The Lightning should get mad more often. It plays better.
That was evident Wednesday against the Rangers. Tampa Bay hit, it fought, and when the adrenaline was really pumping, when it saw New York as the bad guy, it played the Atlantic Division leader to a standstill.
Check that. The Lightning actually outplayed it for a significant amount of time in a 3-2 shootout loss at the St. Pete Times Forum.
The game was entertaining, too. Evgeny Artyukhin not only created energy by throwing his 6-foot-5, 254-pound body around, he got under New York's skin; tough guy Colton Orr jumped him after a clean hit on Blair Betts.
Tampa Bay should have had a four-minute power play after the mugging. But a bewildering penalty call by referees Rob Martell and Brad Meier provided only two as an innocent Artyukhin got two minutes for roughing.
But you see what happens when you stir things up.
Steven Stamkos ran around a bit and had his first NHL fight. Enforcer David Koci took the measure of Orr in a bout, and Ryan Malone, Mark Recchi and Paul Ranger had hits that woke up the crowd.
It woke the Lightning up, too.
"Koci did a great job," coach Rick Tocchet said. "Even on the bench, emotionally, he got us into the game. Stammer, not just the fight, he was intense."
Tampa Bay still has plenty to work out. It must find a way to take more shots and score goals. It has to stop opponents from getting into minutes-long offensive-zone possessions. And it has to figure out how to win a shootout, something it has done only once in six tries.
The probability of all that is greatly enhanced if the team can maintain the energy it showed against New York. We're not talking about fighting, but intensity that enhances skating, fighting for pucks and throwing checks.
It is a difficult way to play. It takes will and conditioning. And perhaps it takes Tocchet, who was that kind of NHL player, to threaten loss of playing time, as he did last week, if the Lightning doesn't keep it up.
One thing is for sure, the Lightning played with an edge against the Rangers. Isn't that what all players look for?
Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]