LOS ANGELES — The Tampa Bay Lightning have hit their first valley in the season.
Tampa Bay's 5-2 loss to Los Angeles Tuesday in front of an announced sellout crowd of 18,118 at Staples Center marked the first time this season the Lightning have lost back-to-back games.
The Kings were dominant in handing the Lightning their seventh loss of the season in 21 games, as Tampa Bay was outshot 31-21, a margin that was closer than the shot clock made it appear as Tampa Bay had just nine through two periods.
Anze Kopitar, Matt Frattin, Justin Williams, Dwight King and Dustin Brown all scored to help the Kings build a big lead, allowing Ben Scrivens to pick up his fourth consecutive game in net in the absence of Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick.
“Coming out West is a tough trip,'' Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “I'm sure L.A. was licking their chops for this game after what happened in Tampa (a 5-1 Lightning victory on Oct. 15).''
Valtteri Filppula and Victor Hedman scored for Tampa Bay, which fell to 7-2 on the season against Western Conference opponents. Ben Bishop allowed all five goals, matching a season high, while finishing with 26 saves.
“I can't sit here and say our guys didn't try. We tried, it's just that we've hit a little bit of a rut,'' Cooper said. “Where our goalie was making the saves and we were tipping pucks and pucks were going in for us, now they are not going and they are hitting posts or not hittin the net. And pucks that weren't going in our net are now going in our net.
“Everything evens itself out. But I look for work ethic and our guys worked. I felt we did a lot of good things out there tonight, we just did not get any bounces.''
Tampa Bay started off the game in good shape, getting the first three shots on goal. But Los Angeles started to exert its will on the Lightning for most of the remainder of the opening period, getting the next six shots including Kopitar's goal at 14:58, and 10 of the next 11. Along the way the Kings build up a two-goal lead when Slava Voynov's shot from along the right wall was redirected off the stick of Frattin to the near post at 16:49 for a power play goal.
Tampa Bay received its first power play chance with 2:34 left in the period, but failed to cut the deficit in half, though Teddy Purcell put one off the crossbar with 36 seconds left for the best scoring chance.
The second period pretty much picked up right where the first ended as Los Angeles went on to another power play chance 38 seconds into the period when Brett Connolly went off for goaltender interference. As the penalty time ticked off, Drew Doughty stick-handled his way through the right faceoff circle. Doughty then slipped a pass to Williams, who tried to backhand a pass into the slot, but the puck first deflected off the skate of Matt Carle right into the past of a sliding Killorn who pushed it into the net at 2:38. The Kings' second power play goal of the game was credited to Williams.
“I thought the first 10 minutes we played great. We were getting pucks deep and we were playing well,'' Bishop said. “They got a lucky bounce there to end the first and they got a lucky bounce to end the second.''
Pierre-Cedric Labrie, playing his first game since Oct. 29, then took a double minor for high sticking at 3:50 to put the Lightning back on the penalty kill. But Tampa Bay managed to hold the Kings off the board and keep the game within distance before getting a chance to get back in it with a four-minute power play after Jake Muzzin swung his stick around to catch Marty St. Louis across the bridge of his nose.
Instead of building momentum, however, the Lightning fell into a deeper hold. Bishop tried to clear a puck around the boards, which was void of any Tampa Bay teammates, and instead found Linden Vey who fired a puck on net that was deflected by King for a shorthanded goal at 15:08 and a 4-0 Kings lead.
“We get a big kill and then let them right back in with a short-handed goal there,'' Bishop said. “That's unacceptable and we just have to play better. We can't expect to win games if we are not playing our best, especially against a team like that.''
Filppula pulled one back for the Lightning as Victor Hedman made a nice cross-ice pass to him for an open-net goal at 16:17, which ended the shutout streak for Scrivens at 191 minutes, 19 seconds. The goal for Filppula was his nith of the season, surpassing his total from last season with Detroit.
With an assist on the play, St. Louis, playing his 1000th career with Tampa Bay, moved into a tie with Lightning assistant coach Steve Thomas for 92nd on the all-time scoring list with 933 points.
More sloppy play gave the goal right back, however, when a soft pass by Connolly inside the defensive zone was put right on the stick of Frattin, who found Brown alone down low for an easy goal and a 5-1 lead with 2:45 left in the period.
In the opening minutes of the third, Tampa Bay pulled back a goal as Hedman kept the puck in at the blue line and fired off a quick wrist shot that deflected off Los Angeles defenseman Alec Martinez and past Scrivens 1:22 into the final period to make it 5-2. The goal was the fourth of the season for Hedman, one short of his career high, and his third multi-point game of the season, one more than last year. The goal also marked the 100th career point for Hedman.
But Tampa Bay would get no closer.
“We are getting some unlucky bounces, a little bit, so that makes this look worse,'' St. Louis said. “I don't think this was a 5-2 game, but we've had some good bounces go our way this year and right now it's not. I believe if you work hard enough you will get some of those bounces, but it probably all washes out in the end.
“Right now we are not getting those bounces, so we have to go out and get them.''