COLUMBUS, Ohio — The offensive play of the Lightning looks lost in a deep winter freeze.
For the third time in the past five games, and second in as many games, Tampa Bay failed to get on the board, dropping a 1-0 decision to Columbus on Tuesday in front of an announced crowd of 10,223 at Nationwide Arena.
Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 18 shots before leaving with an injury while Curtis McElhinney stopped all eight shots he faced to preserve the shutout as Tampa Bay lost a 1-0 game for the first time since Nov. 4, 2010, at Los Angeles.
Nick Foligno scored the only goal of the game in highlight reel fashion while Ben Bishop took the hard-luck loss while making 20 saves, marking his fourth consecutive game of allowing two or fewer goals with only one victory to show for it in that span.
But without any offensive support for the goaltenders, Tampa Bay has dipped to a 2-5-1 record in the past seven games. In the six losses, Tampa Bay has scored a total of six goals.
“You can’t win in this league if you don’t score goals,’’ Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “Our commitment to go to those areas you need to score, is not there, it’s just not. ... It’s unfortunate but we are going through a little stretch right here, and it’s an 82-game season, and stuff like this is going to happen. But the problem is that it’s happening in real time and they are learning by watching teams pass us in the standings. And we are not going to get these games back.’’
The back-to-back shutouts mark the first time the Lightning have been held without a goal in consecutive games since Nov. 23-25, 2003, in 0-0 tie against Carolina and a 2-0 loss to the New York Rangers.
Not counting an empty net goal by Tyler Johnson in Wednesday’s victory against Philadelphia, Tampa Bay has gone 115 minutes without putting a puck past a goaltender.
The scoreless streak on the road, meanwhile, was extended to 137 minutes, 13 seconds dating back to the third period in San Jose. The franchise record without scoring a road goal is 157 minutes, 29 seconds, which was set in March, 1996.
“If you are not (ticked) or frustrated, something is wrong with you right now,’’ captain Marty St. Louis said. “We have to win battles in the offensive zone. If it’s off the rush, we are done, we have to be able to sustain offensive pressure and that usually starts with winning a battle. And when you do that, you get more offensive zone time. When we don’t, it’s coming the other way and you have to go defend.’’
Tampa Bay started the game spending a majority of time in the Columbus zone, limiting the Blue Jackets to just eight shot attempts.
But in the second period the tide turned quickly as Columbus capitalized on three defensive zone turnovers by Tampa Bay, the first by Teddy Purcell along the boards, the second by Andrej Sustr and finally by Valtteri Filppula who was stripped of the puck by Ryan Johansen near the right faceoff circle. Johansen was able to feed Foligno who cut across the crease, put the puck between his legs before pulling his stick back and flipping the puck over Bishop 4:30 into the second period.
“He poke-checked it away from me . . . I thought I had him but he made a good play and then it was a really nice goal,’’ Filppula said. “But obviously that’s a turnover that you are not supposed to have, and that’s on me.’’
The goal was one of 28 shot attempts Columbus took in the second period after attempting just eight in the opening 20 minutes of play.
“We both went to the dressing and I think our guys got a little taste thinking that it wasn’t going to be that hard of a game physically,’’ Cooper said. “It was almost a rope-a-dope because they came out charging in the second period and we had zero answer. For a lot of the season there has been a lot of fight in the dog and for one game there wasn’t. And it will be our job to get that fight back.’’
Tampa Bay did have its chances in the third period to try and get even in the game, but J.T. Brown was robbed on a breakaway with a glove save by Bobrovsky at 4:13 of the third period, the same play in which Bobrovsky had to leave the game with an injury as he was helped to the locker room without being able to put any weight on his left leg.
“He was quicker with his glove than I was with the shot,’’ Brown said. “I thought I could beat him, but I didn’t’’
The Lightning also had a late power play chance on a phantom tripping call on Jack Johnson, but could only muster one shot on goal as the slump with the man advantage fell to 4-for-46.
St. Louis had a backhand chance off a nice play from Victor Hedman, but St. Louis was unable to get enough lift on the puck to get it over McElhinney with 1:23 left in the game.
“I tried to get it up as fast as I can, I was in tight, but I couldn’t get it up fast enough,’’ St. Louis said. “Maybe I should have tried to go around, but I don’t know. I’ve tried to replay that 15 times already, and I just didn’t get it done.’’