TAMPA, Fla. – It got to the point in the second period of Sunday’s 6-0 loss at Carolina that trainer Tom Mulligan made more appearances than the Lightning had shots on goal: 2-0.
While Nikita Kucherov (puck to face) and Victor Hedman returned, the latter skated only one more shift before his afternoon was done thanks to what appeared to be a back injury after getting tangled with Carolina’s Andrei Svechnikov. Coach Jon Cooper did not have an update following the game.
Then there was Mikhail Sergachev doing all he could to get to the bench after taking a third-period shot off the inside of his left knee.
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Indeed, injury was heaped on top of insult at the end of a weekend in which the Lightning lost at Buffalo and in Raleigh by a combined 11-3. A 5-3 loss to the Sabres on Saturday appeared closer than it really was thanks to a pair of third-period goals by Alex Killorn, a period that was played with the trio of Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point not seeing the ice.
The lost weekend stretched the Lightning’s winless streak to five games, the club’s longest since March 2014. They have been outscored 27-11 in going 0-4-1. Dating to a 1-0 shootout loss at Arizona on February 15, Tampa Bay is 2-5-3 with the only victories against an Anaheim team in or near the Western Conference basement for much of this season, and against Detroit in a game the Bolts were badly outplayed.
“We’re in a rut right now,” said Cooper, whose team was outshot 38-14 on Sunday, including 11-0 in the middle period. “At some point, you just have to work your way out of it. You show some signs of getting out of it then, all of a sudden, you take one step forward and two steps back. At some point, we have to take one step back and two steps forward.”
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The Lightning remain in third place in the Atlantic Division, five points behind Toronto. Both teams have 19 games remaining. They are 11 points up in the wild card. In other words, it looks like another first-round meeting with the Leafs with the only question being home ice. Of course, the Lightning have far more pressing questions at present and perhaps they can find some answers during a four-game homestand that gets underway Tuesday evening against the Flyers.
“We’ll look to get home and reset because it can go the other way just as quick,” said Stamkos, a minus-9 in his last 11 games and with only three goals in his last 17 matches. “One positive thing can kind of snowball it the other way, so that’s what we’re looking for. But it’s not just going to happen. You just can’t talk about it. You’ve got execute it.”
The Golden Knights (Thursday), Blackhawks (Saturday) and Jets (Sunday) follow the Flyers into Amalie Arena.
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