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Triplets get first even-strength goal (w/video)

NASHVILLE — When it came to the Triplets scoring slump, LW Ondrej Palat figured the Lightning line just needed one goal and they'd "get it going again."

Tampa Bay hopes that's the case after RW Nikita Kucherov's second-period goal Tuesday night, the first even strength goal scored this season by the touted line with Palat and C Tyler Johnson.

It was Kucherov's second goal of the season, his first came as a power play expired Oct. 10 in Buffalo. This one wasn't pretty, with Kucherov pouncing on a rebound. G Pekka Rinne made the initial save, but the puck took a fortuitous bounce in the net off the skate of Nashville C Paul Gaustad.

Hedman back: D Victor Hedman, as expected, returned to the lineup Tuesday, and made a big impact. Hedman, who missed just one game after suffering an apparent head injury Thursday, picked up two assists, giving him a team-high of six. "When the big boy is rolling, usually our team is," coach Jon Cooper said. So good to have him back."

NEED FOR SPEED: Of all the things that have plagued Tampa Bay (4-2) — from lack of structure to turnovers to a leaky penalty kill — one key aspect missing, Cooper says, is its identity.

"We've got to play the game faster," Cooper said. "That's one thing that's kind of been a trademark of ours is our speed. I can't sit here and say we've shown that off in the start of the season. We're just playing a little bit tentative on our forecheck, just things that have been our go-to's; we're just not quite there yet.

"If we want to start taking advantage of these bigger, stronger teams we'll have to use our speed."

His turn: RW Erik Condra, a healthy scratch on Saturday, was back in the lineup, scoring his second goal of the season in the third period. RW J.T Brown was scratched. With 13 healthy forwards, all of whom have been playing well, Cooper has said it'll just be a rotation of who sits out.

Lining up: After Tampa Bay's lines were shaken up Saturday, the units went back to normal Tuesday, with LW Jonathan Drouin, C Steven Stamkos and RW Ryan Callahan on the top line and the Triplets back together. Condra replaced Brown on the line with Boyle and C Vladislav Namestnikov.

Vasy update: G Andrei Vasilevskiy (vascular surgery) will have a key doctor appointment today, when he'll learn whether he can get off blood thinners. If Vasilevskiy receives clearance, he can return to full practice in a couple days. Vasilevskiy would likely need some conditioning games with AHL Syracuse (maybe Oct. 28 and Oct. 30?) before rejoining the Lightning, with early November a target.

Nuts and bolts: G Ben Bishop made his seventh consecutive start to open the season, and entered Tuesday's game one win shy of 100 for his career. … D Nikita Nesterov served the second of a two-game suspension (boarding penalty) Tuesday, and will be available to play Friday in Winnipeg … The Blackhawks, who host Tampa Bay Saturday in a Stanley Cup final rematch, will be without star D Duncan Keith for 4-6 weeks after he had knee surgery.

Contact Joe Smith at joesmith@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.

Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov is congratulated by his teammates on the bench after scoring against the Predators in the second period.

Associated Press

Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov is congratulated by his teammates on the bench after scoring against the Predators in the second period.

Triplets get first even-strength goal (w/video) 10/20/15 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 21, 2015 7:19am]
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