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Tampa Bay Lightning: Diagnosing the Lightning's penalty-kill woes

TAMPA — The Lightning has lost nine of its past 11 games, and there are plenty of reasons.

A glaring one: opponents are scoring on 34 percent of power plays during that stretch, accounting for 14 goals.

Tampa Bay has allowed multiple power-play goals in three of its past four games, including Saturday's shootout loss to the Oilers.

"It's costing us some points," coach Jon Cooper said.

It might cost the Lightning a playoff spot.

Tampa Bay (15-14-3) enters tonight's game against the Red Wings at Amalie Arena four points behind Boston for the third spot in the Atlantic Division. It is eight points out of the final wild-card spot.

The Lightning has been brutal on faceoffs — 10 of the 14 power-play goals allowed came soon after lost defensive zone draws. Wing Ryan Callahan, perhaps the team's top penalty killer, missed the past nine games with a hip injury.

But mostly, killing penalties comes down to desperation.

"Enough is enough here," goalie Ben Bishop said. "We've got to have more passion to kill these penalties. It's starting to get almost embarrassing. Coaches are giving us the right structure to do it. It comes upon us, starting with the goalies. But we've got to change something here. It's on us as players. It's starting to get a little bit ridiculous."

The Lightning has just six points in its past 26 days; think of how many it would have had it not faltered on the penalty kill.

It allowed three power play goals in a 5-4 loss in St. Louis Dec. 1 and three more in a Dec. 10 home loss to Pittsburgh. The Oilers' only two regulation goals Saturday were with the man advantage.

After reviewing each power play goal in this 11-game skid, it's easy to see what has gone wrong:

DOMINATED IN THE DOT: The Lightning isn't a strong faceoff team. It especially struggles shorthanded (42.6 percent success rate, 20th in the NHL). All three Penguins power-play goals came soon after Sidney Crosby won faceoffs in the offensive zone. Two of the three St. Louis power-play goals came off faceoff wins by Robby Fabbri.

The Lightning was 3-for-8 on shorthanded faceoffs against Pittsburgh and 3-for-9 Saturday, when the Oilers scored twice on the power play.

TRAFFIC CONTROL: Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy often have no shot of stopping shots because of how easily opponents screen them. On Nicklas Backstrom's power-play goal for the Capitals on Dec. 3, Marcus Johansson set up in front of Bishop. There were deflections in front on power-play goals by Boston's David Backes (Nov. 27) and St. Louis' Kevin Shattenkirk (Dec. 1). Bishop said he didn't see Leon Draisaitl's tying power-play goal Saturday, a re-direction from the slot.

FREQUENCY: Most of the Lightning's penalty kill failures have been on the road, where it has been shorthanded a league-high 70 times. Sixteen of the 24 power-play goals allowed came on the road. Said Cooper: "If you're giving up a goal or two on the PK, it's tough to (win)."

NOTE: Forward Tanner Richard was recalled from AHL Syracuse and Joel Vermin was reassigned.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@tampabay.com.

Tonight

vs. Red Wings, 7:30, Amalie Arena TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 970-AM

Tampa Bay Lightning: Diagnosing the Lightning's penalty-kill woes 12/19/16 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 20, 2016 11:49am]
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