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Thursday, Oct 18, 2018
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What to do with those Lightning panic buttons

TAMPA —Don't you have to have won the Stanley Cup to have a Stanley Cup hangover?

The Lightning are 1-1. Given expectations, you'd think the sky was falling.

Come with me if you want to live!

Such is life after Tampa Bay's uninspired start. An underwhelming 4-1 loss to Vancouver on Thursday after a whelming 2-1 shootout win over the Panthers in the opener.

I'm not much on stats, or panic, but at this rate Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos will each score no goals this season. The power play will go 0-for-328.

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Note: Those numbers are subject to change.

"You never want to throw away points, but to say shoot, our season is going down the drain, is pretty ridiculous," Lightning center Tyler Johnson said. "You play 82 games. There's ups and downs. It's a marathon."

It's a marathon and the Lightning have barely crossed the start line. Two games. I'm not any more willing to say this Lightning start is ominous than I was willing to say the Bucs were back after they began 2-0 — and two games is one-eighth of the NFL season.

There is no need to panic. Yet. No one is calling for coach Jon Cooper's head, but leaving Amalie Arena on Thursday night, I did hear three people calling for his ankle.

I don't think this strange schedule has helped, the scarcity of games in the season's first six days. The Lightning has yet to find its rhythm. But that's no excuse for the lethargy in the opener, or schlepping through the third period as the Canucks took the lead with two goals in 70 seconds. The Lightning have two goals all season.

"You just can't take teams for granted or situations for granted," Cooper said. "You've got to play it out. The Canucks played it out and we didn't."

Anybody out there know where we can find a panic button, cheap?

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos isn't buying it.

"No. (We) led the league in goals last year," Stamkos said. "It's just a matter of time. That's the least of our worries right now."

There is no need for jungle madness. The Lightning do not yet need a blood transfusion from Johnny Tortorella, who hits town Saturday with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

But it's true that the best offense in the league last season is lurching out of the gate. The power play really is 0-for-8 (a mirthful juxtapose given the Lightning's improved penalty kill).

And it's true that the Lightning, who ran out front last season, all season, are two games into this season and already trail first-place Toronto by six points in the Atlantic Division.

It's easy to think about the 2016-17 season, when the Lightning missed the playoffs by one point, owing in part to a slow start. It learned its lesson and broke fast last season. It's easy to think the Lightning better dial it in in the three games left on this opening homestand before they hit the road for five games. Talk to me on the other side of that.

But does anyone out there really believe that Kucherov, one of the best players in the world, isn't going to start scoring? Does anyone believe that Andrei Vasilevskiy, one of the best goaltenders in the world, isn't going to stop a lot of pucks?

And have you noticed that last year's darlings, the Vegas Golden Knights, find themselves 1-4?

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"It's hockey," Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman said. "I don't think this is a worry."

"It's Game 2," Cooper said.

Put away the panic buttons.

Just be sure to keep them someplace safe.

Contact Martin Fennelly at [email protected] or (813) 731-8029. Follow @mjfennelly

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