Monday, December 11, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Whatever the reason, Alex Ovechkin faces Lightning on scoring tear

TAMPA — Explanations vary for Alex Ovechkin's early season goal explosion.

"Pride," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said before Monday's game against the Lightning at Amalie Arena.

"Ovechkin is a shooter," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said, "and he's really, really good at it."

Less pressure, Ovechkin offered.

He plays on a talented line with center Evgeny Kuznetsov and wing Jakub Vrana, which means he does not have to provide all the goals.

Yet, Ovechkin, 32, entered Monday with seven goals in Washington's first two games of the season. He is the first player to open a season with back-to-back hat tricks in 100 years. He needed two goals Monday to tie the NHL record for the most goals in the first three games of a season, but he was pointless in the Lightning's 4-3 overtime win.

"When you score in the first game, the pressure is off," Ovechkin said. "If you're a goal scorer, it's very important to have a hot start, because in the future you're going to feel confident."

As if opposing teams need to face a more confident Ovechkin.

He has seven seasons of at least 50 goals. Last year's total of 33 began the chorus that Ovechkin's skills were in decline, never mind that the Capitals had a balanced scoring attack that enabled them to win the Presidents' Trophy with the most points in the NHL.

Still, it was Ovechkin's fewest goals in a full season since 2010-11.

"I think he had something to prove," Trotz said. "There's people questioning if he's still got it. I think he's a proud athlete."

When asked if that has played a role, Ovechkin said, "I think it's not about me. It's all about my line. I think how we set up for the games, we shoot the puck, we move well. When you feel confident in them, you don't feel the pressure on yourself."

Kuznetsov has assisted on all seven of Ovechkin's goals. Vrana has three assists.

Trotz said Ovechkin and Kuznetsov have developed a strong chemistry but he is sticking to the pride theory.

"Athletes are proud, and when you doubt their ability to do something, they get their back up a little bit and they want to prove you wrong," he said. "Hopefully (Ovechkin) wants to do that not only for two games but for 82 and really prove us wrong. He'll be on pace for a couple of hundred goals, and I'm on board with that."

Actually, Ovechkin entered Monday's game on pace for 287 goals.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper joked that seven goals a month equates to a 42-goal season, which is a great season.

"So let's just hope he used his seven up for the month of October," Cooper said.

To stop Ovechkin, or at the least slow him, Cooper said, is to limit his space and opportunities. That's how you defend shooters, a group that includes Lightning captain Steven Stamkos.

"The problem is, when they're hot, which (Ovechkin) is right now, the puck has eyes for him," Cooper said. "How much you can stop that, it's tough. Pretty sure (the Capitals') last two opponents, they were trying to stop him as well."

Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman said his team's game plan Monday to stop Ovechkin was the same as if he entered the night with zero goals.

"He's one of those guys, when he scores, he can't get enough. When he doesn't, he'll do everything to get back," Stralman said. "It doesn't really matter what his track record is before you play him. You always have to be aware of where he is and kind of read his pattern a little bit."

 
Comments
How Lightning coach Jon Cooper reinvented himself

How Lightning coach Jon Cooper reinvented himself

BRANDON — The best team in town had just wrapped up practice. The Lightning had a plane to catch, to St. Louis, where Tuesday in St. Louis begins a four-city road trip that ends at expansion Las Vegas, exclusive engagement, one show a night, unless y...
Updated: 3 hours ago
All boxes checked on Lightning home stand sweep; now, back to the road

All boxes checked on Lightning home stand sweep; now, back to the road

TAMPA — You don’t often see a coach making shadow puppets on the wall with his hands at the start of his postgame news conference, but that’s where the Lightning is these days after sweeping a four-game home stand with Saturday night’s 4-3 overtime v...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated game story: Lightning’s Brayden Point credits luck, opportunity for OT winner vs. Jets

Updated game story: Lightning’s Brayden Point credits luck, opportunity for OT winner vs. Jets

TAMPA — His coach says he plays every game as if he doesn’t play his best, he’s going to be sent down. That is not the case with Brayden Point, but who doesn’t want that kind of effort from a second-year player who has more than established himself i...
Published: 12/09/17

Brayden Point scores in OT to give Lightning win over Jets

TAMPA — The Jets saw Saturday’s game against the Lightning as a benchmark game, a way to measure themselves against the NHL’s top team. The Lightning had circled the game, the last of a four-game home stand."It’s going to be a big test for us," Light...
Published: 12/09/17
Lightning journal: Power-play players make me look good, Jon Cooper says

Lightning journal: Power-play players make me look good, Jon Cooper says

TAMPA — How about that Lightning power play."Coaching," coach Jon Cooper said before Saturday’s game with the Jets.He was kidding."You always look like a good coach when you can throw (Nikita) Kucherov and (Steven) Stamkos and (Victor) Hedman over th...
Published: 12/09/17

Roger Mooney’s takeaways from Saturday’s Lightning-Jets game

The game drew the hockey world’s attention because it matched the NHL’s top team against a rising team in the West. It was refreshing to see both treat it as more than just another game. The Jets saw a chance to measure themselves against the top tea...
Published: 12/09/17
Attitude adjusted, Cory Conacher focused on sticking with Lightning

Attitude adjusted, Cory Conacher focused on sticking with Lightning

TAMPA — When Cory Conacher was called up a little over a week ago, it looked like it might be for just a one-game cameo.Center Cedric Paquette had been suspended for one game for boarding, and the Lightning, otherwise healthy up front, needed a fill-...
Published: 12/09/17
Another test tonight for Lightning

Another test tonight for Lightning

Big one tonight at Amalie Arena as the Lightning finish off its four-game homestand against the visiting Jets, who at one point earlier this week were tied with the Lightning (20-6-2, 42 points) for the NHL lead in points.Since then, the Jets (17-8-4...
Published: 12/09/17
Attitude adjusted, Cory Conacher focused on sticking with Lightning

Attitude adjusted, Cory Conacher focused on sticking with Lightning

TAMPA — When Cory Conacher was called up a little over a week ago, it looked like it might be for just a one-game cameo.Center Cedric Paquette had been suspended for one game for boarding, and the Lightning, otherwise healthy up front, needed a fill-...
Published: 12/09/17
Steven Stamkos’ toughest rehab leads to his greatest hockey

Steven Stamkos’ toughest rehab leads to his greatest hockey

TAMPA — Steven Stamkos picked up steam near the Lightning blue line early in Thursday’s first period.By the time the captain reached center ice, he was seemingly at warp speed. Stamkos, 27, chasing a Vladislav Namestnikov pass off the boards, split t...
Published: 12/08/17