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Momentum missing from Lightning power play

Winnipeg Jets' Bryan Little (18) fires the puck past Tampa Bay Lightning's goaltender Louis Domingue (70) with Yanni Gourde (37) trying to check him during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. (Trevor Hagan/The Canadian Press via AP) WPGT119
Winnipeg Jets' Bryan Little (18) fires the puck past Tampa Bay Lightning's goaltender Louis Domingue (70) with Yanni Gourde (37) trying to check him during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. (Trevor Hagan/The Canadian Press via AP) WPGT119
Published Feb. 1, 2018

CALGARY — The Lightning did everything it could Tuesday night during a third-period penalty kill to prevent the Jets from scoring a backbreaking goal.

With the Lightning trailing by one, goalie Louis Domingue stopped five shots. Braydon Coburn, Anton Stralman and Matthew Peca each blocked a shot. Brayden Point and Peca won defensive-zone faceoffs.

As power plays go, the Jets have had better ones. They did not score during those two minutes with the man advantage.

But it was a good power play because the Jets carried the momentum when the Lightning returned to full strength. Less than two minutes later, Bryan Little put a rebound past Domingue, the Jets were up by two goals, and that was the game.

"Power plays, it's about scoring, but it's also about getting momentum and building off that and trying to get our team going," the Lightning's Yanni Gourde said. "Sometimes you might not score on the power play, but the following shift or the one after that, you're going to score, and it's all because you set the pace."

The Lightning entered Thursday's game against the Flames scoreless in its previous 13 power plays over its past four games. It broke the drought early in the second period against the Flames.

That the Lightning was 3-1 in the four games without a power-play goal was encouraging. That the power play was shutout was disheartening. Of bigger concern was its failure to generate those quick goals when the teams returned to 5-on-5 play. "It kind of went away a little bit," Gourde said.

Why?

"We didn't turn the momentum around when we stepped on the ice," Gourde said.

The Lightning's power play that features Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman still ranks among the best in the league. It's 23.1 percent success rate was fourth entering Thursday.

"Early on in the year, it was kind of a catalyst for our offense," assistant coach Todd Richards, who coaches the power play, said before Thursday's game. "And maybe when we weren't scoring on it, it was generating positive momentum into the 5-on-5 play. Right now we aren't doing much of that. In fact, sometimes it's been just the opposite. We maybe have some positive energy going into our power play but weren't able to generate much, and it's become a detractor in creating that positive momentum."

The problem, Gourde said, begins at the beginning: getting the puck into the offensive zone. He said the two power-play units have not been using their speed to gain the advantage.

"When our power play was at our best, we moved the puck fast. We skated well. We executed well, too," he said, "so if we're bringing that against any team, we should get in the zone and get things going for us."

Sounds easy enough. But the Lightning recently has faced teams above the league average (80.4 percent) in penalty kills: Nashville at 82.9, Winnipeg at 82.6 and Chicago at 81.9.

The Lightning power play was 0-for-6 at Winnipeg, but one of those ended quickly when Chris Kunitz got a delay of game penalty to make it a 4-on-4.

Tyler Johnson believed the units had some good looks. "It's just a matter of putting the puck on the net and getting those second opportunities," he said. "Sometimes they go in; sometimes they don't."

Richards said all teams run hot and cold on the power play.

"We kind of lost our direction a little as far as our execution and creating that attacking style on our power play," he said. "Right now we're on a downward swing. (We have to) correct some things, change some things and swing that upward momentum for us."