Following his team’s recent road swing where it lost its last two games at Minnesota and Winnipeg, Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper had stern words for his team and a hard practice leading up its game Tuesday night.
The Lightning responded with three power-play goals in a 6-3 win over the struggling Columbus Blue Jackets and will look to carry that momentum to Thursday’s first meeting this season with the Vancouver Canucks.
According to Cooper, his club needed to get back to basics and take care of the business it is supposed to — winning at home against competition it’s expected to beat.
“What’s going with us right now is internal,” Cooper said before Tuesday’s win, the Lightning’s eighth straight at home. “We’ve got to get our game in order. It was great coming out of the (holiday) break and we slipped a little here. We’re playing a team that we have to beat. … We’ve got to look at ourselves in the mirror and concentrate on our game.”
In improving to 16-4-1 at home, his team certainly appeared to heed his message.
Nikita Kucherov scored and set up another as Tampa Bay led 2-0 just 9:05 into the game. When Columbus cut it to 3-2 in the third period, Kucherov and Brayden Point tallied goals six minutes apart to take control and snap the club’s two-game skid.
The Lightning outshot the last-place Metropolitan Division team 46-24, marking the third time they have reached the 40-shot plateau. They jumped on Columbus right away with 21 shots in the first.
“You can’t expect them to play perfect hockey for 82 games,” Cooper said, “but what happened, kind of as that trip went on, the guys know it was unacceptable.”
Steven Stamkos had two assists but is stuck on 498 career goals. The captain has scored just once in his past 11 outings.
With 33 points at home, the Lightning have totaled the second-most points at home in the NHL, trailing only the Boston Bruins’ 41.
In Pittsburgh for the second of its five-game road trip, Vancouver bolted out to a three-goal lead over the Penguins in the opening 7:05. Conor Garland, Brock Boeser, and Quinn Hughes all tallied, but coach Bruce Boudreau’s group surrendered three goals to Pittsburgh’s top forwards to tie the game after 20 minutes.
During a rally that took less than eight minutes to complete, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Jason Zucker hit the net against Canucks goaltender Spencer Martin. Malkin tallied later and Richard Rakell provided the game-winner on the power play as the Eastern Conference team held on for a 5-4 win.
Boudreau said Vancouver’s start may have led to his squad sitting back some.
“We got the lead, and anytime you jump out to an early lead like that, you kind of relax a little bit,” Boudreau said after his team allowed 20 shots in the first period. “Once they caught fire, they were pretty dangerous the rest of the period.”
The Canucks, who have lost four straight against Tampa Bay, went 0-for-5 on the power play and are ranked 11th overall. They have yielded a league-high nine short-handed markers.
“They scored on the power play, (and) we didn’t get a power-play goal. Those are the couple little things that make a difference in a game,” Boeser said.
–Field Level Media