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Lightning address their overtime shortcomings with 3-on-3 scrimmage

After being overwhelmed after regulation again on Saturday, Tampa Bay focuses on staying aggressive during the extra period.
 
Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares (91) celebrates after beating Lightning goaltender Jonas Johansson (31) for the winning goal in overtime of Saturday's game at Amalie Arena.
Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares (91) celebrates after beating Lightning goaltender Jonas Johansson (31) for the winning goal in overtime of Saturday's game at Amalie Arena. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Oct. 23, 2023|Updated Oct. 23, 2023

TAMPA — The Lightning haven’t spent a lot of time simulating 3-on-3 overtime during practice, but given their recent struggles in the extra session, it was time to work toward a solution on Monday.

As the team returned to practice at Amalie Arena, where two days earlier it lost to Toronto 4-3 in overtime, Tampa Bay spent the final session with a full-ice, long-change, 3-on-3 scrimmage.

Saturday’s loss was the Lightning’s fourth straight home overtime loss to the Maple Leafs, including last season’s opening-round playoff series, and their ninth straight defeat decided after regulation dating back to February.

“There’s times you just need reminders,” said Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. “It’s not something that you work on very often until you realize you haven’t won in a few, and then you work on it. I bet you the next one is going to be better.”

Tampa Bay has two overtime losses in its past three games, including a 3-2 setback Oct. 17 in Buffalo after tying the game with seven seconds left in regulation. In both defeats, they lost the opening faceoff of the extra period and rarely touched the puck.

“Faceoffs have obviously been a big thing in the last couple games,” Stamkos said. “We haven’t had the fortune of winning them, and you’re chasing the game, and we’ve just been a little too passive, I think. We got some reminders here: Just be a little more aggressive. If we don’t happen to have the puck, try to create some turnovers.”

Saturday, the Lightning blew a two-goal lead with just under eight minutes left in regulation, both goals the result of turnovers leading to odd-man rushes. Lightning coach Jon Cooper said his team started playing loose in the third period, allowing the Leafs back into the game, and that carried into overtime.

“The aggressive nature of the identity of our team wasn’t there,” Cooper said. “And I think, in overtime, we’ve become a team of just being satisfied to contain, hope the goalie makes a save, grab with your glove and throw in the corner. OK, now it’s our turn with the puck. And that’s not the way overtime is. It’s still a game of work; you have to be on top of things.”

The purpose of Monday’s mini-scrimmage was to emphasize the importance of pressuring the puck in overtime, even when there’s more space on the ice with fewer players.

“You can’t give them time and space, because there is so much more room,” Cooper said. “When you stay on top of your man — the margin of skating in this league, everybody’s so close — I think you’re in a better spot to check when you’re on top of the guy than when you give them a 20-foot gap. Now you’re giving super-skilled players time to go around you, and so it can be really difficult. When you work on things and you measure things, usually you get better at it. So that’s what we did (Monday).

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“And then the other part of it is our puck management, and the times we did touch it we just gave it right back. And so it’s kind of a recipe for disaster, basically.”

Stamkos done talking contract

Lightning wing Steven Stamkos (91) pleads his case after being called for tripping during a game against the Nashville Predators earlier this month at Amalie Arena.
Lightning wing Steven Stamkos (91) pleads his case after being called for tripping during a game against the Nashville Predators earlier this month at Amalie Arena. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]

With the Leafs in town over the weekend, Stamkos’ contract uncertainty became a topic of conversation among the Toronto media, who asked whether the situation had become a distraction in the locker room.

During last month’s media day, Stamkos — who is slated to become an unrestricted free agent after this season — expressed his disappointment that the team had not engaged him in extension talks during the offseason.

Asked Monday whether he had anything else he wanted to say about the situation, Stamkos said simply, “no.”

Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois has said he has no plans to discuss Stamkos’ future with the team until the end of the season. BriseBois said he needs to see how the season plays out before figuring out how Stamkos might fit into a salary cap-crunched roster.

Cooper tweaks lines

Lightning forwards Nick Paul, left, and Brandon Hagel (38) head onto the ice for warmups before a game against the Vancouver Canucks Thursday at Amalie Arena.
Lightning forwards Nick Paul, left, and Brandon Hagel (38) head onto the ice for warmups before a game against the Vancouver Canucks Thursday at Amalie Arena. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

The Lightning took the ice Monday with slightly altered lines, essentially flipping the second- and third-line centers from Saturday’s game. Nick Paul skated between Stamkos and Brandon Hagel, and Anthony Cirelli centered a line with Tanner Jeannot and Waltteri Merela. The top line of Alex Barre-Boulet, Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov remained intact.

Right-shot defenseman Nick Perbix was paired with Mikhail Sergachev, his third left-side partner this season. Right-shot defenseman Darren Raddysh skated with third left-side defenseman Calvin de Haan.

Quote of the day

Lightning head coach Jon Cooper watches the ice during the season opener against the Nashville Predators Oct. 10 in Tampa.
Lightning head coach Jon Cooper watches the ice during the season opener against the Nashville Predators Oct. 10 in Tampa. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]

“Maybe we don’t have quite the punch we’ve had in our lineup in the past, but we still scored. Three was enough against Toronto. Four was enough against Detroit. You can’t be breaking down the way we are and giving up the chances we are on the rush, because we’re turning the puck over and expect we’re going to win.”

– Cooper on the continuing rash of turnovers that have continued to haunt the Lightning this season

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