STOCKHOLM — Jon Cooper doesn’t like the term fourth line. For his Lightning, he calls it “Paquette’s line.”
Sabres coach Ralph Krueger shied away from the “fourth line” term as well after the Lightning’s led the way to back-to-back wins over his team at the Ericsson Globe.
“The number four, or fourth line, is certainly something we didn’t feel,” Krueger said after the Lightning won 5-3 Saturday. “From the responsibility they had, often playing against (center Jack) Eichel and producing offensively, they were outstanding.”
Cooper called the trio of Cedric Paquette, Pat Maroon and Yanni Gourde the difference maker Saturday and in Friday’s 3-2 victory. They created the energy expected from a fourth line, wearing down the Sabres and sparking the rest of the Lightning. Saturday, they had three of the Lightning’s goals for good measure.
“We all kind of play the same way,” Maroon said. “We’re creative, in a way. We’re good at that, protecting the puck, not forcing plays. We all love crashing the net and getting second and third opportunities.”
The three play the same way but have different strengths. Maroon has a big body (6 feet 2, 236 pounds) and battles hard. Gourde has speed to create things. Paquette wins faceoffs and get under opponents’ skin.
“They were outstanding (Saturday),” said Victor Hedman, who also had a goal in his home country and got emotional when fans chanted his name after the win.
“They have some different skill sets on that line, and they were taking advantage of it.”
This version of the Paquette line is relatively new.
Paquette missed the first eight games of the season with an arm injury suffered in the preseason. Gourde moved around on the other three lines some. Maroon, Paquette and Luke Witkowski built some chemistry together with a bigger, more physical fourth-line model. But Witkowski was sent to AHL Syracuse last week. Gourde is bringing speed to the mix.
“Any time we needed pushback (against the Sabres), they delivered,” Cooper said. “It was a hard line for their (defense) corps to handle. When we get to spend 30 seconds in the zone every shift, it resets your team a little bit. (The Paquette line was) rewarded for all the work.”
On Saturday, Maroon scored twice (he almost had a hat trick, but an empty-netter try bounced off both posts) and Gourde once.
First, Maroon tipped Gourde’s shot from high in the left circle to tie the score at 1 late in the first period. He scored again with three seconds left in the second to make it 3-1, a goal that seemed to knock Buffalo back.
All three forwards followed Kevin Shattenkirk’s shot to the net on that play. Paquette touched the puck first, and Maroon put it in. There’s that love for crashing the net that Maroon referred to.
Gourde added what became the winner midway into the third period. After the Sabres won a faceoff in their zone, Gourde busted into the play and came away with the puck.
Part of the Lightning’s goal for the week in Sweden was to continue establishing their identity. The Paquette line already has one, and Maroon figures it can set a tone for the rest of the team “by bringing the energy every single night.”
“We keep it simple and find ways to get pucks in, finding ways to make sure we’re on top of it every single night,” Maroon said.
He knows what he’s talking about. He played that role last year and helped the Blues win the Stanley Cup.
Steven Stamkos credited Maroon, signed as a free agent in the offseason, with helping to bring the Lightning together. He has been a great addition off the ice, and as he gets more comfortable, Maroon is showing just what he can do on it.
“When he does have the confidence to have the puck in the offensive zone as much as he did these last two games, it’s kind of an element we’ve never had on our team,” Stamkos said.
That element is one of the pieces that brings energy to the Paquette line, which in turn can help the Lightning build an identity and win games.
Contact Diana C. Nearhos at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @dianacnearhos.
First Period—1, Buffalo, Reinhart 8 (Montour, Johansson), 9:30. 2, Tampa Bay, Maroon 2 (Gourde, Shattenkirk), 17:02 (pp). Penalties—Kucherov, TB, (hooking), 10:40 Montour, BUF, (roughing), 15:07.
Second Period—3, Tampa Bay, Hedman 3 (Kucherov, Stamkos), 1:58 (pp). 4, Tampa Bay, Maroon 3 (Paquette, Shattenkirk), 19:57. Penalties—Johansson, BUF, (interference), 1:51 Ristolainen, BUF, (interference), 14:43.
Third Period—5, Buffalo, Olofsson 7 (Reinhart, Eichel), 4:14. 6, Tampa Bay, Gourde 4 (Paquette), 9:48. 7, Tampa Bay, Joseph 4 (Killorn, Cirelli), 10:55. 8, Buffalo, Eichel 8 (Dahlin, Ristolainen), 19:22. Penalties—Paquette, TB, served by Maroon, (unsportsmanlike conduct), 16:14 Paquette, TB, Misconduct (misconduct), 16:14 Cernak, TB, (roughing), 17:59 Reinhart, BUF, (roughing), 17:59.
Shots on Goal—Buffalo 17-13-13_43. Tampa Bay 12-18-10_40. Power-play opportunities—Buffalo 0 of 2. Tampa Bay 2 of 3. Goalies—Buffalo, Hutton 6-3-1 (40 shots-35 saves). Tampa Bay, McElhinney 2-1-2 (43-40). A—13,339 (16,000). T—2:43. Referees—Eric Furlatt, Chris Lee. Linesmen—Steve Barton, Tony Sericolo.