While the high-scoring Tampa Bay Lightning are off to a great start, coach Guy Boucher feels they’re capable of better – especially in the second period.
The Lightning’s efforts against the Philadelphia Flyers over the previous two seasons haven’t left much room for improvement.
Seeking a third consecutive win, Tampa Bay tries to continue its recent dominance of visiting Philadelphia on Sunday.
Tied for the league lead with 4.8 goals per game, the Lightning (3-1-0) are coming off Friday’s 6-4 win over previously undefeated Ottawa. Defenseman Matt Carle, who spent the previous three-plus seasons with Philadelphia before singing with Tampa Bay, gave his team an early 1-0 lead and Ryan Malone scored the game-tying and go-ahead goals in the third period as the Lightning improved to 2-0-0 at home.
The Lightning haven’t won their first three games on their own ice since opening 5-0-0 in 2007-08.
“We go back to the game plan of just playing simple hockey,” Malone said.
Although Boucher was certainly pleased with his team’s latest result, he expressed concern regarding its second-period struggles. Tampa Bay, which was outshot 16-5 and gave up all four goals in the second period Friday, has been outscored 10-3 in second thus far – a significant drop off from its combined 16-2 edge over opponents in the first and third.
“Here’s what I’ve noticed about our players – they’re character guys who love great challenges,” Boucher said. “The mistake that we make is not to see the challenge before. And that’s why I feel in the second periods we let down a little bit, we let down our guards and our urgency slips away.
“This is the mental part that we’re gonna have to work on, and it’s a process, but it’s a process that is essential right now because we don’t have forever to change that before it bites us in the butt.”
The Lightning have proven plenty consistent against the Flyers (2-3-0) of late, compiling a 6-1-1 record in this series since the start of 2010-11. Tampa Bay has outscored Philadelphia 14-5 in going 3-0-1 at home over that stretch.
After dropping their first three games, the Flyers are starting to pick up steam. Philadelphia beat the New York Rangers 2-1 on Thursday, then cruised to a 7-1 victory at Florida on Saturday.
Second-year forward Matt Read posted his first career hat trick while Ruslan Fedotenko, Tye McGinn and Luke Schenn each tallied a goal and an assist. Ilya Bryzgalov also came up big with 30 saves for the Flyers, who had been outscored 12-5 over their first four games.
“We’ve been struggling for goals and to have an outbreak like that, it’s a great thing for the team,” McGinn said. “We need to carry it over now.”
Bryzgalov, who’s started all five games thus far, is 1-3-1 with a 3.35 goals-against average in his last five starts against the Lightning. Backup Michael Leighton, meanwhile, is 4-0-0 with a 1.96 GAA in four career meetings with Tampa Bay.
Whoever starts in goal for Philadelphia will need to be wary of Martin St. Louis, who’s notched 12 goals and 48 points in his last 33 games in the series. Keeping an eye on Cory Conacher could also prove key. The rookie center has two goals and five assists in his first four games.
The Lightning are expected to go with Anders Lindback, who’s gone 2-1-0 with a shaky 3.67 GAA since coming over from Nashville in an offseason trade. He gave up three goals in losing each of his two career starts against the Flyers while with the Predators.