TAMPA — Power plays are an important piece of a team's play. A power-play goal can provide the momentum a struggling team needs to claw out a victory. By the same token, a failed power play can siphon the energy out of a team and be the reason for a loss.
After a 2-1 loss to the Canucks on Dec. 22 in which the Lightning went 1-for-10 on the power play, Tampa Bay was spinning its wheels and stuck near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.
It has gotten healthy since and hopes a rejuvenated power play can help it continue a climb up the standings.
Tampa Bay scored two extra-man goals in a 5-4 overtime victory over the Penguins on Friday that pulled it within seven points of the Atlantic-Division leading Panthers. It has a chance to get closer when the teams play this afternoon at Amalie Arena.
Those two power-play goals snapped a five-game streak during which Tampa Bay hadn't scored any extra-man goals. But it had scored at least two in two of the three games before that streak. Tampa Bay entered Saturday 14th in the NHL in power-play percentage, scoring on 18.4 percent of its opportunities.
Though a team's power-play success sometimes is cyclical, Tampa Bay players say the method of success has to be the same every night.
"You have to be on the same page," forward Tyler Johnson said. "When you have the man advantage, you have to move the puck and guys have to be in the right spots. You have to outbattle the (penalty-kill unit) as well.
"I think we've been working well together. Our passing and execution has been up. We've been getting some good shots, and we're working hard to get the puck back. I think that plays a big role."
Nikita Kucherov is second on the team with six power-play goals. He said Tampa Bay gets in trouble when the power-play unit tries to be too fancy.
"Sometimes we try to make that hard play instead of making the easy play," he said. "You have to try to get more shots on net. When you get more shots, you get some scrambles and get more chances."
Tampa Bay will be tested against Florida. The Panthers were eighth in the NHL in penalty-kill percentage, killing off 82.4 percent of their opponents' power plays.
"I still think it's a work in progress," Lightning assistant coach Brad Lauer said. "The execution has been better lately to give us the success that we've had, but we have to be more consistent at home and on the road."