OTTAWA — Coach Guy Boucher knows his team has some issues to work out if they expect to compete with the top clubs in the league.
Andrei Vasilevskiy made 27 saves as the Tampa Bay Lightning went into Ottawa and beat Boucher's Senators 4-1 on Saturday.
"It's clear we're just not there yet," said Boucher.
"We've got work to do. We showed we were able to play with them at times, but to be able to compete with a team that's expected to compete for the Stanley Cup we definitely have more work to do."
Boucher said part of the problem was trying to force plays.
"It's what hurt us in the first and killed us in the third," he said. "We were a lot better in the second when we played with speed and pressure and stopped trying to make plays where there were none."
Coming into the game, the Lightning hadn't been pleased with its overall game, but Saturday's performance was definitely a step in the right direction.
"For probably 40-50 minutes it was the best we've played all season," said Steven Stamkos, who's second-period goal held up as the winner. "The first 20 minutes was definitely the most dominating and you build on that.
"We came out and got the lead for the first time this year which was nice."
Vladislav Namestnikov, Alex Killorn and Valtteri Filppula also scored for the Lightning (4-1-0), who were playing their first road game of the season. .
Chris Neil scored the lone goal for the Senators (3-2-0) as Craig Anderson made 31 saves.
Anderson had been the difference for the Senators for much of the night, but didn't look great on Killorn's goal that made it 3-1.
Killorn now has four goals in five games.
Filppula made it 4-1 late in the third and it was clear the Senators wouldn't be mounting a comeback.
"They came out and played a better game than we did right from the start," said Ottawa's Erik Karlsson. "Unfortunately that's the way it's going to be some times. We didn't have our best today.
"I think we had a stretch there where we made a good push, but their goalie stood tall, bailed them out when they needed to be bailed out. We really didn't find the energy we needed to come back in the third."
Despite a better effort in the second, the Senators found themselves trailing 2-1 after 40 minutes in front of the 15,918 at Canadian Tire Centre.
Namestnikov opened the scoring at 2:36 with the man advantage. Tampa made it 2-0 at the six-minute mark, on the power play again, as Namestnikov made a cross-crease pass to Stamkos, who ripped it past Anderson.
"Our start was fine," said Anderson. "We got out of the first period 0-0 then got into a little penalty trouble. The (penalty kill) just didn't get the job done. I'm a big part of that. My job there is to be a big part of that PK, and I wasn't good enough."
The Senators challenged the goal believing the play was offside, but after a lengthy review the goal stood.
Ottawa got on board at 15:27 as Neil picked up his own rebound. Vasilevskiy made the initial save, but wasn't able to freeze the puck and Neil got a stick on it.
Ottawa had two power plays in the second, but continued to struggle with the man advantage.
"I think it's better than it looks," said Karlsson. "It probably looks a little bit frustrating, watching it sometimes, but I feel like we're there, we just missed those small details. We need to definitely start scoring some goals, but at the same time we're five games in, and there's a long season. A lot of things are going to happen and that's one thing we're definitely not worried about."
The Senators now head out for a three-game, eight-day western Canadian road trip.
Notes: D Thomas Chabot and LW Matt Puempel were healthy scratches for the Senators. D Matt Taormina was a healthy scratch for Tampa... This marked the first time Ottawa coach Guy Boucher faced his old team since being fired from the Lightning in 2013.