Bolts Not Overlooking Remaining Opponents On Season Slate
The Calgary Flames, a Western Conference opponent, has no direct impact on the Tampa Bay Lightning in the standings, but Bolts head coach Jon Cooper does not want the playoff mindset to wane.
"Our goal was to make the playoffs, now it's time to see if we can get home ice," Cooper said. "If we land in a Game 7, do you want that on the road or at home? I want it to be right here."
Currently the Lightning is in a position to do just that after it drew even with the Montreal Canadiens for second place in the standings Tuesday. The two clubs have accrued 93 points each, but the Bolts have one game in hand.
Tampa Bay, however, has had a tendency to play to the occasion over the last stretch of games leading to multiple goal deficits and a period of three straight contests that were decided in extra time against non-playoff teams.
"We've been outplayed in stretches of those games," Cooper said.
So Tuesday's game was a step in the right direction for the Bolts, as the score remained 1-1 through 52 minutes until Tyler Johnson's shorthanded goal gave them the lead and eventually helped them clinch a playoff berth in a 3-1 result.
"We've had the character to comeback all year," Steven Stamkos said. "But it was nice to play in a close game."
That, along with tighter defensive play, helped prevent turnovers that were elements of their game. This is the mindset for the Lightning in the six games that remain on its season slate.
While Cooper told the team to enjoy what they had just accomplished, it did not take long for the Bolts to turn the page and get back on the ice. During an optional skate Wednesday a majority of the Lightning opted to practice.
"That just goes to show a lot of guys are excited to get back on the ice and are hungry," Teddy Purcell said.
With no shorthanded goals recorded in 2012-13, the Bolts tallied their 10th of the kind, also the game-winner, on Tuesday.
"We want to be aggressive on our penalty kill," Hedman said. "We have speedy forwards, especially [Tyler] Johnson, and it's been a big emphasis."
Head coach Jon Cooper said having offensive success on the penalty kill can get into the minds of their opponents' power play units.
"It's something their power play now has to think about," Cooper said. "They may have to alter the way their power play works."
Tuesday's shorthanded tally came from Johnson, who is now tied for the league lead in shorthanded goals (Brad Marchand). According to Elias Sports Bureau the only other NHL player to accomplish the feat was Dennis Maruk for the California Golden Seals in 1975-76.
OTHER ODDS 'N ENDS
- Goaltender Ben Bishop will start Thursday versus the Calgary Flames.
- Defenseman Mark Baberio will draw back into Thursday's lineup and replace Kostka. He skated alongside Eric Brewer during morning skate.
- Victor Hedman paces all NHL skaters with six shorthanded assists.
- The Lightning have scored a power-play goal in seven of their past nine games and have gone 13-for-49 (26.5%) over their past 11 contests.