After weeks of a struggling power play, the Lightning might have finally found the right mix.
During the second period of Tuesday's 4-2 win over the Canadiens, the Lightning switched up its first power play unit, putting the red-hot "Triplets" line of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov with captain Steven Stamkos and D Anton Stralman.
The second line had been on the second power play unit. But in moving to the first, Stamkos could set up in the middle slot area, opening up the ice. And Tampa Bay scored on back-to-back power plays. "They basically won us that game," Cooper said.
"I think we've talked about chemistry, and those guys got it going a little bit," Cooper said. "Stralman directs traffic. To put Stammer in the hole, and right around the net, that's where he's best, he clearly draws a little more attention when he's out there. So to put your offensive guys together, 5-on-4, want to have them together. We've split things up and we were struggling on the power play.
"Sometimes when you get into situtions, it forces your hand. If I was a better coach I would have done it earlier, but I didn't."
The Lightning had a top-five power play unit in its hot start, but a 3-for-43 skid in December helped drop it to 16th in the league at 18.7 percent.
"It worked well last game," Johnson said. "Obviously it's a small sample size. We needed a little bit of spark. We were able to get two goals there. Hopefully we can carry it over the rest of the season. We need the power play to be better."
More from morning skate: G Ben Bishop will start in net. D Nikita Nesterov will play in his third NHL game, and LW Brenden Morrow will return to the lineup, with D Mark Barberio and RW J.T Brown scratched... The NHL will announce its All-Star rosters Saturday afternoon. The Lightning have several deserving candidates, Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov among them. But C Steven Stamkos, a two-time All-Star and likely participant, knows not all deserving players make it. "Sometimes it's a name recognition kind of thing, not necessarily the best players that make it," Stamkos said. "So if guys don't get a chance to make it, maybe it's probably not the right thing. But you've got guys like Jonny, Kuch that have played great. (Goalie Ben Bishop) has been a backstop for us. And (defenseman Victor Hedman) played great all year. I would love to see all those guys, not sure if that'll be the case. But they're definitely deserving."