Monday, December 11, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

As Lightning heats up, so do Triplets

TAMPA — In the Lightning's record nine-game winning streak, so many things have gone right. Because of the streak, Tampa Bay has gone from teetering on the bubble of a playoff berth to atop the Atlantic Division.

What likely was missed early in this never-seen-before stretch was the play of Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson, better known as the Triplets. They're starting to get going again.

The line has combined to score seven goals in the past three games, including three in Tampa Bay's 4-3 overtime win against the Hurricanes on Saturday.

It will try to add to that total tonight against the Flyers in Philadelphia.

"We're feeling good, but there's room for improvement," said Palat, who had two goals Saturday. "Last game (against Toronto), we scored, but it was up and down. We talked about it. We needed to have more offensive zone time. We did that (Saturday) finally. We had offensive (zone) possession, and we made some plays."

Last year the Triplets exploded onto the scene in rock-star fashion. They don't look alike, except they are not the biggest players (Palat is listed at 6 feet and 188 pounds). Nicknamed by coach Jon Cooper for how in synch they are on the ice, speed is their weapon, and when they unleash it like they did Saturday, it's a thing of beauty.

Kucherov got the puck and exploded down the right side. Though his backhand bounced off Carolina goalie Eddie Lack, he was able to retrieve the puck in the corner. There, he saw Johnson, who had worked his way to the slot. Kucherov fed him a pass and saw Johnson bury what was the tying goal that sent the game into overtime.

Though they had success last season and provided a second scoring line to the top line led by Steven Stamkos, the trio had not been together much this season. At least it wasn't together a lot in the beginning.

Injuries and callups forced Cooper to constantly juggle his lines, attempting to find the right combination and scoring balance to keep the defending Eastern Conference champions in the playoff race. Since Christmas, as the Lightning has regained its health, Cooper been able to establish some consistent lines. Eventually, he moved the Triplets back together, and now they are rolling again.

Kucherov leads the team in points (53), and is second in assists (28) and goals (25). He has been the healthiest of the three, having played in 63 of the 65 games. Johnson has 30 points on 12 goals and 18 assists, and Palat has 23 points on 10 goals and 13 assists.

"They've kind of been coming," Cooper said of the trio. "They've had some pretty good looks in some of these games. They just haven't been scoring like they feel like they are accustomed to doing. But they're getting their chances, and they were clearly a difference for us (Saturday).

"That's one of the big things. The (Stamkos) line has been doing extremely well for us, but if they're a little off, they have another line to pick them up."

And that makes the Lightning a better team.

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

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 v...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated game story: Lightning’s Brayden Point credits luck, opportunity for OT winner vs. Jets

Updated game story: Lightning’s Brayden Point credits luck, opportunity for OT winner vs. Jets

TAMPA — His coach says he plays every game as if he doesn’t play his best, he’s going to be sent down. That is not the case with Brayden Point, but who doesn’t want that kind of effort from a second-year player who has more than established himself i...
Published: 12/09/17

Brayden Point scores in OT to give Lightning win over Jets

TAMPA — The Jets saw Saturday’s game against the Lightning as a benchmark game, a way to measure themselves against the NHL’s top team. The Lightning had circled the game, the last of a four-game home stand."It’s going to be a big test for us," Light...
Published: 12/09/17
Lightning journal: Power-play players make me look good, Jon Cooper says

Lightning journal: Power-play players make me look good, Jon Cooper says

TAMPA — How about that Lightning power play."Coaching," coach Jon Cooper said before Saturday’s game with the Jets.He was kidding."You always look like a good coach when you can throw (Nikita) Kucherov and (Steven) Stamkos and (Victor) Hedman over th...
Published: 12/09/17

Roger Mooney’s takeaways from Saturday’s Lightning-Jets game

The game drew the hockey world’s attention because it matched the NHL’s top team against a rising team in the West. It was refreshing to see both treat it as more than just another game. The Jets saw a chance to measure themselves against the top tea...
Published: 12/09/17
Attitude adjusted, Cory Conacher focused on sticking with Lightning

Attitude adjusted, Cory Conacher focused on sticking with Lightning

TAMPA — When Cory Conacher was called up a little over a week ago, it looked like it might be for just a one-game cameo.Center Cedric Paquette had been suspended for one game for boarding, and the Lightning, otherwise healthy up front, needed a fill-...
Published: 12/09/17
Another test tonight for Lightning

Another test tonight for Lightning

Big one tonight at Amalie Arena as the Lightning finish off its four-game homestand against the visiting Jets, who at one point earlier this week were tied with the Lightning (20-6-2, 42 points) for the NHL lead in points.Since then, the Jets (17-8-4...
Published: 12/09/17
Attitude adjusted, Cory Conacher focused on sticking with Lightning

Attitude adjusted, Cory Conacher focused on sticking with Lightning

TAMPA — When Cory Conacher was called up a little over a week ago, it looked like it might be for just a one-game cameo.Center Cedric Paquette had been suspended for one game for boarding, and the Lightning, otherwise healthy up front, needed a fill-...
Published: 12/09/17
Steven Stamkos’ toughest rehab leads to his greatest hockey

Steven Stamkos’ toughest rehab leads to his greatest hockey

TAMPA — Steven Stamkos picked up steam near the Lightning blue line early in Thursday’s first period.By the time the captain reached center ice, he was seemingly at warp speed. Stamkos, 27, chasing a Vladislav Namestnikov pass off the boards, split t...
Published: 12/08/17
Lightning tops Avalanche for third straight win

Lightning tops Avalanche for third straight win

TAMPA — Peter Budaj has been a backup goaltender for around a decade.The 35-year-old is comfortable with the role and how it works. He gets it. It still doesn’t make the job easy. When you play behind the likes of Carey Price, Jonathan Quick — and no...
Published: 12/07/17
Updated: 12/08/17