TAMPA — A day after the Lightning spent an hour’s worth of practice pounding out power-play drills, the unit came up big in a 4-3 win over the Flames on Saturday that ended Tampa Bay’s season-high four-game losing streak.
The much-criticized power play, which had a 9 percent success rate in 2020 before this game, came up with two goals on four chances. The goals staked the Lightning to a 2-0 by the midpoint of the second period.
On Friday, coach Jon Cooper said the Lightning had “been dry of late” but that they hadn’t had much practice time to work on special teams. Late in the season, the Lightning have tried to find a balance between rest and practice. Their most recent previous practice had been in Arizona, about one week ago.
Alex Killorn said the practice helped implement some changes in how the power play is run, which made a difference Saturday.
Some of those changes are due to the absence of Steven Stamkos, out with an injury. The Lightning said Saturday that Stamkos will be out six to eight weeks for surgery to repair a core muscle problem.
“Without Stamkos in there right now, we’re trying a few different looks,” Cooper said Friday. “Things that we have done in the past — maybe a couple of years ago — just getting guys in spots, giving them feeling the puck a little bit.”
The first goal Saturday came on the Lightning’s first power play at the hands of Tyler Johnson, who tipped in a shot from the blue line from Mikhail Sergachev in the first period.
The power play came up strong again in the second period with a goal from Ondrej Palat.
About 4 1/2 minutes later, Yanni Gourde scored shorthanded as a holding penalty against Sergachev expired to give the Lightning a 3-0 lead.
“(The Flames) were definitely on their heels,” Gourde said. “When we stepped on the ice, we kind of, we read that play, and I knew I had some speed. (Cedric Paquette) was coming, and we kind of got going through the neutral zone to see things open up for us.”
Gourde said the success of a good power play or penalty kill can be a huge momentum swing, especially in a physical-heavy game like Saturday’s. A quality penalty-kill shift from Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman — one with multiple scoring chances for the two — added to the Lightning’s momentum.
Cooper said special teams provided “a huge momentum boost” Saturday. He said it’s not necessarily always about the productivity of special teams but more so how much of an energizer they can be for future play.
The penalty-kill play of Coleman and Goodrow — both acquired in trades leading up to the deadline — played a role in productivity, Cooper said.
“We brought guys in here for a reason, and that was part of it,” Cooper said. “They’ve both done that in their careers. They’ve been good at it.”
Cooper said seeing that play up close adds perspective to the newcomers’ energy. He liked their instincts against the Flames and commended Coleman’s skating and shot-blocking abilities.
“That’s kind of been my M.O. … generating a lot of offense in the penalty kill,” Coleman said. “And any time you can score, or even get chances to get the (power play) out of your end, it’s a big deal. (It’s) a momentum shift in the game.”
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Johnson 14 (Sergachev, Kucherov), 13:52 (pp). Penalties—Dube, Cal (Holding), 13:09.
Second Period—2, Tampa Bay, Palat 16 (Sergachev, Kucherov), 7:05 (pp). 3, Tampa Bay, Gourde 10 (Bogosian, Paquette), 11:50 (sh). 4, Calgary, Mangiapane 17 (Backlund), 13:12. 5, Calgary, Lindholm 28 (Gaudreau, Gustafsson), 14:04. 6, Tampa Bay, Killorn 24 (Coleman, Coburn), 14:57. Penalties—Monahan, Cal (Hooking), 5:27; Sergachev, TB (Holding Stick), 9:52; Brodie, Cal (Slashing), 19:19; Andersson, Cal (Slashing), 20:00; Palat, TB (Slashing), 20:00.
Third Period—7, Calgary, Monahan 22 (Tkachuk, Lindholm), 17:11 (pp). Penalties—Brodie, Cal (Interference), 7:49; Cernak, TB (Interference), 17:04.
Shots on Goal—Calgary 6-9-6_21. Tampa Bay 13-14-6_33. Power-play opportunities—Calgary 1 of 2; Tampa Bay 2 of 4. Goalies—Calgary, Rittich 24-15-6 (34 shots-30 saves). Tampa Bay, Vasilevskiy 32-12-3 (21-18).