Monday, April 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

All boxes checked on Lightning home stand sweep; now, back to the road

TAMPA — You don’t often see a coach making shadow puppets on the wall with his hands at the start of his postgame news conference, but that’s where the Lightning is these days after sweeping a four-game home stand with Saturday night’s 4-3 overtime victory against the Jets.

"A little bit of a rebound after a horrific road trip that we had, so you have to like the bounce back," coach Jon Cooper said.

It was the Lightning’s first sweep of a home stand of at least four games since January 2016. Tampa Bay is 13-2-1 at Amalie Arena this season and 17-2-2 in its past 21 home games dating to last season.

"I can look at this four-game home stand and we get all the results that we wanted," Cooper said. "We rose to the occasion when we had to. Our goaltending was there when we needed it. The team did what they had to do to win games and played all different kinds of ways against different teams."

RELATED: Brayden Point credits luck, opportunity for OT winner vs. Jets.

The four wins in four games was just what the Lightning needed after a road trip in which it lost three of four and was manhandled in the finale at Boston in a 3-2 loss.

Despite the best start in franchise history that has produced NHL highs of 21 wins and 44 points, Cooper said his squad is not close to being a perfect team.

"If there was one lesson we had to learn, we learned that in Boston," he said. "Our guys will tell you that (game) was men among boys and we were definitely not the men in that game, so we know we have a long way to go."

Captain Steven Stamkos said it’s hard for any team, no matter how talented, to play its best every game.

"There are times when things are going really well, like they were (to start the season), and then they don’t and it reminds you of the things you need to do to stay on top of your game," he said. "When you’re winning, a lot of stuff gets swept under the rug."

And when you’re losing, the mistakes burn bright, like turnovers in the offensive zone and breakdowns in the defensive zone.

RELATED: Lightning’s slump a reminder season is a roller coaster.

"You say, ‘Okay, well, we need to stray away from those things cause we’re not winning anymore and they can’t get swept under the rug,’ and you get back to the things that made you successful, and you start winning again and feel better about your game," Stamkos said.

The Lightning feels better about its game after taking all eight points during the home stand and outscoring the four opponents 20-9. The Jets, one of the best teams in the Western Conference, gave the Lightning all it could handle, but the Lightning rallied in the third period to force overtime, then won on the second shift on Brayden Point’s goal.

Now it heads on another long road trip that begins Tuesday in St., Louis and continues through Arizona, Colorado and Las Vegas.

The Lightning was flying high when it returned home after sweeping a three-game West Coast trip last month. But that feeling was dashed when it struggled on the recent trip.

RICK AND TOM PODCAST: Breaking down the Lightning, the top team in the NHL.

"It’s nice to get that friendly reminder sometimes that it’s tough to win in this league every night and there are some really good teams out there," Stamkos said. "You get humbled like that, it makes you hungrier the next game. We’ve been able to kind of take that as motivation (during the home stand) and played well."

Cooper mentioned after Saturday’s win that the Lightning plays 17 of its next 24 games on the road.

"We’ve done what we had to at home," he said. "Now we have to do it on the road, and it’s much tougher with all the travel we have to do, especially where we are here. So, we have to learn from what we did on the road before, what we have to do to prepare, but this is a good way to jump-start that."

Up next

at Blues, 8 Tuesday, St. Louis
TV/radio: NBCSN; 970-AM

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