TAMPA — Could the Lightning be turning the corner?
It hasn’t been an easy season for them, but with their first third-period comeback win, to beat the Oilers 6-4 on Saturday at Amalie Arena the Lightning have to hope it’s a step toward righting the ship. Tampa Bay (8-6-4) scored four third-period goals in rallying.
The Lightning have won two in a row for just the second time this season. They also snapped a three-game losing streak at Amalie Arena.
“We are so far away from playing good right now,” said forward Nikita Kucherov, who scored twice and finished with three points.
But there were things the Lightning could be optimistic about:
They showed up in the third period
Going into the game, Tampa Bay was 0-5-2 when trailing after two periods. After a dramatically slow start in the first, spotting Edmonton a 2-0 lead, the Lightning tied the score three times from there before forward Luke Glendening put them ahead for good midway through the third.
“We get to a lead there and I think maybe earlier in the year we might find a way to get that to overtime or actually lose the game,” coach Jon Cooper said. “And I just liked the way the guys dug in.”
Goaltender Jonas Johansson, who allowed four goals on 43 shots, faced 15 shots in the third and made some terrific saves, but the defense was sharper in front of him as well. It pushed into the Lightning offense, which is how the team has won in the past.
Forward Tanner Jeannot, who scored his third goal of the season 3:54 into the third to tie it at 3, said the Lightning had a different mindset than they had had in past third periods.
“We’ve had a couple of games that we had the lead going into the third, and this one, we were going into the third down (3-2), so we knew we just wanted to work hard and play our game,” Jeannot said. “We knew we have a lot of goals in this room, and we just played the right way and … we did not turn the puck over.”
Their stars shone
Kucherov kept the Lightning in the game early. He scored on a power play in the last minute of the first period. It was his 80th power-play goal, making him the fourth Lightning player to reach that mark. He joined Steven Stamkos (197), Vinny Lecavalier (112) and Marty St. Louis (96). He scored an even-strength goal in the second period for his fifth multigoal game of the season.
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Kucherov has been one of the Lightning’s most consistent players, but Tampa Bay also got a goal from Stamkos, who has had a slow start.
Stamkos’ power-play goal 9:28 into the third tied the score, at 4, for the final time. It was his first goal in four games and his second in the last eight.
Tampa Bay’s success has been built on stars such as Kucherov and Stamkos playing big roles, and on Saturday they led the way.
The secondary scoring they got from Jeannot, Glendening and defenseman Mikhail Sergachev (empty-netter at the end), who also had two assists, pushed the Lightning over the top. They even had forward Cole Koepke, who was called up to replace injured Anthony Cirelli and played in his first NHL game in nearly a year, getting an assist on the winner.
Their penalty kill was deadly
With Tampa Bay leading for the first time at 5-4 after Glendening scored, forward Austin Watson took a slashing penalty with just over five minutes to play.
Fans in Amalie Arena seemed to be holding their collective breath. The Lightning weren’t.
They were 5-for-5 on the penalty kill against the Oilers, whose power play entered the game eighth best in the NHL with a 25% success rate. The Lightning went into the final penalty kill with their confidence rolling.
“We’re just going to do it again,” Johansson said. “We did it before in the game. So there are still those big moments that you’ve just got to try to battle and be our best. So we did a great job with that. The (penalty kill) was huge. So that was good.”
The Lightning’s penalty kill was ranked eighth in the NHL with an 85.2% success rate.
Contact Kristie Ackert at email@example.com.
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