Friday, December 15, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning makes 'no excuses' for anemic power play

TAMPA — The word "frustrating" was used a lot in the Lightning locker room Friday.

That's what happens when the topic is a quiescent power play that has converted just 5 of 57 chances in the past 19 games.

"No excuses," right wing Teddy Purcell said. "We have enough players in this locker room to have two successful (power-play units). We just haven't been finding ways to get it done."

This is not a new issue. Tampa Bay's power play entered Friday 28th in the 30-team league at 13.3 percent and last on the road at 8.6 percent. But it deserves to again be spotlighted given the team is desperate to climb into the playoff race and the lack of a power play is killing it.

In Tuesday's 4-3 overtime victory over the Capitals and Thursday's 2-1 overtime loss to the Jets, power-play chances with fewer than 10 minutes remaining in the third period could have broken ties and won the games.

Tampa Bay did get a point against Winnipeg for the regulation tie. But had it won both games without overtime, points would have been denied to two Southeast Division foes ahead of it in the standings.

"It just shows you we could have taken that game," captain Vinny Lecavalier said of the loss to the Jets. "It's (four) minutes left. We get that power play. Those are key moments. That extra point means everything."

The power-play units sometimes have trouble even getting into the offensive zone. When they do, many times their shots are limited — 70 in the past 57 power plays — and they cannot sustain zone time.

The problems have been well-documented. The team does not have a true quarterback, and opponents set up like a picket fence at the blue line to thwart offensive-zone entries. Opponents also aggressively challenge the Lightning when it does set up because they know the power-play units are playing without confidence.

As Purcell said, "Sometimes when we get chances, we kind of get discouraged because we don't score. You don't start to panic, but you're not as confident, and when you do get it in (the offensive zone), you're not as poised. You're just not as sharp."

Coach Guy Boucher has used five forwards on the power play at times. He has used Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis in different positions. In the past few games he has put defensemen Bruno Gervais and Brendan Mikkelson on the blue line, though he did not commit to that for tonight's game with the Panthers at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Still, the juggling doesn't answer basic questions such as how can the team better enter the offensive zone. Boucher said he wants his puck-carriers to use more speed across the blue line with perhaps more players flooding one side of the offensive zone.

And once there?

"Battle harder than them," he said of the penalty-killing units. "They don't have to create something. They just have to destroy."

"We just can't seem to get that big goal on the power play even in the middle of the game to get some momentum going," Lecavalier said. "It's frustrating."

MINOR MOVE: Left wing Pierre-Cedric Labrie was reassigned to AHL Norfolk.

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