall. He has been ruled out of Tuesday’s game.
“I’d put him in that day-to-day category,” Cooper said of the 6-foot-7 Hedman.
On Sunday against wild-card-pursuing Detroit, the homestanding Flyers played a strong game in a 3-1 win, handing the Red Wings their sixth straight setback (0-5-1).
In a 2-1 tilt late with the Wings pushing for overtime, Philadelphia’s Scott Laughton — in his 500th career game — put the game away by scoring into an empty net for his 15th tally of the season.
The victory was the Flyers’ first since Feb. 20, when they beat the Calgary Flames 4-3 on the road.
Coach John Tortorella’s team is 2-6-2 over its past 10 outings but made very little noise during Friday’s trade deadline.
Many had expected high-priced forwards James van Riemsdyk or Kevin Hayes to be dealt by Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher after his club’s disappointing campaign. But those two stayed put.
However, Philadelphia did make one move of note, acquiring feisty left winger Brendan Lemieux and a 2024 fifth-round draft pick from the Los Angeles Kings for forward Zack MacEwen.
Lemieux, the son of gritty former NHLer Claude Lemieux, debuted Sunday against Detroit with one shot on goal and a plus-3 performance in 14:24.
“I love it. I’ve always wanted to play in Philly,” said Lemieux, who was goalless with three assists in 27 games for the Kings. “I’ve already had more of an opportunity than I’ve had all year so I’m enjoying it. It’s nice to be playing hockey again and I’m having fun right now.”
Following Tuesday’s game in Florida, the Metropolitan Division side will finish its three-game trip at Carolina and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
–Field Level Media