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Can the Lightning keep out-scoring its problems?

Two games in a row, the Lightning has allowed five goals. Only six times in 13 games, has Tampa Bay allowed three or fewer.
DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times 
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman (6), left, rushes to celebrate the tying goal with Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Adam Erne (73), center, during the third period of Saturday's (12/29/18) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman (6), left, rushes to celebrate the tying goal with Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Adam Erne (73), center, during the third period of Saturday's (12/29/18) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
Published Dec. 30, 2018
Updated Dec. 31, 2018

TAMPA — With so much going right for the Lightning this season, it has been able to outscore its problems.

Tampa Bay did it again Saturday in a 6-5 win over the Canadiens, but winning might be a little easier for the No. 1 team in the league if it gave up fewer goals.

"If there's one thing that we need to improve a little bit, our goals against," coach Jon Cooper said before Saturday's game. "We're probably one higher than we should be."

General manager Julien BriseBois offered the same negative in his state-of-the-union talk about the team before the game: The Lightning allows too many goals. He said it needs to be better at locking down wins, especially late in games.

Saturday, the Lightning trailed 5-4 after two periods. In the third, it held the Canadiens to six shots and scored twice on 13 shots to get the win.

"We're obviously not happy with the way we played defensively," defenseman Victor Hedman said. "We're not going to win every game 6-5. But at the end of the day … we had to score six to win the game."

Consider it progress compared with Thursday's game against the Flyers. The Lightning blew a three-goal lead in the third period and needed overtime to win 6-5.

In 13 December games — with one left to play in the month, tonight at the Ducks — Tampa Bay has allowed three or fewer goals six times. Yet the Lightning entered Sunday tied for 16th in goals against in the league, having give up 116, making its league-leading goal differential, plus-50, all the more impressive.

"Just look in the third (period Saturday)," Hedman said. "We simplify our game. We don't spend unnecessary time in our own end. We're winning battles. We get pucks out when we don't have a play.

"When you have a good team, it's easy to get caught in making the perfect play all the time. You have to be satisfied sometimes just by chipping pucks out and going on the forecheck."

The Lightning has struggled with its team defense. BriseBois stressed Saturday that he wasn't targeting goaltenders or defensemen in saying it needed to give up fewer goals.

"This team needs to realize we're still going to create our chances no matter how good or bad we play defensively, so we might as well play good," defenseman Anton Stralman said.

"It's more important that we clean up (the defensive side). If that takes one or two goals off a forward, so be it. We're going to win our games."

Contact Diana C. Nearhos at dnearhos@tampabay.com. Follow @dianacnearhos.