TAMPA — After giving up six goals to an upstart Colorado team, Tampa Bay is looking for a bounce-back performance when they host Pittsburgh on Wednesday night.
After a 4-3 overtime loss at Carolina on Oct. 6, Tampa Bay posted seven goals in its next game against Toronto. After a 4-2 defeat in Ottawa on Oct. 12, the Lightning rebounded for a 3-1 win against Montreal. Lightning coach Jon Cooper sees a positive in the team’s ability to rebound.
“You look at the Carolina and the Ottawa game, they probably weren’t our best efforts,” Cooper said. “(The coaching staff) challenged the team, and they responded.”
Now the Lightning need another effort after the Avalanche, the leading team in the Western Conference standings, handed Tampa Bay a 6-2 loss Saturday at Amalie Arena.
“There’s no doubt we have it in us,” said defenseman Ryan McDonagh. “We’ve got to get it consistent, find that motivation and find that competitiveness right from the first puck drop. We’ve got to look each other in the eye at the start of each game and make sure that we’re all there and ready to battle for one another.”
Despite the thumping at the hands of the Avalanche, the Lightning identified at least one positive takeaway from Saturday’s showing – the team finished the night with 46 shots on goal, nearly doubling Colorado’s 24. Unfortunately for the Lightning, Avalanche goalie Pavel Francouz stuffed 44 of those shots, limiting Tampa Bay to two goals in only his fourth career game.
Cooper said his team can’t worry about who’s in net for the opponent because, whoever he is, he’s good enough to be a National Hockey League goalie.
“It’s more about us,” Cooper said before Saturday’s loss. “How is our shot volume going? Are we doing all the right things around the net?”
The shot volume was not the problem Saturday night, as evidenced by Tampa Bay’s overwhelming advantage in shot differential. Forward Anthony Cirelli said his team needs to take better advantages of their scoring opportunities.
“It’s not easy to score in this league,” Cirelli said. “We’ve got to kind of do a better job of getting some traffic through and try finishing our chances.”
During last year’s record-shattering campaign, Tampa Bay put together a averaged 3.89 goals per game and led the league with 319 scores, 30 more than any other team. Through a small sample size of eight games this season, Tampa Bay’s offensive output of 3.5 goals per game ranks in the top-third of the league, checking in at No. 8 before Monday night’s games, but does not match last year’s performance.
“I think comparing the years is really – it’s unfair,” Cooper said after Saturday’s loss. “Pretty much everything last year, up until the playoffs, went right for us.”
Paquette returning to form
Cooper said forward Cedric Paquette is “definitely in the day-to-day range now.” The forward was on the ice in a regular jersey at Sunday’s practice, and he is nearing a return after suffering an undisclosed injury in a Sept. 28 preseason game against Florida. The Lightning will reevaluate Paquette when they return to practice on Tuesday.
“I don’t know if the injury is as much the issue now as working him back into game shape,” Cooper said.
The Lightning host Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins 8 p.m. Wednesday at Amalie Arena.