The top-ranked offense in the National Hockey League must still be at the terminal at Tampa International Airport.
Despite entering its game against the Philadelphia Flyers with a league-high 39 goals and wins in five of its previous six games, the Tampa Bay Lightning failed to provide any energy offensively Tuesday night.
Players were lackadaisical with the puck, inefficient on odd-man rushes and passive on the power play, generating just 22 shots in the 2-1 loss.
Although Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov made some spectacular saves in the game, Tampa Bay struggled to score against a team that has sputtered to start the season, losing six of its first nine and allowing the ninth-most goals in the league.
Needing to prove it could handle opponents on the road, Tampa Bay came out and played an uninspired game.
Right wing BJ Crombeen may have noticed the lack of effort early on as he dropped the gloves with Flyers center Zac Rinaldo early in the first to try to fire his team up.
Fittingly enough, his misguided effort led to him being beat down by Rinaldo, nearly to the point of knockout.
When Crombeen’s fighting major backfired, Lightning goaltender Anders Lindback had to fight off the energized Flyers with a series of incredible saves that kept the game tied.
In the second, Philadelphia exposed the Lightning’s lack of focus when left-wing Tom Sestito snuck on the ice unseen by Tampa Bay, received a pass from right-wing Jakub Voracek and scored through Lindback’s five-hole.
Sestito entered the game with more fights in his career than shots (25 to 11). Tampa Bay let a fringe-NHL player score twice, supplying both of the Flyers’ goals in the game.
That’s right, after a Flyers defensive lapse led to an easy goal for left-wing Benoit Pouliot (3), Sestito took the lead right back for Philadelphia, scoring the game’s final goal at 11:11.
It was déjà vu all over again, as Sestito simply beat left-wing Pierre-Cedric Labrie down the ice, found himself in front of the goal and scored through Lindback’s legs for the second time.
Tampa Bay’s lack of focus spread to its start players as well, center Vincent Lecavalier was baited into a fight late in the third and center Steven Stamkos was sent to the box for interference at 12:36.
Although Tampa Bay escaped the penalty kill, the loss of Lecavalier on a successive power play was painfully clear. The power play lacked aggressiveness and just sat in the Philadelphia zone passing the puck around until even strength returned.
Despite a 6-on-4 for the final 13 seconds that came courtesy of defenseman Braydon Coburn’s holding the stick penalty, Tampa Bay came up short.
Philadelphia wanted the win more, played more aggressively and got what they deserved. They will now try to win the final two games of a critical early season home stand against the Florida Panthers and the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Panthers come to town Thursday night.
The Lightning, off to a troubling start on its four-game road trip, will take on the New Jersey Devils Thursday night at 7 p.m. ET. Tampa Bay must take control of its road woes before things begin to snowball.
The best Tampa Bay can hope for is that its top-ranked offense catches a flight out of Tampa and meets up with the rest of the team in Newark.