TAMPA — Jonathan Drouin loved nearly everything about his first trip back to Amalie Arena since his June trade from the Lightning to the Canadiens, from the reception by Lightning fans to the friendly faces of the Lightning staff members and the warm handshakes he received from them before and after the game.
"It was very nice," Drouin said of the fan reaction. "These fans and this community was always nice to me. Even after the trade request (he made in the 2015-16 season), when I came back (from a subsequent suspension), they were great. I have nothing to say but good things for this place."
As for the game, Drouin didn’t like that.
It was another loss for the Canadiens, 3-1. It was Montreal’s third straight loss and third straight game in which it scored exactly one goal.
"It’s frustrating,’ Drouin said. "The offensive players that are supposed to produce, we haven’t done that in a while. I think it’s a team thing. We’re not getting many chances. It’s not like we’re missing our chances. We’re not getting our chances. That’s what’s getting frustrating."
Drouin had a quiet game with only three shots, and he was minus-1. He has just five goals and 18 points in 33 games for the underachieving Canadiens.
The centerpiece of the Canadiens’ huge offseason trade that saw them give up D Mikhail Sergachev, Drouin quickly signed a six-year, $33 million contract. Much more is expected from him, and Lightning coach Jon Cooper said much more will come for the playmaker selected third overall by Tampa Bay in the 2013 draft.
"I don’t think the product is finished with Jo," Cooper said. "He is still a young player, and his trajectory is going up."
When asked if he was nervous playing against his former team, Drouin said, "Not really. Just warmups, emotion. But as the game went on, when the game started, you put that aside and just play hockey. It’s the same thing for the other side. We didn’t joke around; we didn’t laugh around. We played hockey."
Sergachev led all rookie defenseman in scoring (eight goals, 23 points) heading into Thursday’s games. That has relieved some of the pressure on Victor Hedman. Though his offense has developed quicker than the Lightning had anticipated, Sergachev may have made his biggest impact on the power play, where he skates with the second unit.
"Now you can bring two power plays out there where you have two guys who can run them, whereas in the past we were a little unsure where that was going to come from," coach Jon Cooper said. "It’s just a matter of (Sergachev) just getting used to the league and the experience, but he’s been pretty adaptive in doing that so far in the short time he’s been in the league.
"You just watch his instincts and some of the things he does on the ice. Some guys don’t do that 300 games in (to their NHL career), let alone 30 games in. It’s a confidence thing, but he’s got the skills to do it. It’s been pretty impressive to watch."
Quote of the day
"My first Christmas without snow. It was special."
C Yanni Gourde, a native of Saint-Narcisse, Quebec, on staying in Tampa during the break
D Anton Stralman missed his first game of the season with a lower-body injury. The Lightning said he was day-to-day. In other injury news, F Ryan Callahan (upper body) skated with the team in the morning for the first time since suffering the injury Dec. 14. He wore a red no-contact jersey.