NEW YORK - Tampa Bay found futility it had never accomplished in its history Monday when a 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden was finished off.
In none of the Lightning's previous 14 seasons had Tampa Bay opened the season with a four-game road losing streak. The only other previous time the Lightning failed to pick up a win in their first four road games came to start the 1993-94 season when they were 0-3-1.
Johan Holmqvist's 32-save effort, which was the only reason the Lightning even had a chance to win, turned out to be a wasted effort as Tampa Bay gave up a pair of late power-play goals to unlock a tie game through two periods. The Rangers entered the game with the fewest goals scored in the league and had just three goals in their previous four games combined, including only one on 17 power-play chances. New York had scored three or more goals in a game three times in the first 10 games.
After the game, Lightning coach John Tortorella didn't hide his frustration with his team's play in an expletive-laden, two-answer session with the media.
'We were undisciplined, but up until then we had one player play, our goalie,' Tortorella said. 'Our goalie gives us a chance after two periods and we can't put 20 minutes of disciplined hard hockey together, so we're not even close tonight, not even close, so we don't deserve anything. We spent more time looking at referees for calls ... moaning about it instead of playing, so we don't deserve to win tonight.
'It's very frustrating to see one guy show up tonight and play, and that's our goalie. That's it.'
Not even the return of defenseman Dan Boyle, back in the lineup after missing the first nine games, provided a spark for Tampa Bay, which has been outscored 18-9 on the road this season and has not led for one minute of action away from home.
'I don't know, I don't really have any answer for the road struggles,' said Holmqvist, who faced a season-high 35 shots. 'Tonight we were in the game, then we take a couple of penalties and it's tough on the road when you take two or three penalties in the third period. It's tough to defend that.'
The only reason Tampa Bay was in the game was because of the play of Holmqvist and a penalty-shot goal by Vinny Lecavalier, the second of his career in six chances and just the fourth conversion in franchise history on 24 attempts.
But with the game tied entering the third, Tampa Bay took three penalties in the opening 12 minutes of the period. New York scored on two of them, the first by Jaromir Jagr at 10:45 with a shot appeared to deflect off the skate of Paul Ranger and the second by Brendan Shanahan in front of the net at 13:29.
The Lightning's power play, meanwhile, failed to convert on four chances - including consecutive chances in the first period - generating four shots on goal. Tampa Bay is 1-for-17 with the man advantage away from home (5.9 percent) and 0-for-the-past-10 on enemy ice.
'Homer kept us in the game and we couldn't help him out in the third,' right wing Marty St. Louis. 'We get caught in penalties ... special teams, they bang it in. We had our power plays and on the road you need your power play to get you some goals and we haven't.'
And Tampa Bay still hasn't won a game away from friendly ice, which had never occurred in team history this far into the road schedule - until Monday.