The Lightning’s season-long five-game road trip was an important one to prove to the team that it can win consistently away from Amalie Arena.
The trip started with Tampa Bay winning its first three games. But it ended with losses in Edmonton and Calgary.
The Lightning had plenty to think about on their flight back to Tampa after ending their trip with a 6-3 loss to the Flames on Saturday.
They ventured west with a .500 road record, subpar by team standards, and played three well-rounded games in wins in St. Louis, Seattle and Vancouver. But as they did two nights earlier against the Oilers, the Lightning rallied from an early deficit but couldn’t hold off the Flames.
“It’s just frustrating,” coach Jon Cooper said. “You’re going on a five-game trip out west, a bunch of different time zones, you start out 3-0, and to drop these games — especially, we had a tie game going in the third against Edmonton; we had a 2-1 lead in this one, even though we probably didn’t deserve it — and then to drop them both without getting points, that’s probably not kind of our style.”
Despite keeping his team in the game with a 35-save effort, Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy lost back-to-back starts for just the second time this season.
It didn’t take long to tell that the Lightning (29-15-1) didn’t have their best game in Calgary. The Flames spent most of the game in the offensive zone and had a 32-9 advantage in shot attempts (15-4 on goal) in the first period on their way to a 72-52 advantage (41-24 on goal) for the game.
After allowing a power-play goal by forward Nazem Kadri with 2:02 remaining in the first period, the Lightning scored a pair of goals in 48 seconds in the second to take a 2-1 lead.
Steven Stamkos, whose road trip was highlighted by his 500th career goal Wednesday in Vancouver, scored his fifth in the past three games. He snapped a shot past goaltender Dan Vladar with 9:40 left in the second period, his only shot on goal of the game.
On the next shift, forward Vladislav Namestnikov scored his fourth goal of the season. At that point, the Lightning led despite being outshot 24-10.
Calgary forward Tyler Toffoli’s wraparound attempt just over a minute after Namestnikov’s goal went off Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman’s skate in the paint and into the net to tie the score at 2. Defenseman Rasmus Andersson’s shot from the point five minutes after that also hit off Hedman in front of the Lightning net before changing trajectory and getting past Vasilevskiy, putting Calgary ahead 3-2 with 2:40 left in the period.
Forward Dylan Dube’s goal off the rush extended Calgary’s lead to 4-2 just under eight minutes into the third.
Tampa Bay’s second-ranked power play went 0-for-6 and couldn’t convert a four-minute advantage following a double minor for high-sticking on Flames forward Blake Coleman. The Lightning managed just one shot on goal during that power play and had just seven shots in 12 minutes of man-advantage time for the game.
“For us, you need your best players to be your best players, and they weren’t (Saturday),” Cooper said. “When that goes on, then usually it doesn’t work out too well for us, and that’s what happened.”
Moments after the Lightning pulled Vasilevskiy for an extra attacker, forward Anthony Cirelli scored to make it a one-goal game at 4-3 with 4:02 left. But the Flames got empty-net goals from forward Jonathan Huberdeau and Coleman to seal the win.
That the Lightning return home with more points (six) than games played (five) typically serves as a good benchmark from a trip. But given the way they started, Cooper wanted more. Tampa Bay faces a daunting home slate this week, facing Minnesota, Boston and Los Angeles before heading into the All-Star break.
“To me that’s always a successful trip,” Cooper said. “But when you go 3-0 and then drop the last two, it makes it a little sour. But we’ll take it. We were above .500 on the trip. It just puts a little more stress on us at home to do a little better than that.”
Lightning forward Pat Maroon exited the game with just under 13 minutes remaining, favoring his right shoulder after getting bumped in traffic in front of the net. He did not return.
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at email@example.com. Follow @EddieintheYard.
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