TAMPA — When the goals finally came, they didn’t stop.
Unfortunately for the Lightning four of them came off Chicago sticks within a 7:07 span of the third period to turn a 2-0 lead into a 4-2 deficit.
An empty-net goal completed a 5-2 loss to the Blackhawks on Thursday night at Amalie Arena.
The defeat was the Lightning’s fourth straight and in each game they have allowed at least four goals after going 26 straight without allowing more than three.
“We had pretty good control of the game and then the pucks started to go into the net,” said coach Jon Cooper, who was without the services of Steven Stamkos (lower body, day-to-day), Pat Maroon (undisclosed injury) and Blake Coleman, whose wife is expecting the couple’s first child.
Despite four powerplay opportunities for each team through the first two periods, the game remained scoreless until Brayden Point broke the ice at 15:31 of the second period.
Tampa Bay took a 2-0 lead 17 seconds into the third period when Point, from the left point, found Kucherov all alone low in the right circle. Kucherov caught Crawford out of position in putting home his 31st goal of the season.
Things looked good.
Looks can be deceiving.
Chicago scored twice in 26 seconds on goals down low by Brandon Saad and Dominik Kubalik, the latter coming at 5:02. Just under five minutes later former Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek scored his first goal of the season, which was the game-winner.
Kubalik scored on the powerplay at 11:42 to give Chicago a 4-2 lead. The 24-year-old completed his first-career hat trick into an empty net with 2:31 remaining.
“Some details in our game are slipping and it’s unfortunate because this result overshadows what we did in the game up until the last 15 minutes,” said Cooper, whose team was 28-0-4 when leading after two periods.
Tampa Bay failed to score on five powerplay opportunities and are now 4-for-57 in the last 22 games. The Lightning have not scored on the powerplay at home since January 7 against Vancouver. The Amalie Arena drought is now nine games in which they are 0-for-22.
“We had some good looks and created some momentum,” said Victor Hedman of the powerplay Thursday night. “It was a step in the right direction, but still, 0-for-5 is not good enough. It’s not up to our standard.”
It should be noted the Lightning put together an 11-game win streak even with their struggles on the man advantage. Now, though, some chinks in the armor have surfaced in other areas as well.
“When it’s not going well, you can look at a lot of things,” said Cooper. “It’s kind of gone south as a group. I’m not sitting here saying it’s goaltending, special teams, penalty kill or five-on-five play. It’s kind of a collaboration.”
A season-long five-game homestand continues Saturday afternoon (4:00) against Calgary.