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After beating the Penguins, 4 things the Lightning can build on

Tampa Bay avenges a recent loss to Pittsburgh before heading out on a five-game road trip.
 
Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) celebrates with his team on the bench after he scores against the Penguins during second-period action at Amalie Arena on Wednesday night.
Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) celebrates with his team on the bench after he scores against the Penguins during second-period action at Amalie Arena on Wednesday night. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Dec. 7, 2023|Updated Dec. 7, 2023

TAMPA — Call this little two-game homestand the Lightning’s Revenge Era.

After Monday beating the Stars, who had handed them a seven-goal loss two days earlier, the Lightning got sweet revenge for their collapse last week versus the Penguins by beating Pittsburgh 3-1 Wednesday night at Amalie Arena.

Nikita Kucherov, Anthony Cirelli and Tanner Jeannot scored as the Lightning improved to 12-10-5. Coming off his first shutout of the season, Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 24 shots, allowing just a flukey goal with 53 seconds to play. The Bolts held the Penguins (11-11-3) scoreless on four power plays, including 40 seconds of 5-on-3 hockey.

“We just started playing from the first minute and played consistent throughout the game,” Kucherov said. “As I said before, when you follow the plan, you have a good chance to win the game. We did the last couple days.”

The Lightning now head out on a five-game road trip. Here are four things to take away from Wednesday night’s win:

Kucherov’s ‘elite’ play

What more can you say about Kucherov? He’s been the most consistent player for the Lightning this season and arguably the best in the NHL.

“There’s a lot of great players in this league, the best in the world. But I think right now through (27) games, you’ve got to put him at the top of the mountain,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “He’s been elite. All I can say.”

With his assist on Cirelli’s first-period goal and his own power-play goal, the right wing extended his point streak to a franchise-record 11 straight games. He surpassed Brad Richards and Marty St. Louis, who had 10-game point streaks.

Kucherov’s goal, a one-timer from the left circle at 8:31 in the second period, was his second goal in as many games. Kucherov has scored in 15 of his last 16 games and leads all NHL skaters with 44 points. He is second in goals with 17.

Cirelli heating up

Lightning center Anthony Cirelli (71) celebrates with his team as he returns to the bench after scoring the first goal of the game Wednesday.
Lightning center Anthony Cirelli (71) celebrates with his team as he returns to the bench after scoring the first goal of the game Wednesday. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

After having just one goal through 10 games, the center has scored three in his last two and four over his last six. Cirelli scored twice in Monday’s win over the Stars for his second multi-point game of the season.

If Cirelli can get going, that’s a big boost for the Lightning, who need more secondary scoring.

“Tony is finally getting rewarded for a lot of great stuff he’s doing and he’s playing against some of the best lines every single game,” Cooper said. “It’s much needed because we’ve been trending on a certain couple of guys to do all our scoring, and when you get depth in scoring that’s really going to help us.”

Defense wins games

Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) works to make a save during first-period action.
Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) works to make a save during first-period action. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
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After giving up 19 goals in their four-game losing streak to end November, the Lightning have given up just one goal in the last 120 minutes. Vasilevskiy, who said he is starting to feel like himself after September back surgery, is a big part of that. He almost had another shutout Wednesday night and stopping all 25 shots he faced Monday.

“Only one goal against so it was kind of a flukey one going in there,” Jeannot said of Pittsburgh’s lone goal in the final minute. “I think we’ve been really good. There have been times when we’ve been hemmed in our zone a little bit but I think guys grinded it out and stayed in good position to not give up too many Grade-A chances. So I think we’ve been good. We’ve just got to keep building on it.”

Mini momentum

The Lightning made the most of their short stint at home, and they needed the wins because the road has not been friendly. Tampa Bay lost its last three games away from Amalie Arena and is 4-7-2 overall.

The Lightning head out on a 12-day, five-game road trip that begins in Nashville on Thursday night and then winds through Seattle, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary.

“Everybody’s got to play better. Before, I said we were still far away from playing really good hockey. We’re trying to build up right here from this couple of games and, hopefully, we find consistency in our game,” Kucherov said.

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