ELMONT, N.Y. — Offense hasn’t been easy to come by for the Lightning of late. Their four goals in Sunday’s win over the Islanders marked just the second time in their past nine games that they’ve scored more than two.
It was only one game, and a stingy Hurricanes team that has allowed a league-low 2.37 goals per game on Tuesday will provide a better test of which direction the Lightning offense is headed.
Still, here are four reasons to be optimistic.
Power play picking up momentum
Victor Hedman’s second-period goal Sunday gave the Lightning as many power-play goals (3 for 7) in the past two games as they had in the previous nine (3 for 28).
Hedman’s goal wasn’t your typical man-advantage goal. Brayden Point jetted out from behind his own net and sent a cross-ice pass through the neutral zone to Hedman, who wristed a shot from low in the right circle that squeezed between goaltender Ilya Sorokin’s body and right arm.
But the result adds confidence to a group that hasn’t seen much go its way for the past three weeks.
“When you go through the stretch that we’ve been on, you put pressure on yourself to produce, especially on the power play,” Hedman said. “But there’s going to be games where it doesn’t happen. But we believe in ourselves, and we believe in the group that we have.”
Better net-front presence
The Lightning padded their lead with a pair of third-period goals in which they created traffic in front of the net and took advantage of rebounds to beat Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov.
As Brandon Hagel, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Ross Colton pressured the front of net, the puck kicked out to Mikhail Sergachev at the point. Sergachev passed to Colton in the lower left circle, and Colton scored on his own rebound.
Sergachev later iced the game with a goal that was a result of the kind of puck-retrieval game we haven’t seen much of from the Lightning on the offensive end.
Steven Stamkos recovered his own one-timer and rimmed the puck behind the net to Nikita Kucherov in the far corner. As Stamkos jostled for position in front of the net, Kucherov cycled the puck to Sergachev, who put his own rebound into the net.
Embracing a shooter’s mentality
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You can’t score if you don’t shoot, and the Lightning can sometimes try to be too fine and overpass instead of taking open shots on net. But in Sunday’s win, eight players had four or more shot attempts (including those not on goal), led by Hedman’s 10, Colton’s eight and Kucherov’s seven.
The game marked the second straight in which the Lightning had 40 scoring chances — including 34 in 5-on-5 play against the Islanders — after averaging just 28 chances in their previous five games.
Kucherov showing signs of breaking out
Kucherov has just one goal in his past 13 games. He’s been such an important part of the team’s past two postseason runs, the Lightning will need his presence on the scoresheet to have a legitimate chance at another.
Everyone talks about Kucherov’s vision and how he sees things before others on the ice, but when he’s not getting results, he clearly becomes frustrated.
He has 15 shot attempts over the past two games, including nine on goal, so it’s a good sign that he’s shooting more often. But his strength is as a distributor, and he has assists in three of his past four games (after just four in his previous nine).
Kucherov bests utilizes that vision when he’s finding an open teammate while drawing attention to himself, and that’s what he did on Sergachev’s goal, skating to the top of the slot and drawing two Islanders to him before passing to a wide-open Sergachev in the left circle.
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