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Tampa Bay Lightning

Bolts look to regroup after dismal trip

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Published:   |   Updated: November 24, 2013 at 09:28 AM

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Four games, three losses, one point.

It didn't turn out to be the worst-case scenario for the Lightning on their four-game tour of the southern portion of the Pacific Division, but it was close.

Only a 1-0 overtime loss with 5.2 seconds left on Friday night in Anaheim managed to salvage at least one point out of the eight possible on the trip through Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Jose and Anaheim. And it was a stellar 41-save performance from goaltender Ben Bishop, who came within five seconds of posting a shutout, that helped the Lightning salvage something from the final game of the trip to finish 0-3-1.

Bishop did so while battling dehydration, which he said started in the second period and kept him in the trainers' room for nearly an hour after the game to replenish his fluids.

The Lightning also played the final period and a half Friday without defenseman Radko Gudas, who suffered an undisclosed upper-body injury late in the first period, though Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said Gudas was held out for precautionary reasons.

Before the trip started, Tampa Bay sat atop the Eastern Conference standings. But without top center Steven Stamkos in the lineup, many wondered how the Lightning would fare on a trip dubbed by some as the “Quadrangle of Death'' as the top four teams in the Pacific have combined for four regulation losses at home this season.

The trip figured to be a tough task, even if Stamkos was healthy.

“You look at the schedule, these are good teams. All four are good teams and where they are in the standings you knew it was going to be a tough trip,” Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said.

A 6-3 loss in Phoenix appeared to be one bad game, but cause for some alarm went off during a similar effort in a 5-1 loss in Los Angeles.

But in the final two games of the trip, Tampa Bay regained some of its form, found its puck-possession game to a certain extent and started to tighten up in the defensive zone, allowing the one goal in Anaheim after letting in 16 in the first three games of the trip.

“I take some very positive things out of these games, believe it or not,” Yzerman said. “We have to play tighter games. We can't give up five or six a night, that goes without saying. In (Thursday) night's game, I thought the effort was outstanding. The energy and pace of the game was good. In our own zone we were not good, and that was with the puck and without the puck, against the Sharks and their top guys capitalized on any gaps in coverage.

“There were just too many Grade A chances. So it's a good lesson for us to realize how much better we have to be.”

On Friday, to a degree, that lesson was put to use, although Bishop was there to mask the breakdowns the Lightning did have, including three short-handed breakaway chances by the Ducks.

“We came in having given up 16 goals in three games, and then we give up one in 64 minutes, 55 seconds,” Cooper said. “So that's more of our identity of let's get some goaltending, let's clear the rebounds and not give them second chances, keep them to the outside.

“And for the most part, I thought we did that.”

What did Cooper learn about his team during the four-game slide before heading into a three-game homestand that begins Monday against the New York Rangers?

“I learned that our guys have some guts in them,” Cooper said. “We get to go home now to our fans and build on this on our home ice.”

eerlendsson@tampatrib.com

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