TAMPA — It’s difficult to tell why the Lightning are such a better team at home than on the road this season, but reeling from their longest losing streak in nine years, they desperately needed a win in their return Tuesday night to Amalie Arena.
Righting the ship begins with one win, and the Lightning snapped their five-game skid against the struggling Philadelphia Flyers with a 5-2 home victory. It was certainly a step in the right direction, but by no means a perfect 60 minutes of hockey.
The Lightning (38-21-5, 81 points) took advantage of a bad team, getting three power-play goals. Their first two man-advantage goals helped them rally from an early first-period deficit. Additionally, they pulled away with three second-period goals after being outscored 14-2 in that period during their losing streak.
“It’s only one,” said forward Ross Colton, whose second-period goal gave the Lightning a 3-1 lead. “Obviously that skid there wasn’t acceptable and tonight is just another win. We can build on a few things, but for the most part, we’ll just enjoy it now, but turn the page.”
The Lightning now have a 23-5-4 record at Amalie Arena, are tied for second in the league with 50 points at home, and lead the NHL with 4.09 goals a game at home.
“I don’t know what it is,” left wing Alex Killorn said. “It’s I think maybe just the comfort of being home, a little bit of Vitamin D and the day off. It’s just nice. Your routine never changes really at home and on the road, things kind of get mixed up a little bit.”
The Lightning got three-point nights from Nikita Kucherov — who extended his league-best home point streak to 22 games while surpassing the 90-point mark on the season — and Killorn. Both players had two goals and an assist.
Throughout their recent slide, the Lightning fell behind early and chased the game throughout. But on Tuesday night, after an Erik Cernak turnover in the neutral zone led to a 2-on-1 the other way that ended with Morgan Frost’s game-opening goal, the Lightning recovered quickly.
They scored on their first power play, with Kucherov making a deft touch pass to Killorn in front of the net for an easy tap-in. Kucherov then gave the Lightning a 2-1 lead, rocketing a one-timer from the top of the right circle on the power play 34 seconds into the second period.
“The way the last few games have gone, to go down early and then to come back the way we did, that’s a positive step for us,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.
Colton then scored at the 8:46 mark in the second period, capitalizing on some puck-possession grunt work from the newly created third line of Colton, Nick Paul and Tanner Jeannot. All three forwards worked hard to cycle the puck along the wall to sustain offensive zone time, and from behind the net, Jeannot found Colton in front and Colton tapped the puck in on a third-chance effort.
“Just credit to Pauly and Tanner, who both cycled the puck well and then you know Tanner kind of just gave me a gift wrapped up for backdoor tap-in,” Colton said.
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The Lightning outscored the Flyers 3-1 in the second period despite being outshot by Philadelphia 16-11 in the period.
The Lightning were playing without top defenseman Victor Hedman, who is day-to-day with an apparent lower back injury sustained Sunday afternoon in Carolina.
The tight-checking Flyers (24-29-11, 59 points) were looking to take away the middle of the ice from the Lightning, but Tampa Bay was more efficient breaking out the puck than they’ve been recently, which allowed them more speed entering the offensive zone.
“That all starts in the D-zone,” Colton said. “That kind of leads to fast transitions, which you kind of saw. We didn’t turn the puck over and fuel their offense. And I thought we were smart with the puck on both blue lines and created a lot of chances that way.
“I thought we had a good game plan of going in. We knew that they kind of wanted to clog the middle of the ice so we were trying to, you know, use our speed to get advantage on the walls and kind of just drive pucks deep and then kind of curl up and hit the trailer coming in wide. So I thought we executed that pretty well.
Overall, the Lightning allowed more high-danger scoring chances (11) than they created (10) after only allowing one in the first period. And take away the Lightning’s three power-play goals, and the even-strength goal differential was even.
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