Friday, December 15, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning seeks to solidify power play

TAMPA — When Teddy Purcell was told the Bruins have the league's best penalty kill and it has allowed just one power-play goal on the road all season, the Lightning right wing didn't flinch.

"So, they're due," he said.

It was a great response in the run-up to tonight's sold-out game between the teams at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, backed by the Lightning's No. 1 home power play, clicking at 35 percent.

But don't let that fool you. Tampa Bay has been more jalopy than roadster on the power play the past seven games, converting 3 of 27 chances. And one of those goals — Matt Carle's Tuesday against the Maple Leafs — was a whiff by goalie Ben Scrivens.

"We've been a little out of synch," defenseman Sami Salo said.

That's not exactly comforting considering Boston has killed 48 of 51 power plays overall (94.1 percent) and 26 of 27 on the road.

Power plays generally are streaky, so periods of hot and cold will happen. It's just that Tampa Bay was so good during a 6-2-0 start, converting 13 of 36 chances — including 12-of-27 at home — that the dropoff, during which the team is 2-4-1, can't be ignored.

It also has allowed two shorthanded goals.

Add that Tampa Bay has some of the league's most skilled players, including 60-goal scorer Steven Stamkos, and the head-scratching leaves a bald spot.

"We're trying to do too much stuff," Purcell said. "You try to do too much stuff and you paralyze yourself."

What does he mean by "stuff"?

"Just thinking too much," Purcell said. "Too many plays. We're thinking about getting to our position too much rather than letting the play come to you."

"I think so," captain Vinny Lecavalier said when asked if that was a fair assessment. "Guys are going to be out of position and in different spots, but until you settle the pressure, you've got to fight for the puck. You've got to win those battles and not worry if you're in the wrong position."

And once the puck is gained?

"All I can say is when we're successful, whatever is given to us, in front of us, if there is a hole, we take it," Lecavalier said. "If we don't take it, that's when we get static. Whatever hole we have, that's what we have to attack."

It's interesting that coach Guy Boucher blew off questions about the power play. Given Boston can roll four effective lines, he said, his emphasis is how Tampa Bay plays five-on-five. And to be fair, it was five-on-five defense that was so stifling during Tuesday's 4-2 victory over Toronto.

So, Boucher said, "I don't care about the power play right now. If our focus is on the power play, it's not on the right spot."

Boucher does care a bit, though. Wednesday he held a 15-minute power-play practice.

The good news: The power play is 2-for-10 during Tampa Bay's two-game winning streak. The bad: It generated just nine shots, and Carle's goal was a gift.

"We just have to simplify a little bit and bear down on our battles and try to shoot the puck," Salo said. "It's nothing that concerns me too much, but we want to be better. It's going to help the team in the long run."

Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]

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