GLENDALE, Ariz. — Whatever it is, the Tampa Bay Lightning were missing it on Saturday.
Tampa Bay started slow and never recovered in a 6-3 loss to Phoenix in front of an announced crowd of 12,562 at Jobing.com Arena.
The loss is the first this season for the Lightning against a Western Conference opponent in eight games, and the six goals allowed is a season high.
“We just really didn’t have it tonight, for whatever reason,” captain Marty St. Louis said. “It could have been many things, our execution, our effort at times, it can be a lot of things. We just didn’t have it.”
Martin Hanzal had a goal and three assists while former Lightning forward Radim Vrbata had three assists. Former Tampa Bay goaltender Mike Smith stopped 27 shots for his first victory against the Lightning since leaving as a free agent following the 2010-11 season.
Ben Bishop allowed three goals on 14 shots before leaving after taking a shot up high while Anders Lindback was saddled with the loss, allowing two goals on 15 shots. Richard Panik scored his first of the season, J.T. Brown notched his first career goal, and defenseman Andrej Sustr had his first career two-point game with a pair of assists. Alex Killorn scored a late goal for his sixth of the season as Tampa Bay’s record fell to 14-6.
Despite the setback, head coach Jon Cooper was upbeat about his team after the game.
“We’ve played 20 games and I am the farthest thing from disappointed,” he said. “This game could have happened in game one, game six, game 10 or game 20, so I’m looking at the big picture. We’ve pretty much hit the quarter pole (of the season) and I like the way we’ve played. Did I like the way we played tonight? No. But I’m not disappointed in our team.”
The Coyotes scored twice in the first period, the first on a power play goal — the first allowed by Tampa Bay on the road since Oct. 8 — by Michael Stone and the second on an unfortunate bounce.
After Bishop played the puck behind the net up the wall to Radko Gudas, Hanzal stepped in front of the puck. As he was falling to the ice, Hanzal sent the puck into the crease where it caromed off the right skate of Bishop and into the net 57 seconds after the first goal for the 2-0 lead.
Early in the second, with Phoenix on a two-man advantage, Bishop took a shot to the mask off the stick of Oliver Ekman-Larsson and stayed hunched down on the ice for a second, which was enough time for the puck to squirt over to Mike Ribeiro for an open net goal 1:48 into the second period. Team trainer Tom Mulligan came out to check on Bishop, who then left the game after allowing three goals on 14 shots, though he would come back to the bench a short time later.
“You take a 90-mile-per-hour shot to the side of your face, it takes a second to get your bearings, and you would like a whistle there, but I guess not,” said Bishop, who allowed more than two goals for the third time in 16 starts. “It doesn’t feel good getting hit in the head. ... And it was just one of those nights. They are not always going to be good nights, and tonight wasn’t good.”
The Lightning started to skate better after falling down by three goals and looked to get back in the game when Panik notched his first of the season off a feed from Tyler Johnson at 16:19 of the second period. But Phoenix answered 46 seconds later when defenseman Connor Murphy, called up earlier in the day to make his NHL debut, regained the third-goal lead.
“Every time I thought we were seizing a little bit of momentum, we make it 3-1 and the next shift they score to make it 4-1, and that’s unacceptable,” Cooper said.
Brown zipped a wrist shot past Smith for his first career goal 50 seconds after Murphy’s first career goal to make it 4-2, but Phoenix made it 5-2 at 1:37 into the third to squelch any thought of a Lightning comeback.
“There were a lot of factors that went into us not playing well, and it was tough,” Cooper said. “We just didn’t have it tonight. Some games the puck is on your stick, some games it hops over your stick. Sometimes your stick is in the lane, sometimes it’s not. Most of the time your goalie makes the save and sometimes they don’t. And if things are going to go wrong for us, I’d rather they all go wrong in one game.”
Tampa Bay 0 2 1 — 3
Phoenix 2 2 2 — 6
First Period—1, Phoenix, Stone 6 (Ribeiro, Rundblad), 15:58 (pp). 2, Phoenix, Hanzal 6 (Korpikoski), 16:55. Penalties—Ekman-Larsson, Pho (boarding), 8:15; Sustr, TB (tripping), 14:29; Killorn, TB (slashing), 20:00.
Second Period—3, Phoenix, Ribeiro 6 (Hanzal, Vrbata), 1:48 (pp). 4, Tampa Bay, Panik 1 (Johnson, Killorn), 16:19. 5, Phoenix, Murphy 1 (Vrbata, Korpikoski), 17:05. 6, Tampa Bay, J.Brown 1 (Purcell, Sustr), 17:55. Penalties—Crombeen, TB (tripping), 1:00; Moss, Pho (holding), 14:13.
Third Period—7, Phoenix, Doan 10 (Hanzal, Vrbata), 1:37. 8, Tampa Bay, Killorn 6 (St. Louis, Sustr), 18:58. 9, Phoenix, Korpikoski 4 (Hanzal), 19:41 (en). Penalties—None.
Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 4-12-14—30. Phoenix 11-10-9—30. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 0 of 2; Phoenix 2 of 3. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Bishop (14 shots-11 saves), Lindback 1-4-0 (1:48 second, 15-13). Phoenix, Smith 12-3-3 (30-27). A—12,562 (17,125). T—2:25. Referees—Jean Hebert, Mike Leggo. Linesmen—Shane Heyer, John Grandt.