TAMPA – Give Lightning coach Rick Tocchet credit for being philosophical after Saturday night’s excruciating 3-2 shootout loss to the Sabres at the St. Pete Times Forum.
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No blame, no excuses, just this bare fact:
“The team is still learning how to win,” he said. “That’s a tough loss, but you learn from your mistakes and move on. That’s what winners do. We have to learn how to win.”
What the team has to learn is to tighten up in the last minute of a period. It also has to figure out shootouts, as it fell to 0-3 in them this season and 3-13 including last season.
Of greater concern, though, were two late-period gifts Tampa Bay gave Buffalo.
There was Drew Stafford’s sharp-angle goal with 16.1 seconds left in the third period that sent the game into overtime and Mike Grier’s goal with 45.5 seconds left in the second that made the score 1-1.
Both wiped out feel-good moments for the Lightning (3-3-3).
Captain Vinny Lecavalier scored his first goal in 16 games with .5 seconds left in the first period, and Steven Stamkos scored his seventh, and third in two games, for a 2-1 lead 4:26 into the third.
“It’s really disappointing, especially the way we played,” Stamkos said. “Once we got that lead, I thought we kept pressing. We didn’t give them much, and then they shoot the puck at the net, and they seem to find a way in.”
Stafford’s shot, from the bottom of the faceoff circle to goalie Mike Smith’s left, seemed to go through the goalie after it got through a tangle of sticks.
“No excuses,” Smith said. “I just went to go paddle-down, and my stick got caught in someone else’s stick in front, and (the puck) just made its way through. You can’t let goals in from that angle.”
And you can’t cough up pucks in the defensive zone, which is what rookie defenseman Victor Hedman did leading to Grier’s goal. It was one of Hedman’s four giveaways.
As for the six-round shootout Buffalo won 1-0, six Lightning players failed to score on goalie Ryan Miller, though Lecavalier’s backhander hit the crossbar.
Stamkos, Ryan Malone, Alex Tanguay, Mattias Ohlund and Marty St. Louis failed as well, and the Lightning is a numbing 0-for-10 on shootout attempts.
Sabres rookie defenseman Tyler Myers scored for Buffalo.
“It’s our fault,” Stamkos said. “Smitty did what he had to do. We didn’t score one.”
Tampa Bay did get a point for the regulation tie. Still, Tocchet said, “There’s no way to sugarcoat it. We got the game, and we let Buffalo back in.”
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