Tampa Bay Lightning penalty kill doing the job
When talking about Tampa Bay Lightning special teams, so much of the chatter is about the stumbling power play. The good work being done by the penalty kill has been overlooked, but after it's huge kill late in the third period Saturday during a 2-1 win over the Sabres, it deserves some recognition.
For the season, the Lightning penalty kill is 23rd in the 30-team league with an 80.7 efficiency. But in the past 10 games, Tampa Bay has killed 25 of 27 penalties. No surprise, the Lightning is 7-1-2 in those games.
Better goaltending certainly has helped, but much better defensive zone coverages really have been the backbone of the resurgence.
"Probably just being a little more aggressive," defenseman Eric Brewer said. "I don't know if we've changed everything. We're just making reads and dealing with them as opposed to thinking about reads and then making them."
Case in point was the penalty kill against the Sabres which began with 4:33 left in the third period. Tampa Bay cleared the puck five times from the defensive zone and the Sabres got just one shot on goal.
"They're a lot more confident than they were earlier," said assistant coach Dan Lacroix, who runs the penalty kill. "The guys are a lot more aggressive when they need to be. The guys are really reading those triggers."
Other morning stuff: As expected, Mathieu Garon gets the start in net for the Lightning. The last time Garon played a back-to-back, he beat the Panthers on consecutive nights, allowing two goals on 49 shots. ... Defenseman Matt Gilroy, who left Saturday's game with an upper-body injury, will sit out against the Penguins. Left wing Ryan Malone (upper body) also still is out, though coach Guy Boucher made it sound more like a precaution than anything else, and Malone said he has not had any setbacks. Defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron (back) also is out. ... Right wing Adam Hall, a scratch the past two games, is back in the lineup. ... Defenseman Victor Hedman was speared in the privates by Buffalo's Zack Kassian during the third period of Saturday's 2-1 win. Contact was made after Kassian yanked his stick from between Hedman's legs. "It's one of those things that can happen," Hedman said. "I don't know if it was intentional or not. (Kassian's stick) got caught up in there and I don't know if he tried to get his stick out or what. He got two minutes." For slashing, actually. "It's obviously painful," Hedman said. "Nothing to worry about now. A new game today." ... Boucher had plenty of good things to say about Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin, the league's leading scorer. "He's a monster out there who can skate, sees everything, can put the puck inside your pants and out, and he can shoot," Boucher said. "He just has it all. You can't handle him one-on-one. You don't know what he's going to do and he's got the speed, the size, the reach to really give it to you."