Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning shakes off worries about scoring drought

TAMPA — Of all the things the Lightning worried might go wrong this season, its ability to score wasn't one of them.

After all, Tampa Bay led the league in goals last year, getting shut out just once in 82 games. From Steven Stamkos to the touted Triplets line, the Lightning boasts one of the most offensively gifted teams.

That's what makes its most recent drought so stunning. It has been shut out in back-to-back games for just the second time in 12 years, and the first since Nov. 29-Dec. 3, 2013. But the Lightning believes that is just an anomaly, one that could soon become a footnote.

"I don't think there's any reason to panic with this group," Stamkos said. "We showed last year leading the league in goals, if we don't score for a couple games, everyone from the outside is thinking the world is crashing. For this group, I have full confidence in our ability to put the puck in the net. It's going to come."

Tonight against the Avalanche at Amalie Arena would be a good time for that. The Lightning can ill afford to slip up at home in the midst of a difficult stretch of eight of 10 games on the road. As Stamkos said, it's not like Tampa Bay is playing poorly. But the Lightning wasted two sparkling goaltending performances, from Kristers Gudlevskis and Ben Bishop, to end its recent trip, losing 1-0 in overtime to the Blackhawks on Saturday and 2-0 to the Blues on Tuesday.

The Lightning's scoreless streak is 120 minutes, 17 seconds. The franchise record is 166:34, set March 19-24, 2000.

Tampa Bay is getting quality chances; it hit two posts Tuesday. "When we do get some good chances, it seems like the net is shrinking a little bit," coach Jon Cooper quipped.

But the Lightning, which entered Wednesday 15th in the league in scoring (averaging 2.70 goals per game), needs to make its breaks, putting more traffic in front and scoring some "greasy goals."

"You've go to get to the net and hope one goes in off your butt or something like that," Bishop said. "We've got to try to get more of those dirty goals. Obviously we have enough skill to make the fancy ones. Now it's a matter of trying to get one of those dirty ones, and they'll start coming."

What's most surprising is the Lightning is getting so little production from the Triplets, the league's most dangerous line last season. The trio of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov has combined for just one even-strength goal together through the season's first 10 games. Johnson is goal-less, the only Lightning forward without a goal.

Cooper has split up the Triplets twice during games this season, including Tuesday, when Palat and Kucherov played with Stamkos.

"You've got to stay to your game," Johnson said. "You can't try to force things, because once you force things, that's when things go south. Just stick to the system, stick to the game plan, and usually they work out for you."

Though history is on Johnson's side — he had one goal in the first 12 games last season before finishing with 29 — he knows being close isn't good enough. "I think all season we've been close," Johnson said. "There's obviously been rust. There's been things we need to work on. It's nice to have that defensive part of the game. Now it's about putting it all together."

Putting the puck in the net would help.

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

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