Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Potent Penguins power play may test much-penalized Lightning (w/ video)

BRANDON — No team remaining in the Stanley Cup playoffs has been as good as the Lightning in killing penalties.

Then again, Tampa Bay has had the most practice at it.

Entering Wednesday, the Lightning was the most penalized team left, in penalty minutes and penalty kill time, having spent 7 minutes, 30 seconds more time killing penalties than any other of those teams. That's playing with fire when it comes to facing the Penguins in the Eastern Conference final, which opens Friday. Pittsburgh's potent power play had a league-best 27.5 percent success rate, including two goals in Tuesday's series-clinching win over the Presidents' Trophy-winning Capitals.

"You can't expect to win on a regular basis by taking a lot of penalties," D Braydon Coburn said. "It's definitely an area we need to correct and continue to go out and do the job on the PK. But it definitely helps when you don't take as many penalties."

The Lightning killed off 35 of 42 power plays (88 percent) against the Red Wings and Islanders in the first two rounds, a success rate that mirrored its regular season, when it was seventh in the league. But the Penguins, with weapons including Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel, will be Tampa Bay's toughest test yet. Pittsburgh's power play was 11-for-40 in the first two rounds.

The Lightning can't just rely on G Ben Bishop, with a 1.89 goals-against average in these playoffs, to bail it out.

"They've got a little bit of everything," Coburn said of the Penguins. "They got playmakers, they got shooters. They got (Patric) Hornqvist in front of the net. All those different combinations they have make them dangerous."

STEPPING IN: D Slater Koekkoek, who has appeared in four straight playoff games, is gaining confidence, having seemingly moved ahead of Nikita Nesterov on the depth chart.

"The more you play, the more comfortable you are, the less your hands are shaking out there, so it's good," Koekkoek said. "Coaches are trusting me a bit more out there. I'm able to play my game."

Koekkoek, who played just nine games in the regular season, is plus-2 in four games this postseason, even seeing shifts late in close games.

"I'm so blessed to be here and grateful for it," he said. "I never take anything for granted. I'm always looking around and taking in every moment because you never know when you're going to get it back."

PRAISE FOR ZETTLER: With AHL Syracuse coach Rob Zettler fired Tuesday, several of his former players expressed gratitude for the impact he has had on their careers.

"He's a hard-working, honest coach," D Luke Witkowski said. "I valued those three years I was with him. He made me a better player, for sure. He was hard on me at the right times and made sure I was ready for every practice, every game."

Koekkoek, a 2012 first-round draft pick, felt the same way. "He was hard on me," Koekkoek said. "But in the end, I think that helped me a lot. I thank him for everything he did for me."

Zettler has been offered another assignment within the organization, Crunch GM Julien BriseBois said.

Times correspondent Roger Mooney contributed to this report. Contact Joe Smith at joesmith@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (77) celebrates scoring a goal to take a 1-0 lead with teammate defenseman Braydon Coburn (55) in the first period of game five between the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, May 8, 2016. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times


Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (77) celebrates scoring a goal to take a 1-0 lead with teammate defenseman Braydon Coburn (55) in the first period of game five between the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, May 8, 2016. LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Potent Penguins power play may test much-penalized Lightning (w/ video) 05/11/16 [Last modified: Thursday, May 12, 2016 12:27am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 'Ready to win, and win big:' Dick Vitale sees Bucs going 10-6

    Blogs

    ESPN's Dick Vitale, whose love and optimism for Tampa Bay sports teams goes far beyond basketball, has high hopes for the Bucs in 2017.

    ESPN's Dick Vitale, shown at One Buc Place last year when he announced a Bucs draft pick, has high hopes for Tampa Bay this fall, predicting a 10-6 record for the Bucs.
  2. Want elite college football athletes? Recruit Tampa Bay

    Blogs

    Now that college football watch list season is over (I think), here's one takeaway you probably already knew: Tampa Bay produces a lot of great athletes.

    Robinson High produuct Byron Pringle has gone from this performance in a high school all-star game to all-Big 12 at Kansas State.
  3. Rays beat Orioles, but tough stretch looms that could change their plans (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tuesday was a step back in the right direction for the Rays, who halted a season-high five-game losing streak by hanging on — and we mean that pretty much literally — for a 5-4 win over the Orioles.

    The Rays’ Tim Beckham celebrates with Mallex Smith after hitting a three-run homer in the second inning for a 5-0 lead.
  4. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    Rookie RHP Jake Faria had his lucky rubber duck — OG, the original one he has had since high school — with him, and the Rays had nothing to worry about as he put his rocky Wednesday outing well behind him, working into the eighth while scattering seven hits.

  5. Rays journal: Rookie Jacob Faria continues to show veteran poise

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Orioles threatened in the first inning and the second. They loaded the bases with one out in the fifth inning with the top of the order up and seemed poised for a big inning. But those opportunities produced only one run because Rays rookie RHP Jacob Faria kept his composure and got the …

    Jacob Faria goes a career-high 71/3 innings, staying composed when the Orioles threaten.