Lightning cuts down on goals allowed in win over Kings

Tampa Bay has allowed three goals in two games, though they weren't against high-scoring opponents.
Los Angeles Kings' Nate Thompson (44) is defended by Tampa Bay Lightning's Braydon Coburn, right, during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, in Los Angeles.[AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez]
Los Angeles Kings' Nate Thompson (44) is defended by Tampa Bay Lightning's Braydon Coburn, right, during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, in Los Angeles.[AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez]
Published January 4
Updated January 4

LOS ANGELES — The Lightning isn't worried about eating habits or a gym membership. If it had a team New Year's resolution, it was to allow fewer goals. It started making good on that on New Year's Eve and continued with the first game of 2019.

The Lightning has allowed three goals in its past two games, a 2-1 overtime win against the Ducks on Monday and a 6-2 win over the Kings on Thursday. It hadn't allowed fewer than three in the previous four.

"We didn't give up much," Ryan Callahan said after beating the Kings. "That's been our big concern over this stretch, making sure we're not getting away from the defensive zone, making sure we're taking care of the puck."

The Kings may not be a potent opponent — they are last in the league in goals scored with 94 — but neither are the Flyers, 24th with 114, and they put five on the Lightning — three in the third period — in an overtime loss Dec. 27.

After allowing those five goals to Philadelphia and then five to Montreal two days later, Anton Stralman said Tampa Bay needed to do better on defense. It would get offensive chances no matter what, so it might as well play good defense, he said.

To some extent, the Lightning needed to re-focus. It is an offensive team with a lot of skill. Letting defense slip could be understandable. The players and coaches know that can't continue long term.

"The quicker you nip it — the quicker you realize the areas you need to improve in, even when you're winning — the better off you are as a team," Callahan said.

That it didn't take a loss to address defensive issues is a sign of the organization's strength.

The Lightning talked about the need to shore up its defense and brought out more defensive drills in practice a few games before this stretch.

"It starts with odd-man rushes," coach Jon Cooper said. "When you don't give those up, you're probably taking away some scoring chances. They've tightened it up defensively, but it all starts in the offensive zone, the way you're tracking back, making sure that we have more numbers than them on the way back."

That means don't try to do something fancy or try too hard for the perfect goal and then get exposed going the other way.

The Lightning's next game will be a bigger test, however. The Lightning tonight takes on the Sharks, who entered Friday fourth in the NHL with 145 goals scored.

The Lightning last month got into track meets with Calgary (a shootout win) and Winnipeg (an overtime loss), both in the top 10 in goals, but it held Colorado, with two of the league's top scorers, to a single goal in a 7-1 win Dec . 8.

The Lightning can score. Now it has to continue to uphold that resolution of fewer goals against.

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