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Despite usual cast, Lightning know power play is a work in progress

After going 1-for-6 and allowing a shorthanded goal in its season-opening loss, Tampa Bay knows it has some work to do on the man-advantage.
New York Rangers left wing Chris Kreider (20) and Lightning left wing Alex Killorn (17) vie for the puck during the first period of Tuesday's game in New York.
New York Rangers left wing Chris Kreider (20) and Lightning left wing Alex Killorn (17) vie for the puck during the first period of Tuesday's game in New York. [ JULIA NIKHINSON | AP ]
Published Oct. 12, 2022|Updated Oct. 13, 2022

NEW YORK — Throughout training camp, the Lightning often worked on special teams. Their penalty kill has several new pieces and needed restructuring.

But their power play has been together for years, especially the first unit consisting of their top stars. And if Tuesday’s 3-1 season-opening loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden showed anything, it was that even an established unit can be a work in progress at the start of a season.

The Lightning did score on a 5-on-3, but Steven Stamkos’ one-timer in the second period was Tampa Bay’s only goal in nearly nine minutes of power-play time. The Lightning ended the night 1-for-6 with the man advantage.

The Lightning came out strong, skating fast and dictating the pace of play. But the game tilted when Tampa Bay allowed a shorthanded goal 3:25 into the second period to give New York a 1-0 lead.

“Our (power play) has been the same for a long time, so we should be comfortable no matter what,” Stamkos said. “So that’s on us. We don’t want to be giving up shorthanded goals, and we’ll look to fix those things.”

On the Rangers’ shorthanded goal, the Lightning were caught on a line change, their top power-play unit trying to get off the ice 71 seconds into its shift after battling pressure in its end. Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy had just made an impressive save to stop Rangers forward Chris Kreider’s one-timer from the slot on the rush. After a rebound attempt by Kreider slid across the crease, Tampa Bay failed to clear, and New York cycled back into its zone.

The Lightning tried to change, but the Rangers quickly pushed the puck forward. Rangers forward Alexis Lafreniere barely stayed onside, and forward Mika Zibanejad had nothing but open ice ahead of him along the right wing. Vasilevskiy’s teammates were late to help, and Zibanejad roofed a shot in front of the goaltender’s poke-check attempt and over defenseman Mikhail Sergachev trying to protect the back post.

The Lightning had plenty of opportunities during a third period in which they were on the power play for six minutes and had their looks at Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin but managed just four shots on goal over that stretch. Tampa Bay struggled to establish offensive zone time and was sloppy with the puck.

On their first power play of the period, the Lightning were offside entering the zone, and Vasilevskiy had to jump out of the crease to stop Rangers forward Vincent Trocheck on a shorthanded breakaway.

“I felt it was a little bit sloppy,” Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said of the power play. “I felt like we had some good plays. Maybe we could have executed a little bit better. We hold ourselves to a high standard. We want to go out there and score every time, but we know that’s not going to be the case. But we can obviously be better than we were (Tuesday).”

Cole meets with NHL over abuse allegations

Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league’s investigation of sexual abuse allegations against Lightning defenseman Ian Cole needs to take “the appropriate time to understand exactly what happened,” while Cole met with NHL security Wednesday.

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The NHL is investigating allegations made last week by a woman who posted on Twitter under the pseudonym “Emily Smith” saying Cole had a sexual relationship with her that began when she was a minor and Cole groomed her over four years.

Cole has denied the allegations.

“We’re trying to get to the source of the tweet, and we are investigating,” Bettman told The Los Angeles Times while in Las Vegas for Tuesday’s nationally televised opener between the Golden Knights and Kings. “Obviously, the allegations on Twitter are disturbing, but I think we need to take the appropriate time to understand exactly what happened.”

The Lightning have suspended Cole with pay pending the results of the investigation.

Representatives from the NHL and the players association declined to comment on Wednesday’s meeting.

Slap shots

The Lightning and AHL Syracuse announced a five-year affiliation extension that runs through the 2026-27 season. … The Lightning won just 36 percent of their faceoffs Tuesday, which played a major role in establishing possession time. New York had a 12-2 advantage in faceoff wins in the first period. Fourth-line center and penalty-killing forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was the only Lightning player with a faceoff win percentage above 50% (4-for-6). … Agricultural supply company Brandt is the new sponsor on the Lightning’s helmets.

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieintheYard.

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