TAMPA — Thursday set up for the Lightning as a perfect storm of elements leading to a letdown.
Two days earlier Tampa Bay played an emotionally charged, playoff-intense match up against a division opponent they are likely to see in the postseason that resulted in a playoff-clinching victory in front of an energetic crowd.
The Lightning faced the exact opposite against a Western Conference cellar-dweller as Calgary came to town and handed Tampa Bay a 4-1 loss in front of an announced crowd of 17,945 at The Forum.
Mike Cammalleri had a goal and as assist while Curtis Glencross scored twice for the Flames. Kevin Westgarth also scored for Calgary while former Lightning goaltender Karri Ramo made it stand up with 31 saves.
Ondrej Palat had the lone goal for Tampa Bay. Ben Bishop finished with 21 saves for his 13th loss of the season as Tampa Bay’s eight-game point streak on home ice came to an end.
The loss keeps the Lightning tied with Montreal for second place in the Atlantic Division, which would carry home ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs, with five games remaining for each team. Montreal currently holds the tiebreaker with more wins in regulation and overtime.
No matter how much the coaching staff tried to get the attention of the locker room to keep up a playoff mentality in an attempt to avoid all the elements of a trap game, the Lightning fell right into it.
“The players in the room need to take a little accountability for themselves, too . . . they didn’t show up ready to play,’’ Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “Your season is not near over. You are playing at home, it’s the National Hockey League, every team is good, and every team is trying to win a hockey game. You can’t just throw your sticks in the middle of the ice and win a hockey game.
“Preparation, work ethic, they have to bring that. And mentality I just don’t think we were there in the first period.’’
Specifically it was a span of 15 seconds that proved costly for Tampa Bay in the first period on goals by Cammallari and Westgarth. The first came on a mental error by Bishop, who went behind his net to play the puck, and then when pressured by the Calgary forecheckers, Bishop sent a pass right on to the stick of Cammalleri for a quick shot into the vacated net at 10:20 of the opening period.
“I wish I could have that one back,’’ Bishop said.
Westgarth then found a rebound to give Calgary a 2-0 lead at 10:35 and carried that lead into the first period after outshooting Tampa Bay 8-5.
“I don’t think we came as ready as we should,’’ center Valtteri Filppula said. “I don’t really know the reason. Maybe after the goal to reach the playoffs (was attained) there was a little bit of a let down after that. . . . We are disappointed in how we started.’’
The Lightning turned it up in the final two periods, outshooting the Flames 27-16 in the second and third periods combined, with Palat’s 20th goal of the season 15:56 into the second period cutting the deficit to 2-1 entering the third period. But the Flames finished with 24 blocked shots on the night and when the shots did get through, the Lightning did not make Ramo work hard for the saves he made with little-to-no traffic in front to create screens or find rebounds.
Glencross scored a power play goal with 1:56 left in regulation and then capped it off with an empty net goal with 15.2 seconds left in the game.
“This should be a wake up call for us,’’ said captain Steven Stamkos, who hit a post with 3:04 left that could have tied the game. “Big games we play so well and the other teams we are playing that are not in the playoffs, we play like (expletive). You can’t expect to just turn the switch on and off, we have to realize that in the room. And it starts with us, and we have to adjust it ourselves. Hopefully you learn from this because this not acceptable.’’