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Lightning's new 'French Connection' line quickly makes a difference

Lightning center Gabriel Dumont battles to control the puck against Buffalo Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
Lightning center Gabriel Dumont battles to control the puck against Buffalo Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Jan. 20, 2017

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Gabriel Dumont and Michael Bournival often have been attached at the hip.

The two came up in the Canadiens organization together and were linemates in AHL stints with Hamilton and St. John's. So it was fitting that both signed one-year deals with the Lightning on July 1.

"I sent him a text, 'You can't get away from me, can you?' " Dumont said, laughing. "It was funny."

Dumont, 26, and Bournival, 24, have relished their fresh starts in Tampa Bay, providing a spark for a banged-up forward group. Along with Cedric Paquette, their fourth line — dubbed the "French Connection" by coach Jon Cooper — has been a difference-maker in helping the Lightning take three of four possible points on the first two games of a make-or-break road trip, which continued against the Sharks late Thursday.

"They've been awesome for us," center Tyler Johnson said. "They're that line that just keeps on going. It's fun to watch. They turn the momentum with the way they play — the speed and quickness but also with the grit. They've gotten a lot of chances, as well."

The trio shares connections. Paquette, 23, knew Bournival because they have the same agent. Paquette and Dumont grew up not far from each other in Quebec, playing for the same midget team at different times. They didn't meet until training camp. "I always knew of him," Dumont said.

Dumont said they communicate in French during games. Dumont and Bournival often pick Paquette's brain on the bench for tips on Tampa Bay's system. The chemistry on the ice is easy, too.

"We all play the same type of game," Paquette said. "We know the guy beside you will work as hard as you do, and that's why we've had success."

Each has speed and is relentless on the forecheck. All are good defenders, with Paquette a key part of the penalty kill. But they've also created a lot of scoring chances, including Dumont's career-high-matching four shots Monday in a win against the Kings. Dumont jokes that he still dreams about a scoring chance he had in Tuesday's overtime loss to the Ducks.

"We're trying to bring energy and build the momentum like (on Tuesday)," Dumont said. "Of course, we'd like to put the puck in the net. That'd be a bonus."

Dumont said he didn't know anyone in the Lightning organization when he signed, so it was helpful to have a familiar face in Bournival at AHL Syracuse. The two were linemates again. "We were both lost together," Dumont said.

Both needed a change of scenery. Bournival's career was nearly derailed due to concussions the past few seasons. Dumont felt he was pigeonholed in Montreal, playing just 18 games in six pro seasons.

"That's why I signed with Tampa," Dumont said. "I knew if I played well, they'd give me a chance."

With wings J.T. Brown (upper body) and Ryan Callahan (hip) sidelined, Dumont made his season debut Jan. 12 against Buffalo. Dumont, Bournival and Paquette have been together ever since.

"They can be a little pesty out there," Cooper said. "I feel every time they're on the ice, usually something good happens. They give you a reason every time to put them back out there."

Joe Smith can be reached at Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.