TAMPA — Lightning coach Guy Boucher always knew Teddy Purcell would be a solid power-play guy.
Boucher said the right wing has the vision, the passing ability and "all the skills in the world."
But to Boucher, power-play time is something to be earned, and Purcell was spending too much time on the perimeter early in the season.
"Since I'm not a real perimeter guy, he was having a hard time with me," Boucher said.
Boucher challenged Purcell, 25, and the wing responded, showing more grit and willingness to play around the crease. It has paid off, as Purcell has four goals (and 10 points) in his past 10 games, including a power-play goal Saturday against the Panthers where he raced to the net and knocked in a pass from Steven Stamkos.
"(Boucher) is great with communication, and sometimes you think you're (going to the net), but you don't realize that you're not," Purcell said. "We went over some video, and I'm getting rewarded. I'm going there. Also, another thing he talked about was not just going there, but when you go in there, stop there, because a lot of pucks come back for you. So far so good."
With captain Vinny Lecavalier and left wing Simon Gagne out with injuries, spots have opened on the power play, and Purcell has stepped in nicely with the likes of Stamkos and Marty St. Louis. Purcell ranks third on the team with 17 points (five goals, 12 assists).
"Being on the power play with those guys, he fits right in," Boucher said. "He's got great vision. The first thing you see with his skills is his passing qualities; his ability to filter himself through the cracks, I always thought, was tremendous. But I always thought he was using it too much on the outside before. Whereas now, he'll be using it around the net. He'll be using it when he's got the puck and when he doesn't have the puck."
Said St. Louis: "Teddy has been playing really well on the (power play). He's got a good mind for the game. I'm glad to see him get on the scoresheet."
While the Lightning power play is a big reason for its strong start, it also has been a part of the problem in its past two losses. On Friday against the Capitals, Tampa Bay was 0-for-5 with the man advantage, including a five-on-three. And while Purcell scored Saturday, the unit allowed its sixth short-handed goal this season, on Radek Dvorak's penalty shot.
The Lightning (13-8-3) will have to cut those down, especially heading into a tough two-game trip to Toronto (Tuesday) and Boston (Thursday). But Boucher said his team always seems to bounce back from adversity — and already has in its stretch of 15 of 21 games on the road. Purcell pointed to how, after picking up just two victories in a seven-game stretch, the team rattled off five straight wins.
"We know what we've got to do," Purcell said. "We're going to tough places in Toronto and Boston, and like we did the last time coming off the tough West Coast swing, when we didn't have the results we wanted, we battled back and went on that little streak here. We know what it takes, and we're looking forward to getting it going there."
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]