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Lightning assesses power-play issues

CHICAGO — There was a point during Friday's practice at the United Center that Lightning coach Jon Cooper had had enough.

Work on the power play was lagging. There were too many passes and not enough pucks on net. And after the team's special-teams failures in Thursday's 3-1 season-opening loss to the Bruins, that was unacceptable.

So Cooper gathered the offending players and reminded them, "It's a privilege to be on the power play. Don't (mess) it up."

The language, of course, has been sanitized.

"Playing the power play is a privilege, not a right," Cooper said later. "You should make a point of it to execute what we're trying to accomplish."

Tampa Bay was 0-for-5 on the power play against Boston, including 3:25 of five-on-three. It also allowed two game-changing shorthanded goals.

Granted, the Bruins, last season's Eastern Conference champs, are a talented penalty-killing team, goalie Tuukka Rask had a fine game and the late scratch of Lightning defenseman Sami Salo with an upper-body injury meant shuffling both power-play units.

But, as Cooper acknowledged, with the Lightning's offensive skills, converting a five-on-three advantage into a goal should be automatic.

"It has to be, and it wasn't," he said, "Hopefully, that was a mulligan."

What needs to be fixed before tonight's game with the Blackhawks, last season's Stanley Cup champions? Several things.

Boston did a good job of taking away some of Tampa Bay's set plays, but the Lightning did not react to find other options. Captain Marty St. Louis said perhaps Tampa Bay even "froze a little bit" against the pressure "and just didn't adjust."

"That," he added, "is on the players."

Defenseman Matt Carle, who replaced Salo on the first unit, said the Bruins' penalty kill simply worked harder than the Lightning's power play.

And for Cooper, Tampa Bay too often looked for perfect plays instead of getting pucks on net. Losing Salo and his big shot might have hurt there as well. Salo was not with the team Friday, perhaps getting tested, and might not play tonight, either.

"Some guys tend to make too cute a play or try and make the low-percentage play because it looks better, when ultimately, not many times that happens," Cooper said. "You have to get some blue-collar goals, and sometimes we get caught up into every goal has to be a beauty."

There is the notion, though, that all this hand-wringing about the power play is too much too soon.

"Let's not dissect it after Game 1," St. Louis said. "If that was Game 38, we'd be like, 'Yeah, the power play didn't get the job done.' It's Game 1. Just get it done."

"The more you play, the more you get familiar, and the more you get to practice, that's going to help us a lot," center Valtteri Filppula said. "You don't want to be too hard on yourself, either. It's just one game."

All the same, he added, "The only way is up from what we did last game."

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@tampabay.com. View his blog at lightning.tampabay.com. Follow him on Twitter at @LightningTimes.

. Tonight

Lightning at Blackhawks

When/where: 8; United Center, Chicago

TV/radio: Sun Sports; 970-AM

Key stats: The Lightning has not played in Chicago since April 3, 2011, a 2-0 victory. … C Steven Stamkos has seven goals in five games against the Blackhawks. … D Eric Brewer's six career goals against Chicago are tied for his most against any team.

Lightning assesses power-play issues 10/04/13 [Last modified: Friday, October 4, 2013 10:46pm]
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