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Friday, May 25, 2018
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Tampa Bay Lightning

For Bolts, plenty of lessons learned early

BUFFALO, N.Y. — After avoiding larceny charges for stealing a victory in Chicago, the Tampa Bay Lightning shuffled off to Buffalo on Monday in hopes of a better showing tonight against the Sabres.

Tampa Bay escaped Saturday with a 3-2 shootout victory, despite a shot disparity of 39-16 in favor of the Blackhawks that included a first period in which the Lightning did not register a shot on goal.

“We need to be ready to play every game,'' Tampa Bay defenseman Matt Carle said. “And it's kind of weird. You play against the Stanley Cup champions and come out, and I don't want to say we were flat-footed, but we were not really playing our game. There were a lot of teaching points there to kind of look at and we had a video session (Monday) morning so hopefully we will be better for it now.''

Finding a way to rally for a victory from down two goals entering the third period while finishing with fewer than 20 shots on goal put Tampa Bay into some rarified air, marking the first time a team has done so since Atlanta — which is now in Winnipeg — defeated Ottawa in overtime on Feb. 19, 2004, while being outshot 33-17.

Being in that situation again is something the Lightning would rather avoid. But it did offer the coaching staff the opportunity to drive home the point that, despite pulling out the victory, play needs to improve. While the Lightning did a lot of good things in a 3-1 loss in Boston to open the season, there was plenty that did not go right in the early parts of Saturday's victory.

“Two games is a very, very small sample size, but were there teachable moments in that game? For sure there were,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “And we addressed a lot of those, actually, and it was good. It was healthy.

“We hung in there in both games and found a way to get some points, so that's a good sign.''

Tampa Bay spent a lot of time chasing the puck in the early portions of Saturday's game. When the Lightning did have the puck, it was taken away by the Chicago defense, which picked off passes and swiped pucks off sticks seemingly every time Tampa Bay tried to enter the offensive zone, forcing players to race back defensively.

“We are striving to be a lot better than that, so that was very clear,'' left wing Ryan Malone said. “We had a little meeting (Monday) morning just to make sure that everybody is on the same page, what needs to be brought to the table every night, what's acceptable and what's not. And early on you have to make sure you get those lessons in and learning as fast as you can.''

One area Cooper wanted cleaned up entering the season was the team's defensive play at even strength. Through two games, that has been a positive as Tampa Bay has allowed only two five-on-five goals. That is a mindset Cooper wants to instill on a team that is loaded with high-end offensive talent.

“We don't need to go out and think we need to score four or five goals to win games; it can be 2-1 or 1-0,'' Malone said. “I think in the past we always thought we needed to score more goals and, obviously, the reality is we just needed to stop the puck from going in the net.''

Now, Tampa Bay wants to put that lesson to practice heading into the final game of a three-game road trip against Buffalo, which has started the season with three consecutive losses, scoring just twice.

“Everybody wants to get off to a good start, and had it not been for a couple of minutes in the third period and an unbelievable performance by (goaltender Ben Bishop), we would probably be sitting in the same situation as them,'' Carle said. “We have to be ready to go.''

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