3 takeaways from Lightning’s ‘flat’ home loss to Senators

TAMPA — The Lightning insisted after Saturday’s seven-goal loss to the Panthers that the way they responded in their next game would show their true mettle.

But when they took the ice Monday night against the Senators at Amalie Arena, their performance wasn’t the inspired effort they promised.

Tampa Bay faded into the night, falling 4-2 to Ottawa for its second straight loss and marking just the third time this season it has dropped back-to-back home games. The Lightning lost two of the first three games of the four-game homestand that ends Thursday against the Capitals.

“We need points at this time in the season,” Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. “We had a push, but it’s a little too late, and preventable goals, too. It’s just a tough one to swallow. But we’ve got two days here with good practices to figure it out and get better for Washington.”

Forward Mathieu Joseph scored two goals, giving him four in five games against his former team since the 2022 trade that sent him to Ottawa, along with a 2024 fourth-round pick, for Nick Paul.

The teams just ahead of and behind the Lightning in the Atlantic Division standings both won Monday. Third-place Toronto took a three-point lead over Tampa Bay (30-22-5, 65 points), while Detroit moved within one of the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

“You can’t get this back,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “There goes an opportunity to get points and everybody around you won (Monday) and you didn’t, and so we can’t be doing this — win one, lose one, win two, lose two. That’s not going to get it done for us.”

Strong start, then no answer

The Lightning opened the game with five shots on goal in the first two minutes and outshot the Senators 6-1 over the first 4:12. But after that, they managed just four shots on goal over the next 32:31.

Over that stretch, Ottawa took a 3-0 lead. Tampa Bay had no answer for Tim Stutzle’s opening goal at 10:45, though it did have some quality chances. Steven Stamkos had an open look from the slot that Senators backup goaltender Anton Forsberg leaped forward to glove. Conor Sheary, who has just one goal in 39 games this season, had two good looks but couldn’t convert.

“That was the disappointing part of the night,” Cooper said, “that there was a ton of game left and we were just flat, just no emotion.”

Playing in his 700th game, NHL scoring leader Nikita Kucherov had no shots on goal, missing the net twice and having three attempts blocked.

The Lightning didn’t have a power play all night, which kept their top-ranked unit from getting an opportunity to take advantage of a Senators penalty kill that ranked 30th in the league.

Their own worst enemy

Though they knew the Senators’ best weapon might be their speed, the Lightning too often gave the puck away in untimely spots.

Three Ottawa goals came off the rush, including both of Joseph’s. On the first, he blocked Kucherov’s shot attempt from the high slot and went racing down the ice. Because Kucherov made a bad read while retreating and Hedman was caught up in the play, the Senators had a 2-on-1 breakaway. Joseph wound up on the receiving end of Claude Giroux’s well-placed feed that left Erik Cernak, the only man back, helpless.

Joseph’s second goal wound up being the game winner, after Stamkos turned the puck over at the blue line while entering the offensive zone. With open ice in front of him, Joseph hit another gear and sped past Cernak before beating Andrei Vasilevskiy blocker side for the second time.

“Super fast team, and they burned us a couple of times,” Hedman said. “When you play a team like that, you’ve got to get pucks deep and then let them go 200 feet. So if you turn pucks over, they’re going to go quickly the other way.”

Chaffee a rare bright spot

After the Lightning fell behind by multiple goals, Cooper jumbled his lines — according to Natural Stat Trick, there were 14 different combinations. Rookie Mitchell Chaffee moved up to skate with Mikey Eyssimont and Nick Paul to form the most productive line of the night.

Chaffee, who logged a career-high 14:37 of ice time, played perhaps the best all-around game of his 10-game NHL career. He scored Tampa Bay’s first goal, opportunistically taking a puck that went off the end boards and Ottawa defenseman Jakob Chychrun’s stick in front and filling the net.

Chaffee continued to show the physical play that has kept him in the lineup, registering five hits.

“I think this coaching staff has a lot of trust in me,” Chaffee said. “And I think I’ve kind of built that. I’m just going to keep trying to play my game and take advantage of the ice time that (Cooper) has given me.”

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