Friday, December 15, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Jonathan Drouin opens playoffs with an edge for Lightning

TAMPA — RW Jonathan Drouin has been labeled many things.

Skilled. Dynamic. Fast.

But nasty?

Drouin, 21, brought a previously unseen edge to his game in the Lightning's 3-2 win Wednesday in Game 1 against the Red Wings. He amassed four penalty minutes. He got in shoving matches. He took cross checks in front of the crease. He drilled Red Wings F Justin Abdelkader in the neutral zone, knocking the 6-foot-2, 218-pound agitator to the ice.

"He was in everybody's face," said Lightning television color analyst Brian Engblom, a Stanley Cup-winning defenseman. "He played nasty. He played playoff hockey."

A common adjective used to describe Drouin since he returned to the Lightning three games ago is he's more "engaged." And that includes physically, the product of Drouin putting on muscle during his six-week suspension and re-evaluating his game in video sessions.

"I was looking at my tape during my time off, and I was on the outside a little bit too much," Drouin said. "I was more on the perimeter. I want to go to those dirty areas."

Drouin did that in a very active 17 minutes, 39 seconds, second-most among Lightning forwards. He was assertive, with three shots on goal, and held his own defensively, matched up with the Pavel Datsyuk-Henrik Zetterberg line. "Coach wanted me to prove I can do that," he said. "It was great."

Drouin believes he has something to prove and his performance can be good for both him (his trade value) and the Lightning. Though Drouin requested a trade in November, he said the relationship with the Lightning is "definitely" still salvageable. For now, he wants to build on Game 1.

"The best game I've ever seen him play," Engblom said. "He said, 'I've got a chip on my shoulder and I have a lot to prove.' And he played exactly up to those words."

BISH PLEASE: Lost in the shuffle of RW Nikita Kucherov's two goals, among other things, was the stellar play of G Ben Bishop, who had 34 saves.

When the Lightning gave up a one-goal second period lead to fall behind 2-1, Cooper noted it was Bishop who responded the most.

"We just can't be giving up 36 shots and however many scoring chances we gave up, because we don't want him shouldering that much of a load every single night," Cooper said. "I just really like his response to take the rest of the game home for us."

NEW TRIPLETS: Cooper noted that LW Alex Killorn has "played his best hockey" when he was with C Tyler Johnson and RW Nikita Kucherov, so the decision to put them together for Wednesday's Game 1 was easy. It was Tampa Bay's best line, accounting for all three goals.

FILLING IN: An unsung play was made by C Valtteri Filppula in the final minute, preserving a one-goal lead by getting a stick on a D Mike Green shot from the slot, which was headed for an open net but sailed high.

"I didn't know what happened, but I was lucky I was able to get a stick between and deflect it over the net," Filppula said.

NUTS AND BOLTS: RW Ryan Callahan missed Thursday's practice due to body maintenance but is expected to play tonight in Game 2.

Contact Joe Smith at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.

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