TAMPA — They’ve often started games this year, and the Lightning depend on their third forward line of Yanni Gourde, Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow to provide a spark out of the gate.
In Sunday’s 2-1 win over the Red Wings, the line not only scored on its first shift of the game, but also on the first shift of the second period.
Since debuting last season after the Lightning acquired Coleman and Goodrow at the trade deadline — and shining through Tampa Bay’s postseason run — the Gourde line only continues to provide disciplined and determined hockey.
“They’ve got a better part of three quarters of this year, a lot of the playoffs last year,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “So, for all intents and purposes, they’ve had a full year of games to get to know each other and they’ve got a lot of chemistry. They know where each other is; they’ve got a lot of attributes that blend with each other.”
They’re known for making life hard on opponents with their forecheck, and Sunday, they utilized their aggressiveness to manufacture both Lightning goals in a low-scoring game.
“There’s going to be off nights,” Coleman said. “That’s life and that’s hockey, and the more good nights we can put together as a line, the better this team’s going to be. It’s going to give us a chance to win games like this where maybe pucks aren’t necessarily falling in for some of our big scorers.”
Coleman scored Sunday’s first goal 16 seconds into the game, and both of his linemates were instrumental. Moments after puck drop, Gourde sent it up ice and pursued, meeting Detroit defenseman Filip Hronek into the far corner. Goodrow converged as well and past the end line, he intercepted Hronek’s back-handed pass behind the net, looked up and found Coleman skating into the slot.
Goodrow’s feed in front of the net landed on Coleman’s stick for a one-timer that beat Red Wings goaltender Jonathan Bernier, giving Coleman goals in three of his past four games.
On the first shift of the second period, the Gourde line was at it again, peppering Bernier with shots and keeping the pressure on with a strong retrieval game. Gourde came in from the far corner to walk in front, but couldn’t get a shot off in traffic.
Coleman found the puck and flipped a wrister at the net. Goodrow chased the rebound and fed Coleman for another shot. Gourde corralled the puck off the end boards and kicked it off the side board to defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, who fired from the left point through Coleman’s screen — Coleman jumped and the puck went through his legs — and into the net at 1:09 into the period.
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That was all the offense the Lightning would have, and it was all they’d need, thanks to relentless play from the Gourde line.
“Clearly, those first shifts of the first and second period, we needed every one of those goals to win this hockey game,” Cooper said. “You never know how many you’re going to need. You’ve just got to make sure you get one more and those are the three that did it for us.”
After a plus-2 game for the trio Sunday, Coleman (15) and Goodrow (14) lead the Lightning in plus-minus. The also lead in hits — Goodrow has 99, Coleman 95 — and both players are key members of a penalty kill unit that’s been nearly perfect over the past five games, going 17-for-18.
“The identity hasn’t changed, but maybe a little bit of that chemistry of understanding where we each like to play in the offensive zone and defensive zone,” Coleman said. “I think it’s one of those things where you really learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and can use that to benefit the line as a whole. And I think we’ve really grown to understand each other’s games and know what to expect.”
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at email@example.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.
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