UNIONDALE, N.Y. — It seems the only way Alex Killorn is able to score goals these days, is not to actually score one.
Late in Sunday's 3-0 Tampa Bay Lightning victory at Detroit, Killorn stared at an empty net with the puck on his stick. But as he was hooked from behind by Jakub Kindl, Killorn fell forward while attempting a shot.
As his recent luck would have it, the puck went wide, caromed off the end boards right to Teddy Purcell, who promptly put the puck in the vacated net to seal the victory.
But because Killorn had a clear path to the net, and a penalty was being called on Kindl, the goal was awarded to Killorn.
After not hitting the back of the net in nearly a month — and technically Killorn failed to do so Sunday as well — Killorn will take any reward for his effort.
“I figured that because I had a clear lane that it would be a goal,” Killorn said. “But, still, when you miss the net, you don't know what is going to happen.
“As the games keep going by when you keep not scoring, as much as you try to stay focused, it does start to wear on you a little bit. And as long as you get one like that — and I've hit three or four posts in the past five games — so to get one like that it can boost your confidence even though I didn't really score.”
Killorn's last goal before Sunday came Nov. 16 in Phoenix, a late goal in a 6-3 loss to the Coyotes. In the next 12 games, Killorn registered a lone assist in a Nov. 25 victory against the New York Rangers. In those 12 games, Killorn registered 23 shots on goal, so it's not as if he wasn't getting chances or in the right spots to score.
And that doesn't count the posts he hit, including an overtime breakaway chance against Winnipeg on Dec. 7 when he cleanly beat goaltender Al Montoya and struck the inside of the left post only to have the puck cross through the crease and out the other side.
Earlier in Sunday's victory against Detroit, he hit a post and had another go off the crossbar. In the second period Saturday in New Jersey, he found iron once again when a goal would have given Tampa Bay a lead in an eventual 3-0 loss.
“You can see he's been in position because he's had the best chances on our team,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “In the ultimate cliche of, 'It's a game of inches.' If his puck goes a couple of inches to the right, we win the Winnipeg game. And who knows what we are doing in the Jersey game because we would have had the lead.
“So I can never fault the guy. He's trying as hard as he can. He's putting them in positions to score. But these guys have pride, they start getting these chances and they don't go in for them, it starts to weigh on them because they don't see the production. But what these guys don't realize is they are getting the chances and if you keep getting these chances, they will eventually go in.”
Killorn was flourishing earlier this season playing left wing on the top line with Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis. Shortly after Stamkos suffered a broken leg, Cooper tried Killorn at center — a position Killorn played at Harvard. But Killorn eventually switched back to the wing, which seems to be a more natural position for him at the NHL level.
“Killorn did a great job on the defensive side of the puck for us when he played center, but I just felt he didn't have enough left in the tank on the offensive side of things,” Cooper said. “He's a big, power forward on the wing that is hard to play against, and if you do that at one end of the ice, it's hard to do that at both ends of the ice. So he can play center, and did an unreal job for us, but I just think he's better for us at the wing.”
Playing the middle helped Killorn with his defensive game, but the wing might be a more natural position for him.
“Since I've turned pro I've played (wing), so it's a lot more natural to me; I feel more comfortable with certain things,” Killorn said. “But now that I've played center at certain points, when I have to play down low I know it's not a problem.”
Maybe being back on the wing on a consistent basis will lend itself to Killorn putting more pucks in the net and scoring the more conventional route.