Monday, December 11, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning's motto after All-Star break? Just win, baby

TAMPA — Thanks to this weekend's three-day All-Star break, the Lightning has a chance to, what? Take a break from the grind of chasing a postseason spot, then hit the reset button for the final playoff drive?

"I think it's more than a reset button now," Jonathan Drouin said. "Where we are in the standings, points are hard to get. Teams are getting away a little bit from us. We have to pick it up. It will be over pretty soon if we don't."

So it's go time when the Lightning hits the ice Tuesday against the visiting Bruins, right?

More than that, said Brian Boyle.

"We have to win every game. That is basically our mind-set, like we can't give up a goal," he said. "We have no margin for error. We are so desperate. We have to win. We have to get all the points we can because it will be a travesty for us not to play in the postseason."

The Lightning picked up a point in Thursday's 2-1 overtime loss against the Panthers and gained some ground in the standings. It has 50 points after 50 games and sits six points behind the Flyers for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference and six behind the Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division.

Problem is, the Maple Leafs and Panthers are ahead of them in the division, and the Leafs, Panthers and Islanders are ahead of them in the wild card hunt.

Also, the Hurricanes, Sabres, Red Wings and Devils are each a point behind the Lightning in the muddled playoff picture.

Then there is this: The Lightning hasn't won back-to-back games in more than a month.

It just finished a six-game road trip in which it collected six points while losing twice in overtime and three times by 2-1 scores.

Does this look like a team that's ready to break free of the shackles of inconsistency and run down a playoff spot?

"We have enough of an opportunity to play head-to-head against these teams (in the playoff hunt) to collect points," Boyle said. "That's all we can worry about."

Boyle said he watched the Flyers-Rangers game Wednesday and found himself rooting for the Rangers for the first time since he played for them. A New York win in regulation would have helped the Lighting. Naturally, the Flyers won 2-0.

Still, Boyle said it's too early for scoreboard watching.

"We can't cloud our thoughts with that," he said. "We have to focus on us. There's enough there to keep us pretty busy."

The Lightning had a chance to gain ground during the road trip. It came home with six points, but could have had more if those 2-1 losses somehow became 2-1 wins.

"I'm sure every team that hasn't made the playoffs at the end of the year looks back and says, 'We left points here. We left points here. We left points here.' That's ultimately how it adds up," coach Jon Cooper said. "Now in saying that, we've played fairly well here. We've just got to find a way to push ourselves over and get the two points that we feel in a lot of these games we've deserved."

Alex Killorn said the team can't lose sight of what it is doing well right now. For the a while, the Lighting was guilty of not protecting its net in an effort to score. That has been corrected. But it has scored two or fewer goals in eight of its past 11 games, with only one of those games being a win.

"There's no moral victories here," Cooper said after Thursday's game. "We ended up losing. We can't sit here and pat ourselves on the back and say, 'Good effort.' We need to find a way to win games."

NOTES: Forward Erik Condra was reassigned Friday to AHL Syracuse. Left wing Michael Bournival, who missed Thursday's game with an upper-body injury and was listed as day-to-day, and center Gabriel Dumont were placed on waivers, reports said. … Defenseman Victor Hedman will participate in the hardest shot event and the skills relay in tonight's All-Star skills competition in Los Angeles (7, NBCSN). Wing Nikita Kucherov will participate in the four-line challenge and fastest skater events.

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