TAMPA, Fla. - When the Flyers resumed play after a holiday break, they allowed Tampa Bay little attack time Tuesday night at the sold-out St. Pete Times Forum.
But the Lightning converted almost every one of their opportunities against sagging goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.
Tampa scored on four of its first 10 shots - including a pair of goals by Steven Stamkos - as it defeated the Flyers, 5-1.
Mathieu Garon, the Lightning's journeyman goalie, badly outplayed Bryzgalov, who lost his fourth straight. Garon has a $1.3 million cap hit, compared with Bryzgalov's $5.7 million.
The Flyers lost despite outshooting the hosts, 32-16. Unlike when the Flyers were here in November, Tampa rarely used its 1-3-1 neutral-zone trap.
Bryzgalov was sarcastic when a reporter asked him to describe his performance.
"Outstanding!" he said.
"How I can describe? What do you think? Lose 1-5. After [expletive] 2-4. After 0-6, how do you think I think about my game?" he asked, referring to some of his recent losses.
Added Bryzgalov: "The team [Flyers] played very well. Their goalie played an outstanding game, but simply our goaltending, by myself, got to be better. It's the bottom line."
Coach Peter Laviolette was asked if he was concerned about Bryzgalov.
"In the end, everybody can be a little better," said Laviolette, whose team managed just one shot, total, on four power plays.
Tampa Bay, which started the night 13th in the 15-team Eastern Conference, took a 2-1 lead as Bryzgalov failed to control a rebound and was beaten by Stamkos with 12 minutes, 35 seconds left in the second period. That started a three-goal Lightning assault in the second period, a stanza in which the Flyers managed just three shots.
About seven minutes later, former Flyer Steve Downie made it 3-1 by scoring off another rebound.
With the Flyers down by two goals, winger Wayne Simmonds tried to spark his team when he pounded Eric Brewer with 7:28 remaining in the second period. The Tampa Bay defenseman was dazed, bleeding, and had to be helped off the ice.
Tampa increased the lead to 4-1 on Stamkos' power-play goal with 1:15 to go in the second period. It was scored while Max Talbot was serving a double minor (boarding, unsportsmanlike conduct).
Stamkos' second goal of the night and 22d of the season, tying him for the NHL lead pending Tuesday's results, gave the Lightning four goals on 10 shots against Bryzgalov, who took just an .895 save percentage into the game.
The Flyers will be in Pittsburgh Thursday before returning to face the New York Rangers in the Winter Classic on Monday.
After Tuesday's morning skate, Laviolette said he didn't think the Flyers would look past the Lightning or Penguins and ahead to the hyped-up Classic.
"The teams that find success and find themselves pushing at the top of the conference are the ones that stay focused on the job at hand, day to day," he said. "I have not mentioned" the danger of looking past teams. "They seemed sharp out there this morning."
The Flyers carried it into the opening period, dominating in every aspect but not on the scoreboard.
The Flyers outshot the Lightning, 17-4, in the first 20 minutes, but needed a late goal by Scott Hartnell to take a 1-1 tie into the first intermission. Hartnell scored on a rebound - his 11th goal in the last 17 games - after Claude Giroux deliberately fired the puck off the end boards and then shot it on net. Garon, who was brilliant in the first period, made the save, but Hartnell buried the rebound.
It was Hartnell's 17th goal, tying him with Giroux for the team lead.
Earlier in the first, Tampa scored on just its second shot, as defenseman Bruno Gervais beat Bryzgalov with a long drive. Bryzgalov may have been screened, and the shot appeared to deflect off the stick of teammate Brayden Schenn.