Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 10/18/11
TAMPA It was a grand-opening kind of night at theSt. Pete Times Forum, with 40 million worth of dazzling renovations unveiledfor the much-anticipated home opener of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Music blared through the arena on massive, state-of-the-art digital pipe organ. More than 19,000 fans settled excitedly into new cushioned theater-style seats. Hundreds of new sports lights were in place to showcase all the action. Unfortunately, the Bolts were anything but grand with the revamped houserocking Monday evening unless you count the grand funk they currently findthemselves in. Make that five straight losses now for the Lightning, in the wake of a 7-4setback to the Florida Panthers that spoiled the show in the upgraded digs. Though the electricity in the crowd sizzled during the pre-game buildup, TampaBay fizzled in falling to 1-3-2 following a grueling five-game, 10-day roadtrip that started the season. Maybe it was fitting that the bolt-shootingcoils installed on catwalks to celebrate home goals weren't ready to fire yet,either. It was the Lightning's second straight loss to the Panthers, following a 3-2shootout defeat Saturday night in South Florida. And the story on this nightwas penalties, with Florida converting five power-play goals. "Right now, I think you have to give them credit because they playedwell," said head coach Guy Boucher. "They did well on the power playand they moved the puck well, so we needed to adjust quicker and we didn't. Welost this game on the penalty kill. We took way too many penalties." If fans were hoping to see a semblance of the Lightning team that blasted intothe playoffs last spring and came within a hair of reaching the Stanley CupFinals, they were sorely disappointed. This group is still searching for chemistry and consistency something thePanthers seem to be developing at 3-1. And it was an odd sight indeed to seethem benefitting from a short-handed goal in the second period by new left wingSean Bergenheim, a key contributor to Tampa Bay's success last postseason. Clearly, this isn't how the Lightning envisioned the new script to begin. "It's very embarrassing," said left wing Ryan Malone. "You don'twant to do that to the fans with their hard-earned money, purchasing tickets tocome see a new rink and everything, which looks great. For us to come out likethat is not acceptable." The challenge now? "We have to keep things even keel," Malone added. "We have tolook at ourselves in the mirror and pick it up because obviously we weren'tgood enough. I don't think we deserved to win too many of these hockeygames." But that doesn't mean it's time for the Lightning or their fans to hit thepanic button. For starters, this is a long season and you only have to recallthe recent start of a certain major league baseball team from the area 0-6and 1-8 and remember where it finished up to know how sharply fortunes canchange. Second, Tampa Bay has skated a fine line between victory and defeat so far. Ifthe Bolts could have maintained a 5-4 lead in Washington in the final minutes,they would have averted a shootout loss and stood at 2-1, instead of 1-2. Theynarrowly lost to Florida two nights earlier in a shootout. And Monday night, with the crowd screaming, they pulled to within 5-4 of thePanthers at the 10:53 mark of the third period when star center Steven Stamkosunleashed a rocket shot for his second goal of the season. It looked as if the Lightning might be poised to send those fans home happyafter all until center Stephen Weiss scored his second goal of the game with4:32 to play and Jason Garrison added the final power-play score of the nightin a 5-on-3 situation just over a minute later. "We were undisciplined tonight," Stamkos said. "Their power playreally beat us tonight and unfortunately this is our fifth loss in a row. Wetook too many penalties. It's a big disappointment." How do he and his teammates turn things around? "Well, first of all we have to stay disciplined," he said. "Ourpenalty kill was great all of last year, all of the playoffs, but eventuallyyou give teams too many opportunities and the chances of them scoring aregreater." Boucher saw it this way: "We won the game 5-on-5, and we scored on a powerplay we didn't get a lot, one out of three so 33 percent. We lost on thepenalty kill." The second-year head coach plans to review the tape before offering hisjudgment of what precisely went wrong on the penalties or assessing the jobdone by goalkeeper Dwayne Roloson. In the meantime, his level of concern remains in check in spite of the rockystart. "My concern level is always the same throughout the year whether we'vewon 10 in a row or lost 10 in a row," he said. "The job is alwaysabout the next day. We've got the Islanders coming (Thursday) and this one isdone. And if we can stay 5-on-5, we're going to give ourselves a chance. Weknow they're a very fast team, a very skilled team coming here. Everybody knowsthey're supposed to be the surprise of the year. And so we'll try not to be assurprised as the last time we went there (with a 5-1 loss last Thursday)." As for the latest loss on such a festive night, Boucher wishes it could haveplayed out differently. "It's always a sting to be honest with you," he said."Obviously, the whole organization worked really hard and you want to giveit back to them on the ice. But the reality is it's the same two points as thenext game and the game after that. And for me as a coach, I can't focus on theshow." Right now, the Lightning just have to find a way to stage one.
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