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Lightning don’t believe power play is out of sync

The team has gone 7 for 35 with the man-advantage in the past 10 games, including 0 for 7 in its last two.
Boston Bruins defenseman Urho Vaakanainen (58) knocks the puck away from Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) during the second period of Saturday's game in Tampa.
Boston Bruins defenseman Urho Vaakanainen (58) knocks the puck away from Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) during the second period of Saturday's game in Tampa. [ CHRIS O'MEARA | AP ]
Published Jan. 10
Updated Jan. 10

TAMPA — Nikita Kucherov knew exactly where he wanted to thread the puck late in Saturday’s game against the Bruins.

Trailing by two goals with just over a minute remaining on the power play, the Lightning forward skated in the right faceoff circle with the puck on his stick. As the Bruins focused their attention on Kucherov, he slid a pass across the ice to a wide-open Steven Stamkos at the left faceoff dot.

Stamkos sent a one-timer toward Boston’s Linus Ullmark, hoping to bring his team within a goal with just over four minutes remaining in the game.

But the puck went wide of the net.

It was an all-too-familiar scene for a Lightning power play that is 0 for 7 in its past two games and 7 for 35 (20 percent) over its past 10.

But just because the puck isn’t going in the net doesn’t mean head coach Jon Cooper thinks the unit is out of sync.

“(Stamkos scores that goal) eight out of 10 times,” Cooper said. “It went wide. Every single one doesn’t go in, but it was an exceptional chance.”

Cooper thought the same of Kucherov’s opportunity earlier in the game, a wrist shot from the right circle at the end of a two-man advantage that also missed wide after the puck rolled on him.

“I thought we just didn’t have the finish (Saturday),” Stamkos said after the 5-2 loss. “I think we made some good passes. Typically eight times out of 10, guys who were shooting it would score on those. And we either whiffed or didn’t put it in the net.

“I think we’re getting some good looks, but they’re just not going in. If they go in, it’s a different story.”

It was a different story Tuesday against the Blue Jackets, when the Lightning scored on three of four power-play opportunities. Ondrej Palat, Corey Perry and Pat Maroon each scored with the man-advantage.

Defenseman Victor Hedman said Tampa Bay bore down from the start of the Columbus game, something it didn’t do as well against Boston. The Lightning fell behind by two goals early and were sometimes careless with the puck.

“That hurt us,” Hedman said, “and Linus (Ullmark) played well for them, as well. He made some big saves for them. And for us, we’ve just got to keep plugging away and get back to what we know. ... I think (a 4-1 win over) Calgary (on Thursday) was an even better effort from us throughout 60 minutes.

“That’s when we’re at our best, when we have control, we don’t turn the puck over and stuff like that. So, we’ll need that effort going into the game (Tuesday against Buffalo).”

The past two games were the first with star forwards Kucherov and Brayden Point back together on the top power-play unit. Given their past success, Cooper believes it’s only a matter of time before the puck starts finding the back of the net again.

“The fact that these guys are so used to burying those chances, we sit there and say, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe you missed that,’” Cooper said. “And most guys miss those all the time. Our guys really don’t.

“But it’s not an out-of-sync thing. That was, ‘That sucks that didn’t go in for us.’ But it was an unbelievable chance. You give it to (them), again, that’s going in the net.”

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Cooper said he’s been pleased with the number and quality of chances his team has generated with the man-advantage the past couple of games.

“We had a ton of power-play chances,” he said. “They just didn’t go in this night. The other night, they all went in, and on some maybe lesser chances than we had (Saturday). Some rebounds, some open nets, different teams, whatever.

“But I’ve liked our power play the last of couple games. Sometimes they go in for you, and sometimes they don’t, and the other night they didn’t.”

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

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