Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lightning's Drouin rounds back into form

ANAHEIM, Calif — With Jonathan Drouin having missed six consecutive games, and 11 of the Lightning's past 15, coach Jon Cooper made sure to check in on the touted wing often in his much-anticipated return Wednesday.

"And he was ready to go," Cooper said.

Boy, was he. Drouin was dazzling in lifting Tampa Bay to a much-needed 2-1 win over the Ducks at the Honda Center. Drouin, 20, sidelined due to two injuries, showed little rust in scoring the game's first goal and setting up the winner with a slick assist on Jonathan Marchessault's power-play tally in the second period. That has given a huge boost in confidence to Drouin, the 2013 No. 3 overall draft pick.

"That first period, my lungs were a little heavy there," said Drouin, 20. "You sit on the bench and … you don't want to go back on. But as the game went on, I felt better and better. Definitely happy with it."

There were many reasons the Lightning won Wednesday, especially Ben Bishop, who continued his dominance of the Ducks with 32 saves. The 6-foot-7 goalie, who is 6-0-1 against Anaheim, made one glove save late that led Ducks star Corey Perry to jokingly ask if his arms were of legal length.

"You need your goaltender to be your best player, and when he is, usually good things can happen," Cooper said. "That's what happened."

But for a shorthanded Lightning team that's struggling to score — it had two goals waved off Wednesday — Drouin provided a sizable spark.

"He looked fresh," Cooper said. "He had his legs, he was moving, he was making plays. … For missing as much as he has with injuries, to come back and have a game like that, it's a really good sign."

Drouin opened the scoring two minutes into the second on a sick shot from up close, finding a tiny hole between goalie John Gibson's pad and blocker.

"When he got the first goal, it seemed like it was a weight off everyone's shoulders," Cooper said.

Two potential go-ahead goals were waved off, Nikita Kucherov's deflection due to a high stick and an Alex Killorn power-play goal on a goalie interference call on Ryan Callahan (the latter upheld on Cooper's first coaches challenge of the season). But on the same power play, Drouin set up the winner, sending a perfect feed from behind the net in front to Marchessault.

"Right in my wheelhouse," Marchessault said.

"You know what he's capable of," Bishop said of Drouin. "I'd like to see him do it more often. Hopefully he can come back and build off this and keep this going."

Drouin looked a lot like the determined, confident Drouin the Lightning saw from the first day of training camp, the one who scored four preseason goals. Drouin, playing alongside captain Steven Stamkos, racked up six points in the first five games of the regular season, seeming destined for a breakout year.

But Drouin went pointless in the next five games, then missed five with a lower-body injury. At times it felt like Drouin was on a short leash with Cooper, logging just 9 minutes, 26 seconds, of ice time Nov. 12 against the Flames. Drouin's 13:48 Wednesday was more than only Erik Condra and Marchessault among Lightning forwards.

Cooper has said it's hard to find out what a player can do logging 8 to 10 minutes a night, a reason Vladislav Namestnikov was elevated to a top-six role in recent weeks. Namestnikov earned it with his play, "Outstanding," Drouin said.

And the line of Namestnikov, Drouin and Kucherov was flying Wednesday.

"All three of those guys all have speed, all got skill, and they can play the game," Cooper said.

It'll be interesting to see what happens when forward Tyler Johnson (undisclosed injury) comes back, possibly this weekend, as well as forward Ondrej Palat (left ankle) next week. Drouin is just happy to be playing again, with Wednesday, he hopes, becoming a springboard.

"The confidence is there," said Drouin, who has two goals and six assists in 15 games. "Points come. Points sometimes don't come. It's hard to say. But if I keep playing that way, it's definitely going to be good."

Lightning's Drouin rounds back into form 12/03/15 [Last modified: Thursday, December 3, 2015 10:13pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays series preview: Who are the Pirates?


    After an off day Monday, the Rays head on the road to PNC Park for a three-game interleague series against the Pirates. Here's the information you need to know about Pittsburgh before the action kicks off.

    Record: 35-41, fourth in NL Central

    Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen, left, has rebounded from a rough start, while fellow outfielder Gregory Polanco, right, has fallen off recently.
  2. Countryside alum A.J. Andrews lands in ESPN's annual body issue (w/video)


    A.J. Andrews has taken over the spotlight in softball. Last year, the former Countryside High and LSU standout became the first female to win a Rawlings Gold Glove in the award's 59-year existence.

    Former Countryside and LSU softball standout A.J. Andrews will be among 23 athletes to be featured in ESPN The Magazine's body issue. "I have a really ripped back," Andrews says while laughing in the video. [Photo from video]

  3. James Wilder Jr. back at running Canada


    Remember when former Plant High star and Florida State running back James Wilder Jr. announced he was switching to linebacker?

    That was short-lived, apparently.

  4. Cup-winning Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk makes Hockey Hall of Fame

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman said Dave Andreychuk's name has surfaced often the past eight years with the selection committee.

    30 Oct 2001:  Left wing Dave Andreychuk #25 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates towards the blue line during the NHL game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada.  The Maple Leafs defeated the Lightning 3-2.  Mandatory Credit:  Dave Sanford /Allsport
  5. Rays acquire slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from Marlins

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Chaim Bloom said the Rays weren't necessarily in the market for a shortstop. The team has a number of those. But when the Marlins recently began shopping Adeiny Hechavarria, well, that was too much to pass up.

    Adeiny Hechavarria has emerged as one of baseball’s top defensive shortstops in the past three seasons with the Marlins.