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Lightning find some value in playing overtime games

Seven of the team’s first 15 games, including four of the past six, have gone to overtime or a shootout.
“You’d like to get it done, obviously, before overtime,” said Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman, whose average time on ice of 25:44 leads the team. “We’re happy with the way we’ve played as of late."
“You’d like to get it done, obviously, before overtime,” said Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman, whose average time on ice of 25:44 leads the team. “We’re happy with the way we’ve played as of late." [ MATT SLOCUM | AP ]
Published Nov. 19
Updated Nov. 20

BRANDON — There are pros and cons to the Lightning not finishing off a game in regulation.

On one hand, they get a point no matter the result. On the other, it means additional wear and tear on a veteran-laden team coming off back-to-back lengthy postseasons.

If it seems like the Lightning have played a lot of extra hockey this season, it’s because they have. Seven of their first 15 games have gone to overtime or a shootout. It’s the most games they have played beyond regulation in the first 15 of a season in at least a decade.

Thursday’s shootout win in Philadelphia was the fourth game in the past six that required additional time. The Lightning led by a goal in the closing seconds of regulation, but Flyers forward Claude Giroux tied the score with 8.1 seconds remaining. After a scoreless overtime, Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos scored in the shootout to give Tampa Bay a 4-3 win.

“You’d like to get it done, obviously, before overtime,” defenseman Victor Hedman said. “We’re happy with the way we’ve played as of late. There’s still stuff obviously we can clean up on, but you know, we’re getting wins and we’re getting points, and that’s very important to start the year.”

The Lightning recognize that self-inflicted errors created some of those situations. For example, against the Flyers, forwards Mathieu Joseph and Pat Maroon where whistled for penalties late in the second period and early in the third, respectively, stymieing them after they had tied the score at 2 in the second.

While winning is the highest priority, how a team gets there also matters. Going beyond regulation increases the average ice time for veterans such as Hedman and defenseman Ryan McDonagh, whose average times on ice of 25:44 and 23:15, respectively, lead the Lightning.

For rookies such as forwards Taylor Raddysh and Boris Katchouk, who have yet to play past regulation this season, it’s a chance to see how much work goes into earning that extra point.

“(You see) how much they mean to our team,” Raddysh said. “You never know how that one point could end up at the end of the season.”

The 9-3-3 Lightning have just five regulation wins in their 15 games. The other four wins have come in overtime (three) or a shootout (one). At the end of the season, regulation wins are the first tiebreak for teams tied in points in the standings.

Lightning assistant coach Rob Zettler sees additional value in overtime games for younger players such as Raddysh, Katchouk and forward Ross Colton because they teach them how to play “hard minutes.” They also create opportunities for the players as they earn expanded roles on special teams.

“End of games, tied games, up a goal, those are great minutes for those guys to play, to learn how to play in those tight (games), control your emotions, control your play, kind of all of it,” Zettler said.

“That’s beneficial down the road because … look at our playoff run last year. There weren’t a lot of blowouts. It was all one-goal games and tight games. So the more we get used to playing those kinds of games and learning to win those kinds of games, the better off we’ll be.”

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Loose pucks

• Defenseman Erik Cernak and forward Gemel Smith skated before practice with strength and conditioning coach Mark Lambert. Cernak is week to week with an upper-body injury. Smith is out indefinitely with a lower-body injury.

• Forward Alex Barre-Boulet was reassigned to AHL Syracuse. Barre-Boulet was a healthy scratch for three straight games before he was sent to the Crunch. He has one goal and three goals in nine NHL games this season (two with Seattle).

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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