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Fourth line has been the Lightning’s best to start

Diana C. Nearhos’ takeaways, including Carter Verhaeghe’s first career point, and the wrong side of a hat trick
Tampa Bay Lightning center Gemel Smith (46) jostles with Florida Panthers left wing Mike Hoffman (68) during the third period of an NHL game, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, in Sunrise, Fla. [BRYNN ANDERSON  |  AP]
Tampa Bay Lightning center Gemel Smith (46) jostles with Florida Panthers left wing Mike Hoffman (68) during the third period of an NHL game, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, in Sunrise, Fla. [BRYNN ANDERSON | AP]
Published Oct. 6, 2019

You know what they say … fourth line, best line. Maybe that’s not what they say, but that’s the way it’s working for the Lightning.

In the preseason, the line of Luke Witkowski, Cedric Paquette and Pat Maroon turned in some of the team’s best shifts. That didn’t change when Gemel Smith stepped in after Paquette’s injury.

Witkowski, Smith and Maroon are all new additions to the team (though Witkowski was here three years ago), but they’ve quickly built chemistry.

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The new bigger, more physical trio is working out. Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk called them the driving force as the Lightning started out strong on Saturday.

“We just kinda know what we want to do,” Smith said. “We’re playing fast. We just know where we want to go with the puck. We play a simple game so we know where we’re going and it’s working for us.”

Read up on the Lightning’s 4-3 loss to Florida:

Three penalties in five minutes caught the Lightning. “We needed to kill one more of those penalties, and we couldn’t do it,” Jon Cooper said. “It’s tough to get three. We got two. We couldn’t get three.” Read more.

Andrei Vasilevskiy made his 200th start. He’s the second Lightning goalie to reach that mark and the youngest. Read more.

It’s weird seeing Anton Strålman on the other side. Cooper accidentally found himself rooting for him for a second. Read more.

Some notes from the game

· Carter Verhaeghe wanted more scoring opportunities in his second game than he had in his first game. Well, he put three shots on net and recorded his first NHL point. Verhaeghe notched the second assist on Mathieu Joseph’s goal in the third period. He carried the puck into the zone and then passed up to Yanni Gourde to set up the two-on-one.

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· Shattenkirk led the Lightning in shots, putting five on net. He also assisted Steven Stamkos’ third-period goal, giving him a point in each of his first two games.

· Maroon is no longer on pace for 82 goals (he made the joke after scoring in the season opener), as he didn’t score on Saturday. But he’s still on pace for 82 points after assisted Smith’s goal.

· The Lightning watch teams leave Stamkos alone in his favorite spot (the left circle) all the time and see the damage he does, like on his third-period goal. They’re usually pretty good at not falling into that trap themselves. Yet, Mike Hoffman was wide open in the right circle for two straight goals.

· Hoffman scored the NHL’s second hat trick of the night and second of the season. Mika Zibanejad scored three goals for the Rangers before Hoffman notched his third in the third period.


  1. Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) makes his third NHL All-Star Game appearance Saturday in St. Louis. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    NHL all-stars and players around the league praise the Lightning goalie for his size and athleticism, and for making both desperation and “boring” saves.
  2. Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov, center, smiles as he is congratulated by teammate Steven Stamkos, left, and Erik Karlsson, right, after scoring a "no shot" goal for a hat trick during the NHL All-Star game Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018 in Tampa, Fla. [CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP]
    Embrace players’ creativity with a shootout competition and hockey H-O-R-S-E.
  3. Tampa Bay center Anthony Cirelli doesn't necessarily have All-Star Game flair, but his importance to  the Lightning is never in doubt. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    The Lightning have too many stars for everyone to be an all-star and they aren’t the only team with that issue.
  4. FILE – In this Monday, Jan. 13, 2020 file photo, the Philadelphia Flyers' mascot, Gritty, performs during an NHL hockey game in Philadelphia. Chris Greenwell has alleged that the mascot punched his 13-year-old son, Brandon, after a photo shoot in November. The Incident is under investigation. [DERIK HAMILTON                        |  AP]
    The Flyers mascot is accused of punching a 13-year-old “as hard as he could.”
  5. United States' Kendall Coyne skates during the Skills Competition, part of the NHL All-Star weekend, in San Jose, Calif., Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. [BEN MARGOT  |  AP]
    Diana C. Nearhos | Women’s hockey is at a crossroads as players try to figure out what kind of professional league they want.
  6. Vegas Golden Knights NHL hockey team general manager Kelly McCrimmon holds a news conference in Ottawa, Wednesday, Jan 15, 2020. Head coach Gerard Gallant was fired less than two years after leading the Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Final. Peter DeBoer will be the coach for the rest of the season. [SEAN KILPATRICK  |  AP]
    Diana C. Nearhos | The NHL looks like musical chairs for coaches. Get to know Cedric Paquette.
  7. Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Alex Killorn (17) celebrate after he beats Arizona Coyotes goaltender Adin Hill (31) to score the first goal of the game during first period action at Amalie Arena on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020 in Tampa. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    The Lightning forward has hovered just below 20 goals for years and finally reached the mark Friday.
  8. Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) leads the celebration as players contratulate right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) after he beat Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick (32) to tie the game 3-3 in the final moments during third period action at Amalie Arena on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020 in Tampa. The Lightning went on to win 4 to 3 in the shootout.  [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Tampa Bay went from sixth place in the Atlantic Division to second behind a 10-game win streak.
  9. Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) gets beaten by a shot from Tampa Bay Lightning's Nikita Kucherov (86) as Lightning's Steven Stamkos (91) looks on during first-period NHL hockey game action in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. [JOHN WOODS  |  AP]
    Tampa Bay pours on the goals with seven total, including two from Nikita Kucherov.
  10. Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Luke Schenn (2) celebrates his goal, the first of the game, along with right wing Nikita Kucherov (86), defenseman Mikhail Sergachev (98) and center Tyler Johnson (9) beating New York Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev (40) during first period action at Amalie Arena on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019 in Tampa. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Tampa Bay also reassigned Alex Volkov to AHL Syracuse as Pat Maroon returned to the lineup.