TAMPA — As the Lightning turns added another couple of pages to the script Thursday.
With all the drama surrounding the possible return of star Steven Stamkos and his sudden reversal of fortune while recovering from a broken leg and Marty St. Louis’ inclusion to the Canadian Olympic roster in place of Stamkos, Tampa Bay now adds this to the mix – starting goalie Ben Bishop left Thursday’s game due to injury while second leading scorer Valtteri Filppula left during the third period and did not return in a 4-1 loss to Toronto in front of an announced sellout crowd of 19,204 at The Forum.
Bishop left after making 21 saves through two periods and did not return with what the team called an upper body injury. Bishop missed a week in early January with a sprained right wrist and left early in the first period on Jan. 30 in Ottawa after being hit in the back of the head by the skate boot of teammate Nikita Kucherov, but did not miss a game.
Cedrick Desjardins allowed two goals in the opening 10 minutes of the third period and finished with 11 saves to take the loss.
Filppula, second on the team with 20 goals and 41 points, left four minutes into the third period with a lower body injury and did not return. Filppula missed Saturday’s game at Montreal with a lower body issue, believed to be his hip or leg.
Tampa Bay has one game remaining before the two-week Olympic break.
“The soap opera continues of crazy things that happen in a period,’’ Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “So I suppose if the break is good timing, it’s probably decent timing for us, but this is a one-game season for us (on Saturday) and we have to play that like it’s make the playoffs or bust, that’s the type of game it is for us, then we can take a breath for a couple of weeks and hopefully get some guys back.’’
The loss was the fourth in the past five games for Tampa Bay, which has seen its lead for second place in the Atlantic Division trimmed to one point ahead of Toronto and Montreal. Tampa Bay has lost twice to Toronto in the past 10 days.
The Lightning have scored a total of four goals in the past three games.
“Right now we are leaking oil a little bit,’’ Cooper said. “For the first time in a long time I could see the frustration building on our team on the bench, and it wasn’t where guys are mad each other, they are mad at themselves. When things aren’t going well sometimes you tend to come out of your comfort zone and try things that you normally wouldn’t and they usually don’t work. We’ve kind of jumped into that trap a little bit.’’
That was evident in the opening 15 minutes of the game when the Lightning had complete control of the game, buzzed in the Toronto zone while creating several scoring chances while building an 8-1 shot advantage, while actually generating 24 shot attempts (including missed shots and blocked shot attempts). But after not scoring, the Leafs turned the momentum after a Radko Gudas interference call and out shot Tampa Bay 8-1 on the final five minutes of the first period.
“We are just missing a little, oomph,’’ St. Louis said. “We played well at times and we are just missing that killer instinct and we are not very opportunistic. ... We had that good start and couldn’t get the lead. I felt we were getting good chances.’’
The Leafs would grab the lead as Mason Raymond found a seam behind Alex Killorn to create a breakaway chance and converted with a backhander over Bishop 7:57 into the second, a goal that held up through the end of the second period. When Bishop didn’t come out to start the third, Toronto capitalized on a Jay McClement goal at 2:19 and James van Riemsdyk batting in a rebound at 8:10 to build a 3-0 lead. Only Ondrej Palat’s goal with 9:12 remaining ended the shutout bid for Jonathan Bernier, who finished with 33 saves.
Nuts and Bolts
Desjardins left his crease during a late-game scrum behind the net after J.T. Brown was pushed into Bernier with 1:43 left in the game. Desjardins was assessed a minor for leaving the crease. ... C Tom Pyatt and D Keith Aulie were scratched. ... Tampa Bay is now 0-for-16 on the power play in the past seven games. ... The Lightning won 44-of-66 faceoff attempts (67 percent).