Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning wing Teddy Purcell finally finds consistency, scoring role

With Lightning wing Teddy Purcell, his skills have never been a question.

The passing ability? "Tremendous," coach Guy Boucher said.

The shot? "It's incredible," Boucher said. "It's close to (Steven Stamkos') shot."

It has been consistency that has eluded Purcell the past two seasons. But Purcell, 26, seemed to find it around Christmas time this season, and he raised his game to another level. Now he's riding a career-best nine-game points streak, including the tying goal in Saturday's 4-3 overtime win over Carolina.

"All that guy needs is an opportunity to prove what he can do in this league, and he's getting it," Stamkos said. "He's on fire right now. And we're just going to ride the wave."

With captain Vinny Lecavalier out since Feb. 18 with a fractured right hand, Purcell has taken advantage of an opportunity on the top line and power-play unit with Stamkos and Marty St. Louis.

He has logged season highs in minutes in each of the past two games, including 23 minutes, 34 seconds Saturday night, helping the Lightning pull within two points of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

"It's something I haven't been used to," Purcell said. "On this team I've been that secondary role and facing the second and third lines. But when you're with those big guys, there's no hiding, that's for sure.

"And it makes it more difficult, but it's more of a challenge, and you kind of take that next step as a player, and you see some results, and your confidence grows. You really start believing in yourself."

After Purcell's breakout season last year — he had career highs in goals (17), assists (34) and points, and in the playoffs he added six goals and 17 points, both third on the team — he signed a two-year, $4.725 million deal as a restricted free agent.

But Purcell struggled at the start of this season, including being a healthy scratch for one game and scoring once in a 22-game stretch from November to December. But Boucher said Purcell is earning everything he is getting now, including 19 points (six goals) over the past nine games, one more than Stamkos in that stretch.

"The two things we always focus on with Teddy is to skate and battle," Boucher said. "When he does both, he's terrific out there. When he's missing one, he's average. When he's missing both, he's below average, and Teddy knows that.

"He's had one bad game, I think, in our last 20. … That's pretty impressive."

Purcell says he is a "pass-first kind of guy," not as confident in his shot as he should be. That's why Boucher was so happy when Purcell ripped a one-timer in the third period to tie Saturday's game with four seconds left on a five-on-three power play.

But Purcell might have saved his best for last on the winning assist in overtime. He patiently carried the puck between the circles and faked a shot before finding Stamkos near the post.

"He had the lane to shoot it," Stamkos said. "He walked right in, sucked everyone in, sucked the goaltender in, gave me a backdoor with the wide open net. He's feeling it right now."

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