Sunday, April 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning seeks solutions for second-period woes

BRANDON — The Lightning was supposed to practice Saturday at the Ice Sports Forum. Instead, players watched a really bad video.

For 20 minutes or so they saw clip after clip of turnover after turnover, sloppy play after sloppy play, all culled from the second period of Friday's 6-4 victory over the Senators.

This was the coaching staff's attempt to stop a disturbing trend, namely that Tampa Bay seems to forget how to play in second periods.

The Lightning has been outscored 10-3 in second periods, startling because in first and third periods combined it has outscored opponents 16-2, including 11-1 in the third.

The team has ridden those strong starts and finishes, and a league-best 19 goals entering Saturday, to a 3-1-0 mark. But as coach Guy Boucher said, "You don't want to trail all the time because you're playing with fire."

And center Steven Stamkos admitted, "We don't have an answer. If we did, we'd smarten up."

The Ottawa game is instructive, though. The Lightning entered the second period up 1-0 but was outshot 16-5 and allowed four goals to end it down 4-3.

Penalties to right wing Teddy Purcell and defenseman Brian Lee contributed to a four-on-three goal. And goalie Anders Lindback allowed a couple of softies. More harmful were the bad reads and turnovers.

Lee and Stamkos had turnovers that led to goals. Lee and defensive partner Keith Aulie were out of position on another.

The collective brain freeze is even more curious because players remind each other not to let it happen.

"It's frustrating whenever you see a developing pattern," forward Adam Hall said. "Sometimes it's just the way you read a situation. Sometimes there are great plays to be made with a pass. Other times, just keep it simple, just chip it in and get in behind them. Make them turn around so we keep our speed and we're forechecking and get some offense going."

Perhaps the inconsistency comes from a short training camp with zero preseason games or that most Lightning players did not play elsewhere during the lockout. Perhaps it's just that the season is young.

Whatever it is, you can't ignore a team with so much firepower looking so helpless while being outshot 51-37 in four second periods and taking 10 penalties.

"Everything is a habit," Boucher said. "Habits are created because you reproduce them over and over. Right now it's crept in only in our second periods. But at the same time, if we want to progress fast, we have to do it now."

"It's just finding a rhythm to be able to progress as the season goes on," Stamkos said. "We want to adjust as soon as possible so we're one of the teams ahead of the curve and can gain as many points at the beginning of the year as we can."

The Lightning got two points Friday with three third-period goals and Lindback's 13 saves.

"We always come back in the third and do it the right way," captain Vinny Lecavalier said. "If we played that way for three periods … "

It's not hard to figure out the rest.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]

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