Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

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."

Comments
Lightning-Capitals: Washington forces Game 7 with 3-0 victory

Lightning-Capitals: Washington forces Game 7 with 3-0 victory

WASHINGTON — The Lightning let one get away Monday night. And it might cost Tampa Bay a chance at the Stanley Cup.So now there will be a Game 7 to decide the Eastern Conference. Maybe this is how it should be. Maybe this is how it's supposed to...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Lightning journal: Capitals had a shot at Jon Cooper

Lightning journal: Capitals had a shot at Jon Cooper

WASHINGTON — Interesting how things work out in the world of hockey.Back in 2012, the first NHL team to ever interview Jon Cooper for a head coaching job was actually the Washington Capitals. The Caps general manager at the time was George McPh...
Updated: 5 hours ago
History has been kind to Lightning in Game 7s

History has been kind to Lightning in Game 7s

WASHINGTON — There's nothing more delicious in sports than Game 7.Unless your team is playing in it. Then there's nothing more nerve-racking.Most sports fans watch a big game with a nice cold drink. But if your team is playing in a Game 7, the ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Prepare yourselves: Golden Knights will be talk of the Stanley Cup final

Prepare yourselves: Golden Knights will be talk of the Stanley Cup final

WASHINGTON — It's incredible. Unbelievable, really. Maybe the best sports story in this country and the sport of hockey since 1980's Miracle on Ice.And, as a side note, if the Lightning reaches the Stanley Cup final, everyone in the country out...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: Grading Tampa Bay’s Game 6 shutout loss

Lightning-Capitals: Grading Tampa Bay’s Game 6 shutout loss

Let's do it one more time, shall we?Game 7 it will be.If it matches Game 6, it will be extraordinary.RELATED: More Lightning coverageThe Lightning could not close the door on the Washington Capitals. The Caps, who apparently really don't want to lose...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: Tom Jones’ takeaways from Washington’s Game 6 win

Lightning-Capitals: Tom Jones’ takeaways from Washington’s Game 6 win

Caps D Dmitry Orlov has one of the most wicked slap shots in hockey. When he stepped into one in the first period, Lightning D Ryan McDonagh threw his body in front of it and blocked it with his shoulder — just inches from his face. McDonagh sh...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Live blog: Lightning trailing in third period of Game 6

Live blog: Lightning trailing in third period of Game 6

  Follow our live coverage of the Eastern Conference final between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals. We'll have updates, analysis, photos, video and more on and off the ice from Times reporters, editors, sports columnists and photo j...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Lightning one win from Stanley Cup final

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Lightning one win from Stanley Cup final

The Lightning plays in Washington tonight with a chance to close out the series and advance to the Stanley Cup final. Tom Jones joins Rick Stroud to talk about the game and why Andrei Vasilevskiy and the defense is playing so well.Plus, the...
Published: 05/21/18
Lightning watch party tonight for Game 6

Lightning watch party tonight for Game 6

Tampa Bay Lightning fans can gather to witness the team's possible clinching of a Stanley Cup final berth tonight in downtown Tampa.The watch party for Game 6 in Washington starts at 6 p.m. at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.It will include three screen...
Published: 05/21/18
Stanley Cup-bound Vegas turning impossible into possible

Stanley Cup-bound Vegas turning impossible into possible

LAS VEGAS — Welcome to Impossible.Those words have been projected onto the ice in big, bold letters at T-Mobile Arena before each game during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Well, the Vegas Golden Knights are turning impossible into possible.The stun...
Published: 05/21/18