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It’s what the Lightning aren’t doing that counts

Alex Killorn’s decision to just skate away Thursday night is part of a positive trend in Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay Lightning center Alex Killorn (17) celebrates his second goal of the game during the second period of Tampa Bay's 9-3 victory over the New York Rangers Thursday at Amalie Arena. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
Tampa Bay Lightning center Alex Killorn (17) celebrates his second goal of the game during the second period of Tampa Bay's 9-3 victory over the New York Rangers Thursday at Amalie Arena. [DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Nov. 15, 2019

TAMPA — Sometimes, it’s more about what you don’t do. Alex Killorn didn’t do anything and skated away.

He could have taken a penalty Thursday night. Instead, the Lightning ended up with a five-on-three. Killorn scored on the first penalty, then Nikita Kucherov did on the second.

Not doing anything put the Lightning in an entirely different position in their 9-3 victory over the New York Rangers.

Tony DeAngelo had slashed Killorn behind the net and then tried to get him to engage in a shoving match. Instead, Killorn quickly skated away.

“I heard the ref give DeAngelo a penalty,” Killorn said. “Once I heard that, I tried to get out of there as quickly as possible. There’s no need to be a tough guy when you know you have a five-on-three.”

Taking too many penalties had been one of the Lightning’s biggest issues early in the season. That play is just one example of a disciplined approach that has helped them stay out of the box and kill the penalties they have taken the last few games.

Tampa Bay granted opponents four or more power plays in eight of the first 12 games. The team also paired that with one of the league’s worst penalty kills.

More recently, the Lightning went three games allowing no more than two power plays. They did give up four on Thursday, but the flow of that game was odd with the 12 total goals. Additionally, they managed to kill all of the penalties off.

The Lightning hasn’t given up a power-play goal in four games this month.

“When you’re only killing off one or two a game,” coach Jon Cooper said. “It’s a lot easier to kill them off than when you take six.”

There’s a little more to it than just taking fewer penalties.

Frustration had been creeping in, with it coming a bit of panic and a pull away from the system. Some of the power-play goals had been bad bounces but they came after breakdowns created opportunities. Others came from trying to rush things and making turnovers.

“We’ve done some video,” Anthony Cirelli said. “Trust the process. We had to make little adjustments here and there and now we just have to stick to the system.”

The Lightning also needed to build some confidence within its penalty kill unit. That enables them to take a moment and hold off the panic. Trusting their own process also keeps players from freelancing and getting out of position.

“It’s a lot of momentum,” Killorn said. “Once you kill one, once you score one on the power play, a lot of things start feeling better.”

Contact Diana C. Nearhos at dnearhos@tampabay.com. Follow @dianacnearhos.

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